Different circumstances can profoundly change life for the better:
2) Near death experiences (NDEs);
3) Post-traumatic growth (PTG); and
1) Those who practice meditation seriously, seamlessly incorporate a mindful way of being into the fabric of daily life. The more wisely one practices meditation, the more one progressively awakens to a qualitatively different, wiser, kinder, more joyous relationship to oneself, others, life itself, that is independent of society's usual markers of happiness such as wealth, power, fame, and even physical health. This transformation - like becoming a parent - cannot be fully appreciated intellectually, only directly experienced.
We tend not to notice the negative influences our culture has on us, and so most people simply follow the herd and avoid thinking outside the box - watch the short video (bottom of this page).
Rodney Smith. "Awakening. A Paradigm Shift of the Heart." Shambhala, 2014.
2) “A near death experience (NDE) is a profound event that (10-20% of) people experience when they are near death, on the threshold of death, or sometimes are afraid they’re about to die. They include such things as a sense of leaving the physical body; going through some type of tunnel to another realm of light where they encounter a loving beam of light; they often go through a life review; & at some point may see other entities such as deceased loved ones; & then at some point they choose to come back to their bodies or are told to come back. But the entire experience is infused by a sense of peace & well-being, which is in stark contrast to the near-death state where they’re terrified usually, & in a lot of pain.” Bruce Greyson
3) "Post-traumatic growth (PTG) typically refers to enduring positive psychological changes experienced
as a result of adversity, trauma, or highly challenging life
Eranda Jayawickreme et al. “Post‐traumatic Growth as Positive Personality Change: Challenges, Opportunities, and Recommendations.” Personality 89; 1: 145-165, 2021.
Elizabeth Lesser. “Broken Open. How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow.” Villard, 2005.
4) Entheogens are psychoactive substances that alter perception, mood, consciousness,
cognition, or behavior for spiritual development or other sacred
contexts en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Entheogen. There are increasing reports in scientific journals of agents such as ketamine, which when administered by trained medical personnel in supportive, controlled settings, can elicit remarkable alleviation of severe, previously treatment-resistant depression; lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and psilocybin can eliminate extreme fear of death (thanatophobia) among the dying, etc.
The powerful healing effect of these drugs is highly dependent on "set & setting": safe, supportive healing environment, medical expertise & healing intention.
Krystal JH et al. "Ketamine: A Paradigm Shift for Depression Research and Treatment." Neuron 2019 https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuron.2019.02.005
Mackenzie Blomstrom, Andrew Burns, Daniel Larriviere & Jennifer Kim Penberthy (2020): "Addressing fear of death and dying: traditional and innovative interventions." Mortality, DOI: 10.1080/13576275.2020.1810649
Michael Pollan's book “How to Change Your Mind. What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence.” Penguin, 2018. - AND - his 2022 (4-part) Documentary “How to Change Your Mind" on Netflix both EXCELLENT & HIGHLY recommended!
Of these four, meditation-facilitated awakening is the most gradual, gentle, and most directly under the participant's own guidance. This is an alternative life path, chosen by those who seek a more deeply meaningful, heart-centered quality of life than the mainstream egocentric competitive / adversarial materialistic lifestyle. Serious, long-time meditation practice markedly reduces fear of aging, sickness & death, which in turn allows us to appreciate & enjoy life more deeply.
The other three tend to involve recent or impending severe trauma as a potential wake-up call.
All four can result in a radically positive, stable change in the participant's personality, self-concept, worldview, and overall quality of life. All this happens WHILE clearly facing & lovingly embracing ALL of "life's 10,000 joys AND 10,000 sorrows" - THIS is radical intimacy! THIS is "healing into wholeness." THIS is what is meant when a person is healed, despite not being cured. THIS is the BEST a mortal human can be.
To our ego (the role of which is our physical survival & passing on of our DNA), physical death is "unacceptable." Yet, the most basic law of nature is that everything changes constantly, we all become sick, grow old and die. So, if we are ready & able to prioritize our sanity & happiness, we prioritize maturing well beyond basic egocentricity.
"Suffering is caused by identification with egoic consciousness." Adyashanti
"the ego-shell in which we live is the hardest thing to outgrow." D.T. Suzuki
Especially if you fear death - and most of us do - I HIGHLY recommend this wonderful book - you will feel much better about death AND about life!:
Bruce Greyson. “After. A Doctor Explores What Near-Death Experiences Reveal about Life and Beyond.” St. Martin’s, 2021.
"The more you understand, the more you love; the more you love, the more you understand. They are two sides of one reality. The mind of love and the mind of understanding are the same.” Thich Nhat Hanh
Bud Light 2010 Ad - Crashed Plane "We're gonna be okay!!!!"