Contemplating Death Is The Most Effective Way Of Practicing Gratitude

‘We in this world must all die’ — Buddha

Photo by Grant Whitty on Unsplash

Death is inevitable.

Yet, we as humans fear it, avoid thinking about it, and are not taught to come to terms with it.

To find comfort, some of us return to God with prayers.

Others, myself included, turn to Buddha and receive the lessons of death meditation.

What is death meditation?

Maranasati meditation, or mindfulness of death, consists of a series of Buddhist mindfulness of death practices, ranging from contemplation of the potential for death to thinking about how our bodies would be during death.

The Buddha believed that contemplating death could deepen our appreciation and gratitude for ourselves, our lives on earth, and our relationships with others.

This premise was proven accurate by the works of Dalai Lama, Shonin (2014), and Taylor (2016).

How do you practice mindfulness of death?

Since death is a sensitive and difficult subject, anyone who is approaching maranasati meditation for the first time needs to take it slow.

I was first introduced to this practice after reading Hyun-gong Moon’s study.

In his report, he asked young participants to sit in a meditation posture and contemplate the death of their own and their loved ones.

So I followed this instruction.

Thinking about my death was the easy part. Imagining one day I’d lose my dearest ones was unbearable.

The practice was rough and tearful.

But I gained this incredible gratitude for life.

Photo by Rosie Kerr on Unsplash

The most beneficial thing about mindfulness of death to me

My favorite writer, Ocean Vuong in his recent interview summed it up beautifully:

“With death meditation, you imagine the people you love dying and you imagine yourself dying, you imagine yourself in a coffin and you do this, and it sounds very morbid. But in fact, after 20 minutes of it you wake up and all of a sudden you realise all the little fights you had with your friends or your partner or your family fell away, because death was so near that you just want to run and hug them. And actually, I think that’s what wisdom really is. It’s not so much moving through time but moving through loss. “

Maranasati meditation has made me less competitive and go-for-the-throat whenever I engage in a discussion that almost always turns into a heated argument. You know, the “I’m right and I’ll do anything to prove that to you” kind.

This practice has made me actively ask two questions whenever I have conflicts with my friends and family:

  • Will I be okay if I lose this person forever?
  • Is this fight worth the pain?

More often than not, the answer to both questions is no.

The road to death contemplation is as painful as it is rewarding.

You’ll find a way to untie excruciating emotional knots and gain gratitude and appreciation for life.

Ultimately, you’ll obtain equilibrium.

And isn’t that the ultimate goal for all of us?

Subscribe to my newsletter The Writers’ Block to read stories about a writer’s work and life, get (freelance) writing tips, and receive occasional book recommendations.



𝘈𝘶𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘪𝘵𝘺, 𝘷𝘶𝘭𝘯𝘦𝘳𝘢𝘣𝘪𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘺, 𝘢𝘸𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘴 & 𝘨𝘳𝘰𝘸𝘵𝘩 𝘵𝘩𝘳𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩 𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘺𝘵𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨, 𝘴𝘩𝘢𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘰𝘧 𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘰𝘯𝘢𝘭 𝘦𝘹𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘦𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸𝘭𝘦𝘥𝘨𝘦 𝘰𝘯 𝘴𝘱𝘪𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘶𝘢𝘭 𝘮𝘢𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘴.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Chau Trieu

Chau Trieu

Sharing tips to help aspiring writers get started and succeed. Published on Business Insider. Reach me at