Mortality and Mental Clutter

Found out that Posterous are shutting down so I’m going to blow out my drafts folder and transition to Everything on this site should migrate and I’ll let you know when I make the shift.


Today’s article comes from a conversation with a friend that found a lot of noise in their head after the death of a parent.

When I turned 40, I asked myself, “Am I ready to die?” There were some areas where the answer was “no” and I addressed those over the last few years. Today’s article is about coping with mortality-related noise, rather than the changes I made in my own life. 


With the noise in my life, I split it between optional and essential.

Optional is stuff lIke chat forums, tv, media, Facebook, Twitter, traffic, stressed out people… I ditched as much of that as possible over the last ten years. I have to constantly trim noise sources. My life with kids has narrowed, but deepened.

Essential noise, for me, is kids. They’re going to be loud regardless and my capacity to cope requires me to have far less noise in every other aspect of my life. Avoid kids with a spouse that has weak mental health. The children will overwhelm your marriage. When it comes to mental health, I’m the weaker link in our marriage.

As an athlete, I found that exercise-induced fatigue is a form of noise that can turn enjoyable aspects of parenting into misery. This realization required an uncommon level of honesty with myself. Athletic parents rarely admit the link between training fatigue and parental misery.  

To cope with my ‘essential’ noise, I started to sit. With my meditation, I sit and breathe. No agenda, no desire to progress, no desire to do more… Very different from how I approach other things. The game is to let my thoughts settle. See my thoughts on Learning To Sit.

A parent’s death makes our own mortality real. To cope with my mortality, I’ve spent time (before my parents have died) considering death – as a natural process, it’s inevitable nature, how it relates to life, the nature of dependant arising, and it’s ability to provide a test of courage. I’ve been building a resolve to “die well” and have found that frees me to “live well.”

In life, I’ve taken steps so that I could die, tomorrow, knowing that I acted to the best of my ability and left everyone close to me better off. I still have a decent sized “to do” list but I’ve done enough, and acted in such a way, that I could pass without regret.

Simple ways to trim noise from a modern life:

  • Push notifications – remove them all, especially email
  • Up-tempo music – I use music sparingly
  • Peers with cluttered minds – noisy people don’t need to be talking to me – often it’s easier to avoid people than address the true trigger that is inside me
  • Traffic – for some reason, my concept of personal space extends around my vehicle – every time I drive “on peak” I regret it
  • Areas of high population density – city people act like city people because they live in cities
  • Telephone – turn it off, use airplane mode or leave it at home – even carrying my phone creates constant distractions/noise as my mind creates things I “must” do

If you care enough then change. If you don’t care enough to change then let it go.