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Monk Notes 06 - Rear Death Experience

One of the myths of modern productivity is that our productivity problems are focus problems.

While focus is necessary, it’s not actually inherently good or helpful. Sometimes we focus incredibly well-- it’s just on the wrong things. 

In the best scenarios, our misplaced focus serves as a placebo of productivity, misrepresenting distraction as progress along the way. But the effects of misplaced focus can also compound over time, ultimately becoming one of the greatest threats to living a full life. 

No matter how fast you move, if it’s towards the wrong goal you actually can find yourself moving further away from your deeper desires rather than towards them. In the midst of this you may even feel radically productive because well... placebos work.

The problem is not focus, the problem is what we focus on.

And while we are told the core issue here may be personal discipline, for most (myself included) the issue actually begins much further upstream.

We don’t actually know what we want. 

We aren’t sure what matters most and what matters least. Every day we wake up with a new list of demands and it’s remarkably hard to get a grasp of what truly deserves our attention at any given moment. 

Add to this the fact that from a very early age we have all been indoctrinated by others as to what "the most important things really are." Out of this noise and confusion we have a difficult time sifting through what it is we truly want vs. what we want simply as a way to prove ourselves or satisfy someone else’s vision for our life.

Finding clarity can be elusive for us, but finding clarity is the key and foundation to a full(er) life.

Reflecting on this a few weeks ago, it struck me that many struggle to find clarity until they near the end of life. Our culture is full of stories highlighting death’s clarifying power. How many movies feature a character who experiences a last minute breakthrough or a death-related revelation on the purpose and meaning of life?

But we need not even look that far. We’ve probably all witnessed this phenomenon personally as our loved ones age and move closer to the end of life. Personal clarity seems to organically emerge as so many other things are being stripped away.

The concreteness of death has an uncanny way of breaking through to us. The volume of all those external voices in our lives seems to decrease while simultaneously the quiet interior voice within us seems to emerge. We reach a new level of awareness and personal clarity when faced with the reality of death.

What if we could take these end of life lessons and breakthroughs and apply them to our lives now? What if we intentionally went to that place, with all of it’s negative emotions, knowing that we would be able to bring back invaluable lessons for living right now? What if we allowed our death to educate our life?

Some things are only clear in the rearview mirror. Death is the rearview mirror for our lives.

Here is a simple exercise we put together called "Rear Death Experience" that was designed to help create personal clarity and work out the most important things in one's life. It’s free of charge and will only cost about 10 minutes of your time.

While this may all sound very heavy and morbid (I suppose it is by definition morbid), I believe you will find that rather than leading you to a place of sadness or loss, this exercise’s effects (short and longterm) will be quite the opposite. 

Share your experience of the exercise with us in The Camp, or on Instagram (make sure to tag @monkmanual so we see it).

PS. Feel free to share this exercise with anyone, it was created with one intention - to add value and serve people.

All the best,

"By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest." - Confucius


A Rear-Death Experience Exercise -Monk Manual

When we zoom out and break free of our natural framing of our everyday life, we are able to arrive at fresh perspectives. Viewed in this light - death, rather than a threat, is a servant of wisdom. Here’s a simple exercise we’ve put together to help you gain insight into what you really want so you can focus your life on what’s really most important.LINK

3 Things I Learned While My Plane Crashed -TedGlobal

The first time I heard this TED talk a few years ago, it left a real impression on me. In part it’s because of Ric Elias’ story, but I think more than anything it is his sincerity. This is a man speaking from a very real experience and sharing truths most of us don’t have the blessing of experiencing directly.LINK

The Science of Near-Death Experiences -The Atlantic

NDEs are one of those fascinating nooks of human experience that can quickly grip our curiosity and then just as quickly lead us to turn away as we struggle to place their strange contents into our experience of the world. Science may still be trying to piece together what exactly happens to the brain and body during an NDE; but survivors tend to be less concerned with their brains and more concerned with the people they ultimately become. LINK

Featured Art: "Aerial view - The Ornamental Garden, the Love Gardens" Lozano, Javier de Winthuysen 2010