In terms of anxiety, depression, alcohol, and drug use, China and India rank in the bottom three countries in the world.
Yet Bhutan, a kingdom sitting between these nations; counts happiness among its prime concerns. Higher even than their GDP.
In Bhutan; far from being a taboo subject; death is all around you. It's a part of daily life.
Their belief is:
To my mind, pondering death to achieve happiness makes no sense. If anything, it would do the opposite. Nonetheless, for a few weeks I tried thinking about death. What their world would be like without me. How I'd prefer to be remembered.
I did this for a minute or so, whenever I remembered to, While washing up, driving, or walking the dog.
It surprised me to find it wasn't distressing. But it wasn't an easy thing to make a habit of, and I kept forgetting.
Then, at the cinema, I decided to give meditating death my full attention (Maleficent 2. Not a fan). For myself, this prolonged effort did the trick.
Since then, I've kept the habit up. Not always five times a day, but more often than not.
I don't think it made me happier. At least, not directly. But, it has had a profound effect on my life. By encouraging me to make myself happier:
Be More Content.
That's OK, because these are just things I don't have. By thinking about what I'd lose, I've become more focused on those things I do have.
Be More Honest.
Get Things Done.
Wills, letters for those you'll leave behind. Such things are important. They shouldn't be left until the end of your life. I can't believe how comforting it is, to have now started putting these in place.
A Sharper Perspective.
It's made me determined that my deathbed is not a place for regret. It will be used only to catch my breath, and for a moments reflection on a fulfilled life.
We know eating five fruit and veg a day promotes good physical health. Could contemplating death become a similar healthy practice?
A five-a-day for the soul.
You can even download an app to do the reminding for you:
Some scary thoughts in exchange for happiness.
Tell me ...
The decline in health of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman was far from a laughing matter. What began as a routine dental appointment revealed a tumour that would prove harbinger to his death, little over a year later.
Visiting Chapman’s death-bed, fellow Python John Cleese was so upset, he needed assistance to leave the room. Yet just weeks later, he gave this hilarious eulogy to honour his friend:
There is only one John Cleese. Few others (if any) could pull off such an audacious speech without causing offence or upset. But, humour can have a place in any funeral.
In my own services, I still get surprised looks when recounting funny stories; the wave of uncertainty growing on the assembled faces. I can almost hear them ask themselves, “Can I laugh?”; and the tangible wave of relief when they do.
What I take from this.
Humour is healthy. Believed by many to contribute to both physical and psychological wellbeing, humour only exists in situations of awkwardness, discomfort or unease. Humour is there to help us deal with these feelings.
Used well, humour at a funeral is not disrespectful. Instead:
Death is awful. But the gatherings held in honour of those we’ve lost, don’t focus on just their end. Nor should they. Funerals also talk about their lives:
This is where humour has a place.
This is where humour can help us deal with some of the toughest emotions we ever experience.
What are your thoughts?
What funny stories could be told at your funeral?
Let us know in the comments below
Join me on a journey to learn more about the end of life, death, and funerals; all from a positive perspective. Every two weeks, a new post will explore this important life-stage; asking what we can learn from those going before us, and how we can apply that knowledge to better our lives.