Exit Strategies 2

Earlier on I spoke a little about mundane exit strategies, but there is one exit we all must make, and most are unprepared for this. The exit I speak of is the shuffling off of the mortal coil. And whilst it might seem morbid, it is best to be prepared. Strangely that preparation enhances the quality of life. I’ll hazard a guess that most are more than a little afraid of dying. Thus, they approach death in an unwilling, fearful and resentful manner. They do not like it when people they care for pop their clogs and it is often seen as a tragedy. Everyday people die, by the time I have finished writing this quite a few. It is such a natural thing. Yet we fear it. It is however, reality.

I personally am not afraid. This could be bravado to be tested as the time approaches. This statement is based upon what I have experienced in meditation, I could have misinterpreted but I doubt it.

One of the fears associated with death is unfinished business, another is that you will not be remembered, some like the idea of a legacy and of course there is that uncertainty as to what happens and where you might end up. Many fear the gradual loss of faculties along the way. How we each of us approach our death will vary. Many will pretend that is isn’t going to happen, that is until the evidence starts to mount by which time it may well be too late to alter anything in a meaningful way.

Having cued this up there is but one question:

What is your exit strategy?

Setting Priorities

For most people life is hectic, and it can seem difficult to prioritize. This setting of priorities requires some level of decision making. If one does not learn to do this, a mess can result, things drift and never get done. Important things lay like roadkill aside the way. There are a number of coaching tools available to help; one of these is the life wheel. Over a week or so one notes exactly how one uses each 15-minute slot of a day and then tallies it all it up. One reflects upon whether or not time is used wisely. It is a bit analytical but does work, it tends not to focus on some of the important stuff which one may not be doing at all. It can be a tool for figuring out how you use the hamster wheel of daily life, it does not question whether or not the hamster wheel is best.

To cut through the crap, you need a bullshit knife. If you properly use death as an adviser, you have your knife. The problem is not to be wistful one has to get busy with what death has advised. The priorities death suggests may be vastly different to that which you are currently engaged in. How to change? Well one has to summon courage and get on with it. Unfortunately, there is no other way. Most people do not have the balls to change in a substantive manner. Many can and do tinker. The latter is fine and to be encouraged because it can indeed increase the quality of life, it is not however, transformation.

It is only when life is heading towards the shitter that one is ready to initiate transformation. Whilst things are comfy, there is no motivation.

One of the things I like about what I have read of Tibetan culture, is this presence and use of death. It is being real. For death is ever present, we simply pretend it is not so that we can continue fannying about. Yesterday I put up an exercise. And if done properly it can be a key to opening up the heart.

If we don’t set our priorities we can spend vast tracts of our lives repeating the same stuff in marginally different guise. Whole decades can slip by.

Having cued this up:

Is life comfy with only a few niggles?

Do I want to change my life?

If so, am I after a few cosmetic changes or a total transformation?

… after getting the news….

And in response to the last exercise.

The wife and I have just had a slightly tearful dinner, with some humour….

What I would do would have to be practical and achievable.


The first night I would go to a fancy restaurant and get right royally pissed. I’d kick off with a bottle of top notch Sancerre followed by some Barolo and some Armagnac to finish. Home in a taxi.

The next morning, I would start to chant again.

I would fly to Zürich and thence to the restaurant atop the Schilthorn. There to take one last look at Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau, splendid. Then home again.

I would spend the day listening to music, Die Zauberflöte, Lama Tashi and Richard Burton narrating Under Milkwood. I would then cook dinner, my world-famous Pig in the Pot. I love to cook. Perhaps watch Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence on the DVD.

Each day I would be chanting and meditating more.

We would then drive to North Wales. On the way I’d try to top speed the Gti at 147mph on the M6 toll motorway. Dirty Babylon may catch I and I, but me no pay him fine.

We’d stop at the hotel where we got married, walk in the gardens, eat rack of Welsh lamb and walk on Llandudno pier.

Then we would go to Beddgelert to that cottage by the stream, we would walk along the river. Be soothed by the air and the gurgle of fresh mountain water.

Next to that long, long beach near Pwllheli, where it first started to dawn on me what a strange creature I was, forty years ago; with Quadrophenia running through my head.

As the time got nearer I would climb up to Glaslyn, in the cwm beneath Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) to behold and to meditate.

It would be there that I would wait for death’s gentle tap on my shoulder.

If This Was Your Last Week on Earth…

…. What would you do? How would you use it?

In order to get the most out of this thought exercise you have to imagine that in one week’s time from the reading of this post you will be dead. No pissing about, this is real. No debating, you know that in exactly seven days, you will die. You don’t know the manner of your death and it is non-negotiable. It will be sudden.

During that week you have your health as it currently is, you have your sanity such as it may be and all your faculties. At your disposal is all the financial resource you currently have. You are going to leave this earthly domain. There is fair bit of time. But you must decide how you are going to use it. Let your death advise you.

Make a list, write some prose, examine your motivations, whatever you want to do.

It is a very useful exercise.

The clock starts now.

If this was your last week on earth, what would you do, how would you use it?

Are You Scared by Death and Dying?

This is a good question and points at many things. For many the answer is yes. Quite how they come by that answer will vary. Death is the last frontier of our mundane existence and beyond lies the unknown. No matter how much bravado we have, or how much we opine, death is the acid test. It can make us shit bricks, or we can approach it calmly. I have sat with someone close to death earlier this year. It doesn’t and didn’t freak me out. Sat here this rainy afternoon, I do not fear death and back when they prepared me for theatre, I did not fear it then. My orientation may change but I doubt it. I will still not be keen on pain.

We do not hold our own death close enough so that it might advise our actions. For death is the sharpest of all bullshit knives, it slices through bullshit like a kilowatt laser. It is for most somewhere off in the distance, an inevitability to be ignored. The human mind can pretend many things to itself, it can justify and excuse. Quite how or why we fail to face this inevitability is a mystery. We can con ourselves but only for so long. When we sense the breath of death on our hackles, all of a sudden out comes the bullshit knife and it slashes. In my view it is healthier to acknowledge our deaths and ask them for advice. “If this were my last day on earth would I really behave like such a dickhead?” But few have such a level of clarity.

If we examine our relationship with death, there is much to learn.

Here are some questions pertaining:

Am I scared of dying?

If so, why?