“Courage is the power to let go of the
— Raymond Lindquist
It’s funny that we often speak of the Great Unknown of death as if we have never before encountered a new or unfamiliar situation. Every day, when we walk out the door, we never know how the day will actually unfold. One moment we’re walking down the street to get to an appointment, the next, we get nearly run over by a cyclist/bump into an old school friend/get soaked by a sudden rain shower. One day life seems normal; the next, we are confined to our homes due to a pandemic. There are endless unexpected and unknown changes that we deal with on a daily basis.
Most of us even voluntarily step into the unknown: we start our first relationship, have our first child, take on our first job, move to faraway countries, and even take the first bite of a sandwich without knowing what these experiences will be like. You could say that life is, in many ways, as unknowable as death. So, what enables us to deal with all these unknowns?
I once spoke with a man who was making his final preparations for his death. Jan* was in his seventies and had cancer. I asked him if he had any idea of a place he would go to after death. “No idea,” he said without hesitation and with a contented smile. “But I assume it will be a good place.” He passed away very peacefully shortly afterwards.
Here is a thought experiment for you to try out:
Try to recall the last time you embarked on a situation with many unknowns.
- What aspects were new and unfamiliar to you? What was unexpected?
- How did you feel about starting this endeavour? Anxious? Excited? Curious? Confident?
- Even if you were nervous or afraid, something must have given you the strength to take the leap. What was that? How did that feel?
- If something went wrong, who or what gave you strength to continue?
Next time you take a leap into the unknown, consider that you are actually preparing yourself for the unknownness of death. You are gathering the inner resources of courage, confidence and curiosity. You are practising relaxing, just as Jan did, into the ultimate unknowableness of life and death.
Which of the 3 Cs helps you navigate the unknown in your everyday life?:
Courage (“I’m going to make the leap”)
Confidence (“I can handle whatever happens”) or
Curiosity (“I wonder what it will be like?”)
Which quality will help you make the leap when you die?