I was out on my morning walk, and out of nowhere I heard an extremely loud CRASH!!!!
When I heard the noise, I had just crossed the street with my dogs (Flowtron & Kaya) to return home, and I was with two other dog-owning neighbors of mine. Each of us spun around and to see what had happened, and were shocked to see that a HUGE branch had suddenly fallen out of a nearby tree – in the same exact spot we had been walking not more than a minute before. (You can see for yourself in the photo below.)
We walked back over to the tree, as did a few other curious walkers and people in nearby buildings. It was truly bizarre – it had not rained recently, there was no wind, and no plausible reason as to why a gigantic branch had suddenly fallen out of the sky.
There happened to be a couple of city landscapers there, and they told us that one branch had snapped and fallen on another branch; that this was too much weight for the branch to bear, and both branches instantly fell to the ground.
We joked about what the news would have said had we been under the branch when it had fallen. “The Butler Shores Tree Massacre”. I started thinking about puns using tree pose for my personal eulogy (When Tree Pose Goes Wrong, A Rotten Tree Pose Story, etc). I hoped that at least we would have a bench dedicated to us, along with a statue of our dogs.
Jokes aside, we each acknowledged that had we for some reason decided to walk back to our building about a minute later than we had, we’d be goners. I don’t think any amount of working out could have saved us.
This event was all the more interesting because minutes before this happened we were discussing how just centuries ago our chances of living to adulthood were pretty low. That tick fever I had a few months ago? See ya. I’d have been dead without modern medicine. Less than 100 years, U.S. President Calvin Coolridge’s son died of an infected blister he got from playing tennis. A FREAKIN’ BLISTER.
Why am I talking about this?
If you’ve read any books on Stoicism or spent some time in the self-development world (podcasts, books, blogs, etc), then you might be familiar with the concept of using the fear of death to be a more effective person.
Basically, by truly grasping that we are mortal, life is not guaranteed, and that every day could be our last, we can use this understanding to spend more time doing what’s important to us, less time on what’s not, and be with the people who are important to us.
Here’s the problem – despite this logical understanding that each of us will eventually die, it’s almost impossible to emotionally process. You’ve probably heard somebody say something along the lines of, “I’m so grateful to be alive!” or if you’ve been to some of the yoga classes I have, that “You’re here… you’re breathing… how incredible is that?”
To 99.9% of these people, I call bullshit. I don’t doubt that there are some people who truly comprehend the gift of life; people who have had experiences powerful enough to show them that they only have one life, it’s fragile, and they had better do what’s important to them while they can.
But for the vast majority of us, all we’ve ever known is being alive. How can we imagine life without that?
Obviously there are those of us who have gone through the loss or the threat of loss of loved ones, but we don’t imagine ourselves not being alive in those situation. We think what the absence of that particular person would mean for our own life, but we don’t stop to consider that we could be struck by a fallen tree branch before the death we’re worrying about even occurs.
Keep in mind the reason I’m writing about this right now is because I believe that understanding your mortality can help you be a better person, and as somebody interested in self-development, this subject intrigues me.
So… how do you do this? How can you transform this logical understanding into an emotional one that changes you for the better? I’ve come across a few strategies aimed at accomplishing this, and I’ll share 3 of them now.
Side Note: For anybody reading this who has experienced loss or a life-threatening event, I truly apologize if this offends you. That is not my intention.
- Tricking yourself – In Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Mark recounts his experience of edging toward the precipice of a cliff. He describes the physical senses he experiences while doing so, and how the body goes into hyper alert mode as it gets ready to survive. But even though his nervous system believed Mark was in danger, Mark was in total control of the situation. He wasn’t really experiencing a life or death situation. And I doubt he came away from that experience with the understanding that he was mortal, and was profoundly changed from that day forward.
- Imagine your own funeral – Steven Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (buy it right now if you haven’t already), talks about imagining your own funeral. What do you want people to say about you? Who do you want to be there? What do you want to be remembered for? Be as detailed in your visualization as possible.
- Record a Video Last Will & Testament – Something I haven’t read, but thought about doing (for the purposes of self-development) is recording a Last Will & Testament in video format. I wouldn’t actually make it official (this in and of itself is a strong indicator that I don’t understand my own mortality quite yet), but I think it might be a good way for me to uncover that which is truly important to me. (Note to self: Now that I’m writing it here, I should probably give this a shot.)
I hope you read this and it makes you excited about giving priority to those things and people in your life that truly matter.
And now… on to my weekly focuses.
Fitness focus: Shoulders
I had a very minor muscle strain in my rotator cuff a few weeks ago, but I’ve learned to be careful and avoid doing anything that could aggravate the injury and delay the recovery. Been doing a lot of light to medium resistance exercises with resistance bands to strengthen my upper-back and shoulders while that muscle recovers. You can follow me on Instagram if you want to see more of my daily workouts.
Music I’m listening to: Monophobia by Deadmau5 & Rob Swire
I’m a big Deadmau5 fan. I find his music great for driving, yoga, weights, and running. The link I shared here is to the song on Spotify because the YouTube video is way too trippy for me.
Product I’m enjoying: Monster Resistance Band
Straining that shoulder muscle meant avoiding full weight pull-ups and chin-ups, so I grabbed my long-lost friend the green monster band and used that for pulling and rowing exercises. I was shocked at how sore I was following a short but intense 3 sets of 25 reps. Highly recommend this if you are gym-averse or would like an extremely light, portable exercises tool you can easily take anywhere with you.
Book I’m reading: Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience
This is my favorite book. It is essentially a book on the science of happiness, explained in terms that a reader (and not just a psychologist doctorate) can understand. This is my fourth time reading it. (I tend to re-read good books instead of reading every new self-help book from the latest “guru”.)
Personal Struggle: Not worth mentioning this week.
Thank you for allowing me to use this email as a way for me to develop my thoughts, my writing, and gain greater understanding of the world and my place in it. I hope it benefits you as well!
It’s a chance for you to see me putting into action the practices and habits that I’m asking you to do for yourself, to show you that what I’m talking about in my emails, blogs, and on social media is exactly the same stuff that I’m doing on a daily basis in my own life.