Student’s Question: How can we enjoy worldly things, knowing that they are impermanent?

A student asks:

Do we need to constantly remind ourselves of our death or is it sufficient just to be aware that we will die? There is such beauty in the world around us. I know that it is temporary but I still enjoy it so much. Is it alright to enjoy worldly things, knowing that they are impermanent?

Lama Shenpen replies:

Bearing death in mind is not a matter of turning away from the beauty of life. It is about enjoying life to the full because you are not deluding yourself any more. You come to really know what life actually is.

The reason you think that mindfulness of death is somehow about not allowing yourself to enjoy life is because you have objectified death into some future event that threatens life. Actually death happens at every moment making every moment completely new.

Enjoy that and there is no more fear of birth and death – that is the kind of awareness we are talking about. It doesn’t mean that you belittle every experience as somehow meaningless in the face of death. It means that you become aware of the connections that go beyond birth and death – what they really are. That is a massive shift in perspective, an unimaginable shift in perspective, but you have to start somewhere and mindfulness of death is where to start.

As you continue to deepen your sense of significance around the fact of death you start to realize that what you are really becoming aware of is the nature and significance of life itself, all life.