The Buddha must have considered the following list very important, since he advised that everyone should reflect on in. The five reflections are that I, personally, am subject (1) to aging, (2) to illness, and (3) to death; (4) that I will be separated from all that is dear to me; and (5) that I am responsible for my own actions and destiny.
There’s a saying that runs, “Few people on their deathbeds think, ‘I wish I’d spent more time in the office.’ ” Thinking from this perspective — from the recognition that life is short and precious — brings us more fully into contact with our deeper values. In the everyday swirl of events we can easily lose sight of what is most important. Right now, spending more time in the office so that you can afford a so-called “better standard of living” may seem to be crucially important.
And yet what will you wish you’d spend more time on when it comes time for you to die? Most people have a sense of a life well lived when they have developed integrity of character, when they have done things to benefit others, and when they have build up long-lasting bonds of love and friendship with others.
In reading these passages, I suggest you imagine that you are on your deathbed, looking back at your life. What kinds of achievements will you want to look back on? What kind of character traits do you want to be remembered for? What relationships will you most value?