Death And What It Takes To Be Alive.

Elisabeth Carlucci
5 min readDec 20, 2019


How facing death can help us to lead a happier life.

Yes…you are going to face it. You are going to die.

No matter which language you speak, which color your skin has or which faith you belong to, at the time of death we are all subject to the workings of nature.

Death is the one thing that unites us all.

Then why is our society doing everything possible to avoid death? Why is it a topic hardly anyone wants to talk about, a taboo?

The Tibetans have studied the phenomena of death and made the unavoidable an essential part of their culture. The teachings of the Bardo explain in detail what happens during and after the time of physical death, they show us how to deal with death gracefully and consciously. Death is not an ending, but a temporary state of consciousness, that occurs between life and rebirth. Through meditation and spiritual practices, we gain the ability to stay conscious during the Bardo and can therefore direct the experience. A non-practitioner will most likely be unconscious when body and spirit separate, similar to the state of deep sleep.

The way we live is the way we die.

In the state of Bardo, we experience the de-materialization of the elements that make up our physical form. They say that we go through dreamlike states, created by the unconscious. How that journey unfolds, depends entirely on our state of mind. If our mind is one-pointed and trained, the Bardo can provide an opportunity for rapid evolution or liberation, since we are not limited by the density of the physical form. Yet, if our unconscious mind is a storage room for never-looked-at fears, desires and blockages, these are likely to come up and misguide us.

Even when it comes to dying, we cannot escape from our psyche.

Eventually, we have to take responsibility and look at all the stuff that is buried in the depth of our minds. We all have fears, pains, traumas and frustrations. We all have enough love to see them, burn them and heal them within us. When we start the inner journey we find out, that the unconscious is collective, that we are all interconnected with each other and in essence, our suffering is the same.

Studying the teachings of the Bardo makes me feel weird about our western culture. Why are we living in such denial about death? How can we not have developed more awareness about it? Is it satisfying for us to assume that there is either nothingness, heaven or hell after the body dies? How can it be, that in times of worldwide communication we have not learned from those teachings and integrated them into our culture?

Tibetans prepare their whole life for the time of death.

Buddhist traditions offer various meditations on death. One of them is to imagine how our body decays, how every piece of our flesh molds, how worms are eating our body, how the body slowly turns into dust.

Facing death humbles us and brings us in touch with the reality of our physical form. The busier we are with externals while we are alive, the more difficult it will be at the time death knocks on our door. We will need to let go of everything we ever identified with. If we deny our spiritual nature while we are alive, the time of death can be bitter and painful.

Death confronts us with the unavoidable reality of impermanence of matter.

In death, there is no space for arrogance or pride. In death we are like babies, helpless and lost. So let’s face death while we are alive. Our death, and the death of the ones we love. Awareness of the temporary existence of things helps us to be more alive, to value what we are and what we have now.

The older we get, the more likely we have experienced the sorrow that comes with the loss of loved ones. We might know the awkward taste suicide leaves with the surviving, a void filled with grief, shame, helplessness and guilt. We might have touched the mourning and deep pain that comes with losing a child, a husband or a wife. Most of us will have to face the loss of the ones that gave us life in the first place- our parents. No matter if death haunts us naturally or through sickness, through accident or by choice, it has its flavor, changes and uniquely touches the living.

A few years ago my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. This death-facing-disease united my family and invited us to face death and therefore life together. The taste of death can give us a sense of urgency, an appreciation of life, which oftentimes we take for granted. My mother developed an incredible amount of willpower, changed her living situation, her diet, started a daily yoga practice and opened herself to new experiences. Medicine says that nowadays she is cured of cancer. Being confronted with death helped my mum to pursue a better life, which till then she didn’t even know her heart was longing for.

In Yoga, they say that the fear of death is the last fear to eliminate from our unconscious, it is the origin, the mother of all fears. They say that all of our anxieties can be traced back to the fear of death.

As a spiritual practitioner dying is an ever-present, ongoing process. All of our emotions, thoughts, concepts and ideas need to eventually drop away. In observing our breath we come to know, that each exhalation is a form of death, a letting go that carries us to the next inhalation which nourishes us with life force. Daily billions of cells die in our bodies, every seven years our system is entirely renewed, the body is being re-born.

The art of dying is the art of living.

The ability to die every moment, the art of non-attachment, is what I call the art of living. It is the essence of my spiritual path. Rigidity and stagnation are in a way a denial of life. To be able to live this life fully and happily, we need to learn how to die and to let die. Life is a journey of inhaling and exhaling, embracing and letting go of all the pains and joys that we experience. It is not always easy, but for me, it is the only way to live a life in truth and love. The readiness to radically be with all that is facilitates us to live NOW and to see things as they truly are.

There is no life without death. And no death without life. Death and life are as entangled as are yin and yang- they cannot exist without each other.

Death is our possibility to open up to uncertainty and surrender to the divine order of creation. Yet, to say that I am not afraid of death would mean to deny myself. The fear of death is ingrained in us humans and the last hurdle to take on the path of awakening.

I do not want to be ignorant about my physical decay and death. Knowing that death is inevitable, I want to befriend it while I am alive.



Elisabeth Carlucci

“Life is about experiencing the silent joy of being moment by moment with what is.” - Spirituality, Psychology, Philosophy