LWW#4 - Death, and how time slips away from us

A personal reflection on how short our lives really are following a group discussion for the Living With Wisdom course.

LWW#4 - Death, and how time slips away from us
Photo by Thomas Kinto / Unsplash

What is LWW?

An annual occurrence in my calendar is the Sikh Youth Australia Summer Camp. This is a fantastic event where Sikhs from all over Australia come together and no longer feel like a minority, instead able to share their experiences and learn more about their faith. It is an open-minded and safe space for discussion, and a setting for great reflection.

At this year's Summer Camp, a youth group with ages ranging from 16-25 started the Living With Wisdom (LWW) course designed by Satpal Singh and his organisation Nanak Naam. The course has been run in schools, prisons and small groups and is designed to be easily run by volunteer facilitators, with minimal organisation needed. Bring together a group of people in a room, watch a video, do a short guided meditation and then have insightful discussion. The course itself is also for everyone - in Satpal's own words, he "combines a unique blend of ancient spiritual wisdom with easy-to-follow techniques that bring value to all who attend."

Our Sikh youth group completed Modules 1-3 (of 10) during the Camp, but have made plans to continue the course through the first months of this year. This is not only a great way to catch-up with our community regularly, but allows us to gain the most individual value from group sharing and open-minded growth.

After Module 4 I felt the need to do a write-up. There's so much good stuff being talked about, and for me writing it down means I have something tangible to channel my thoughts into and look back upon in the future. If it helps anyone else navigating these questions as well, then that would be an amazing bonus.

On Time

Eventually everything hits the bottom, and all you have to do is wait until someone comes along, and turns it back again. ⌛️
Photo by Aron Visuals / Unsplash

Module 4 of the LWW course is quite simple - are you satisfied with the way you spend your time?

Satpal makes some key statements that should cause some realisations.

We look upon others and wonder how they are able to do so much, or so little. But the truth is that everyone has the same 24 hours in a day.

We wait until our to-do list has been completed to enjoy ourselves with 'free time'. Anyone who has had a day off knows that this is not always the happiest time, and can lead to a sense of disappointment. This also means we are constantly chasing 'free time', and never enjoying the moment we are in.

The past and future are always on our mind, but the only moment that is real is the present. It is the one we are currently in.

Everyone's life is a candle of an unknown length (he uses the analogy of an unknown quantity of coins in a bag). One day our candles will burn out, so do not assume you have infinity - in fact, your time is quite short.

I mean, there's a lot to think about here. However, it is the last one I have struggled with a bit in the past.

The Contention of the Ticking Clock

London Underground atrium
Photo by Anna Dziubinska / Unsplash

Sometime around the age of 21, I had a sudden realisation - I will die one day. I won't know when or how, but it could happen. But I had so many things to do! Accomplishments to achieve, movies to watch, books to read, places to go, experiences to have...

Whereas the motivation of keeping busy in high school came from a place of competition and a clear timeline, this burst of thinking came from the idea of death itself. Leaving a legacy and all was good - but I also wanted to enjoy the present moment! Right? I also knew two younger people who passed away suddenly in 2020 and 2021. Combined with the covid-19 pandemic and the end of my university degree rapidly approaching, I was determined to 'make the most of my time'.

I would have spurts of energy in many different directions, then inevitably not be productive, then punish myself for not spending my time effectively. This constant swinging was clearly not the best thing for me, or anyone.

I found three things when reflecting:

  1. My goals were unrealistic: my Letterboxd watchlist currently sits at 473 films, and my Goodreads Want-To-Read list has 701 books on it. I will be lucky to get anywhere near completing these in my lifetime. This doesn't even cover my own ambitious goals since youth of changing the world for the better.
  2. Satisfaction comes from enjoyable and unpredictable moments in the journey, not the destination: I wanted to publish this website a month ago, but have been navigating and learning from the set-up process. Relationships have unplannable moments that often are among the best, with milestones being more clear but sitting secondary to these. The things that make you happy now are unlikely to be things you knew about 1, 5 or 10 years ago.
  3. The outside world doesn't matter if you aren't happy: You can go around doing everything for everyone else, whether in pursuit of praise or fulfilling duty. But at the end of the day you will be left alone, and your life is in your hands. If you are not connected with your inner self and feeling truly satisfied with your actions, anything you achieve on the exterior will fade away.

Helpful Content

With the timing of this discussion, I wanted to add a few recently discovered items that have informed where I currently stand on my relationship with time and a satisfied life.

Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji

I wouldn't be who I was if I wasn't a Sikh. Whilst there are countless gems from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib Ji, on the topic of time a few passages have caught my eye.

  • Ang 1374 - Bhagat Kabir

ਕਬੀਰਾ ਧੂਰਿ ਸਕੇਲਿ ਕੈ ਪੁਰੀਆ ਬਾਂਧੀ ਦੇਹ ॥‌‌
Kabeer, the body is a pile of dust, collected and packed together.

ਦਿਵਸ ਚਾਰਿ ਕੋ ਪੇਖਨਾ ਅੰਤਿ ਖੇਹ ਕੀ ਖੇਹ ॥੧੭੮॥‌‌
It is a show which lasts for only a few days, and then dust returns to dust. ||178||

  • Ang 738 - Guru Arjan Dev Ji

ਬੁਰੇ ਕਾਮ ਕਉ ਊਠਿ ਖਲੋਇਆ ॥‌‌
He gets up early, to do his evil deeds,

ਨਾਮ ਕੀ ਬੇਲਾ ਪੈ ਪੈ ਸੋਇਆ ॥੧॥‌‌
But when it is time to meditate on the Naam, the Name of the Lord, then he sleeps. ||1||

Music

I listen to a range of artists, and am always trying to learn more about music and the world through new artists and albums. Kid Cudi is someone I've been listening to for a while, and I hope to do a proper article on him soon!

I love this track in particular - a musician making a bold, personal and heartfelt statement on his debut album. The Prayer espouses that if Kid Cudi is to die tonight, he will be satisfied with the live he has lived and music he's put out. However, he isn't perfect. He acknowledges both his own insecurities and faults, yet continues ahead anyway and says he's ready for the funeral.

I have countless more songs in my playlists which touch upon this concept of time, but this was the most salient at this particular moment.

My philosophy

So where do I stand on my relationship with time? Quite similar to where I was before this workshop, though it was good to tease it out and actually have a good look at it.

My philosophy is that although I am ambitious, I won't be able to achieve all that I set out to do. I won't finish reading all those books, watch all those movies, help the entire world through business and volunteering or completely change the lives of those struggling for the better. And that's ok, as I'm going to enjoy the journey I have in chipping away and chasing these ambitions.

I will do what I can and achieve what I can in the moment. That means adapting to whatever circumstances life throws at me. It means enjoying and being conscious of my relationships with others. Perhaps most importantly, it means being present in each activity and every moment. I only get one life. Every breath counts.

And if I die tomorrow, I will die knowing that I was happy with the time I had, and fulfilled in the life I lived.


📖 Thank you for reading this article!

Hope you have a fantastic rest of your day (or night) 😊