Top Five Regrets of the Dying
Why you should read the book
I have recently attended the Hay House Writer's Workshop in Sydney, and there I bought the book Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware. It is a book about her experience of working in the palliative care, sitting at the bedside of the dying and their common regrets.
I heard about this book probably a few years back but never had the chance to read it and having just finished reading it I feel it is such a blessing that it has fallen into my hands.
I had encountered death at a relatively young age. My father passed away suddenly when I was twenty-two (he was in fact murdered, a tragedy that I would rather not bring it up). I remember crying hysterically for over one month and falling into the darkest time of my life. I also had a lot of realisations during that period, particularly about how fragile and vulnerable life could be, how you could never really predict what might happen in the next moment, so one should really live life courageously and without regrets.
I know one of my dad's dreams was to travel the world. Unfortunately, he passed before he could fulfil it. It was also the moment that I had the courage to finally break up with my then boyfriend, whom I never really loved (I did not understand what love was back then and we were either going to get married or break up, I was glad I had the courage to choose the latter). I had wanted to visit the US for a while, so I bought a ticket to the US to get away from all the messes in life (in both China and Australia). It might seem like I was escaping from life, but it was so important to create the space and time for me to heal... No one could really understand you at a time like that (as they did not experience what you experienced), seeing psychologists, talking to strangers about the problems I had also did not work for me. In the end, I realised I really had to find the strength to crawl out of depression myself.
I also had a near-death experience when I was scuba diving in Fiji (Shark diving), probably just two years after my dad passed away. My mother and me went on a holiday in Fiji. I saw a shark diving advertisement at the hotel lobby and being an adventurous person at heart I signed up immediately. The first day we were just practising in the swimming pool, and everything was fine. The second day was my first open water diving. I was probably about eight metres down, and some water got into my mask. I could not see where everyone was and I forgot you could just tilt the mask to let the water out. Instead, I made the most stupid mistake you could probably commit in Scuba Diving - to pull out the regulator (the only thing that helped you breathe under the water)…I was severely suffocated under the water and almost died...
Luckily, my dive master saw me and quickly swam over and forcefully pushing the regulator in my mouth and pressed the Emergency Ascend bottom so I could come out of water in time (I was too panicked to remember anything, except just kicking him). I remember clearly that just before I got out of the water, I honestly thought I had stepped one foot into the heaven. I saw bright white light and images of my mother and loved ones passing through me, and I was bidding farewell to them, although I could not speak my consciousness was very clear. That was how I knew what dying could have felt like and became a firm believer in the so-called afterlife.
All these experiences were blessings in disguise when I looked back. They made me think about death at a young age and helped me become a person with more courage and determination to follow her heart, to truly live a life with no regrets. Also, I believed all these experiences eventually led me to my first profound spiritual awakening experience at the age of twenty-five and for that, I am eternally grateful.
Here I would like to list the top five regrets of the dying stated by Bronnie Ware in her book and also doing a mini self-reflection:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
This is the most common one according to Bronnie Ware. I am glad that this would not be on my regret list when I die. After seven years of tedious studies at University, I became a lawyer, which only lasted for one month. I followed my heart to become an entrepreneur (at that time my heart wanted to become one) and moved to Shanghai. After one year of entrepreneurial journey, my soul felt quite tired from the fast paced of the business life in Shanghai (or life in Shanghai in general), so again I followed my heart to become a yoga teacher and moved back to Australia. The journey of the heart is so fascinating as my heart seems to have many interests, and as I keep walking on the journey of self-discovery, I keep discovering new things my heart desires and more new ideas starting to emerge. I feel I am moving closer towards the true callings of my soul. In this moment, ideally, I’d like to be a yoga/mystical dance/tantra teacher who travels around the world for retreats and teaching and also a writer.
2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
I studied very hard at law school (honestly, I would not send my future kids to law school unless it is their wish) and also worked quite hard when I ran my startups (I had two startups). I am grateful that is no longer the caseNow I do not consider myself working hard, I do what my heart feels like at this moment, and I’m glad what I do is what I like.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
I am still working on it, but I think I do get better at it each day. Especially during the tantra retreat I am currently in, some of the exercises help me open up my heart tremendously. I wrote a few long letters to my mother, loved one and grandparents to express the things I wanted to say but did not have the courage to say. For that, I am quite proud. To me, it really does not matter too much what the other party’s response is, even if he or she does not respond the way you would expect, maybe they are not open to receive it yet, the timing is not right and all sorts of reasons, it does not matter. What truly matters is that you have the courage to express how you truly feel before it is too late, you do your soul’s justice, and that is enough.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Hmm, this I think I am alright. I am grateful to live in an age where it is so easy to stay in touch with friends via Facebook and other social media. Although it is a bit sad to see some friends whom you used to be closed with to drift away due to different paths in life, and sometimes even if you’d like to stay in touch with them, they may not be open to it. With that, we shall not force, as if we are forcing something, then we are blocking the natural flow of life. Sometimes it is best to let go and sending them love regardless.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
This I am relatively good at as I know happiness is really a choice, a personal choice and it is not just mere luck. Happiness is not something someone gives you but a state of mind created from within. True happiness is really coming from within you, not coming to you (but when it is coming within, it seems like it is coming to you).
We are all like light bulbs, some of us may be connected and be able to turn on the switch easily and shine from within. Some of us may not have realised that they are also light bulbs and depending on others to give them happiness, and probably only find out later that it did not work like that. Waiting around to let others give you happiness is often a way to disappointment.
But being happy and shine from within also takes practice, to know that this is a personal choice and to consciously to choose happiness over misery. It is one thing to know, another thing to truly embody.
When I was reading the book, I felt almost every sentence was a gentle reminder from the Divine telling me that how I want to live my life is really my choice. I am the writer of my life, and I should live a life that is true to my heart. It is also affirming me that I am really on the right path – the path of heart.
For that, I am very grateful, and I highly recommend this book to everyone! In fact, I might start buying more of this book to send to people who I care very much in life as gifts.