Make Peace with Your Daily Deaths
—Grace & Truth Linkup

“During every moment of our lives, something is ending and something else is beginning.”
– Pema Chödrön

Don’t Resist the Flow

I don’t like good things to end. And I don’t like bad things to begin.

But such is life.

And death.

That’s one of the points of Pema Chödrön’s newest book, How We Live Is How We Die.

I appreciate Ani Pema’s gentle encouragement to consistently release my grip on living and dying. Although she presents from a Buddhist viewpoint, it’s also a life lesson we learn from Jesus in the Christian tradition of living crucified with Christ. We die daily. We are renewed daily.  

Pema Chödrön writes:

The end of one experience is the beginning of the next experience, which quickly comes to its own end, leading to a new beginning. It’s like a river continuously flowing. Usually, we resist this flow by trying to solidify our experience in one way or another. We try to find something, anything, to hold on to. The instruction here is to relax and let go.”

When we hold too tightly to an experience, an emotion, a season, etc., we cause ourselves unnecessary suffering. As Thich Nhat Hanh said often, “It’s not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent when they are not.”

Things change. Constantly.

Impermanence Is Good News

Pema Chödrön reminds us that impermanence never takes a break. And that we can be thankful for that.

There is never a moment when we’re not in transition—and believe it or not this is good news.

Why is impermanence good news? One reason is because it trains us to appreciate this moment, this happening, this process. By practicing ongoing awareness of change, Pema Chödrön says:

“We can develop our ability to notice the gaps, the pauses, the open space between any two situations. We can start to get the feeling of being in a life that continually begins and ends.”

As we learn to handle the everyday, smaller changes, we are practicing how to handle the bigger changes still to come.

“We don’t have to wait for enormous transitions to force us into reckoning with groundlessness. We can begin right away to notice the transitory nature of each day and each hour.”

Recognizing the smaller deaths prepares us for the larger deaths. 

Content with Change

Developing a contented adaptation to an ever-changing environment helps us more fully understand the title of this book, How We Live Is How We Die.

How we relate to things falling apart right now foreshadows how we’ll relate to things falling apart when we die. …How we live is how we die.”

These are insights I love from this book.

However, there are also things I don’t understand in this book. From my Christian perspective, some of the Buddhist teachings on death are foreign to me, as is the vocabulary that Pema Chödrön uses to explain them.

But as with any book, I take the teachings that are helpful and that ring true to me, regardless of the source, and leave the rest behind. 

Overall I do recommend this book for the thoughtful guidance that Pema Chödrön offers on living a more meaningful life in view of the constancy of death.

“Opening to death will help you open to life. Death is not just something that happens at the end of our life. Death happens every moment.”

Whether I like it or not, I want to make peace with daily death in my daily life.

How We Live Is How We Die by Pema Chödrön

My thanks to NetGalley and Shambhala
Publications for the review copy of this book

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20 thoughts on “Make Peace with Your Daily Deaths
—Grace & Truth Linkup

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Good point, Michele. Even those little deaths don’t feel very small when they’re happening to us. Love your metaphor of spitting out the seeds. Makes me hungry for some watermelon…. 🙂

  1. Lynn Severance

    Two books that have been meaningful to me are, “Praying Our Goodbyes” by Joyce Rupp and “The Gift of Years” by Joan Chittister. I’ve just finished a manuscript (took years!!) but its focus it the different roles women have during their lifetime (or don’t have during their lifetime). The main chapters are set up with ‘deep questions’ pertaining to that role and the book can be used in small groups as women share their stories. The last chapter focuses on “Facing our Mortality” (the first chapter focused on our being born a daughter!) and I leaned heavily on Joan Chittister’s insights for the last chapter. The other reality is if we continue to walk ‘in Christ’, He is the one who takes charge our our mortality. We simply (though not always simple) walk out our days with trust we are walking the right way…until He steps with us into our eternal Home with him.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’ve not read Praying Our Goodbyes, but I did read The Gift of Years and loved it. I’m so happy to hear you’ve finished another manuscript, Lynn! It sounds like a great topic. Your last chapter is a subject I think about more and more myself. I have my 60th birthday next month, which feels more ominous sounding than any birthday I’ve had yet. 🙂 But yes, walking with Christ makes all the difference for me too.

      1. Lynn Severance

        Thanks, Lisa. I’ll let you know how ‘getting published’ progresses as it is a huge hurdle to face. Living in a senior community now, the reality of mortality is very present yet none of us want it to dominate the ‘living’ we still have to do. Last June was my 79th (gulp) birthday which really means I am walking the 80th road. The numbers simply don’t compute to how ‘we’ feel and it was a good perspective to read the “Gift of Years” and let myself absorb her message. We’ve so much for which to be grateful as we think upon each year and ‘in time’ will look back on a certain age that seemed to creep up on us (at the time) as being a very good year with its memories. So happy 60th a bit early. 💕

  2. Linda Stoll

    when we’ve been surrounded by alot of loss and change and death, it can be hard to re-calibrate where we need to be. i’ve found so much comfort in knowing that Christ hasn’t changed, He’s as solid as ever. this is helping re-anchor me in what is true and lovely and excellent and praiseworthy.

    i’m grateful.

  3. Amy Johnson

    That is so interesting that you could read a non-christian book and glean good insights. So many people fear growing older and death. I was so surprised the past over the fear people had over getting covid and death. I had no idea so many people were afraid of dying.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’m grateful that God’s wisdom can be found in so many places around us. I’ve always read widely and discovered early on that no single person or group has the corner on Truth. 🙂
      I’d guess the fear of dying is probably one of the greatest fears across the board for people. It’s such an unknown, and not just what happens after death, but the uncertainty of how and when and how long it will take to die. But everyone is afraid of something. What surprised me most during the pandemic was people’s fears over temporarily giving up privileges for the sake of others. We Americans in particular seem to be a people afraid of losing a “right” or “freedom” instead of voluntarily laying down our lives for each other, which is a much harder thing to do.

  4. Donna

    Lisa, I like Pema’s writing, thought provoking depth of living so contrary to the superficial way we tend to approach life. So often we relegate death as end of life, but death is also the beginning of life. Christ calls us to die to self that we might truly live.
    Those little ‘deaths” we face daily transition us to more becoming like Christ.
    As Pema comments, “opening to death, opens us to life.” It’s the fearless heart of release, which truly leads to life.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Beautiful, Donna: “but death is also the beginning of life.” It often takes a lifetime of living and dying to really grasp that. As God works with me using RELEASE this year, I’m trying to notice more beginnings and endings all along the ordinary day (as if such a thing existed).

  5. Lynn

    One million cells die in our body every second! It is astounding to think about that, but something I rarely reflect on. AND the body is also making 3.8 million new cells each second. We are continually renewing–how precious God made us!

  6. Tea With Jennifer

    As I was reading your post above Lisa, Psalm 46:10 kept playing through my mind;
    “Let go, relax & know that I AM God…”.

    It’s all about letting go & trusting God in the everyday things of life…isn’t it?
    blessings, Jennifer

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