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Any and all degrees of the discontentment consequential to unappreciative more, better, different thinking are rooted in fear (Chapter 8). Fear of not getting more of this or that, not being better at such and such, not accomplishing one or another different goal, and so on. And perhaps most powerfully, the fear of death.
Our fear of death is existential. It goes to the very heart of our existence, or to be specific, to our egoic existence: those of our subconsciously stored memories which inform our self-concept, the who and what we have been conditioned to believe we are, our mind-made self (Chapter 5).
Most of us go through life doing our best to deny death. Because nonexistence is an anathema to our ego, the denial of death is widely recognized as one of if not our most powerful ego defense mechanisms, consistently repressing any awareness much less acceptance of our inevitable death.
Nonetheless, wise practitioners of contentment do their best to continually contemplate and appreciate the inevitability of death. They will embrace their own death as well as the death of their loved ones, friends, and acquaintances. Instead of fearing death, skilled practitioners recognize the opportunity for contentment that comes from repeatedly remembering and accepting the reality that eventually everyone dies.
Purposefully pondering death is a particularly potent action step in the practice of contentment. It serves to heighten our appreciation for the preciousness of life, reminding us to cherish each remaining moment of our life regardless of how much or little more, better, or different possessions, achievements, relationships, health, and other things we have. Instead of looking back on the past about the more, better, and different things we didn’t get, or looking to the future for the more, better, and different things we want to get, dwelling on the inevitability of death opens the way for us to focus on the present moment: the sights and sounds of nature, our loved ones and friends, the roof over our head, the food on our table, and all of the other more, better, and different things we do have.
Purposefully pondering death also serves as an internal alarm clock, waking us up to what’s really important in life: our own peace of mind and equanimity, relationships with others, and the contributions we can make to the betterment of humankind. In the practice of contentment it for all of the foregoing reasons that this action is an ever ready tool for increasing the size and strength of our sweet spots (Chapter 10) and thus spurring greater and longer lasting moments of contentment.