Meditations on Mortality

Tom Nickel
5 min readJul 28, 2019
Author’s (ex-) Avatar at a VR Meditation Session

Meditation is mainstream and it’s presented in a variety pack of options.

There are many forms, but often the whole idea is just to pay attention to an object or a process like breathing, or even an aspect of breathing like the sensation of air entering or exiting the nostrils. When anything else happens to distract attention, and it always does, the central act of meditation is to gently turn back to the air in the nostrils, or whatever the object is. And, most importantly, not to beat yourself up for losing attentiveness. Just to notice it and go back.

I’ve been doing this almost every day for over forty years and sometimes I go off thinking about something interesting for I don’t know how long before I notice it and go back. It happens.

Meditation isn’t a belief. It’s a behavior that gradually shapes us when we do it over and over. It’s shaped me, especially tamping down how I’d react almost like a reflex in certain situations.

That’s why I want to try using mortality as an object of meditation.

I’m not sure what’s Spiritual and what isn’t, but I know that our mortality matters to us every minute of every day whether we choose to pay attention to it or not.

I believe there are many ways we can build a healthy relationship with death and even come to appreciate the fact of our mortality. Meditating at all, and especially meditating on mortality, whatever that means, is something concrete we can do.

It’s already helped me handle the idea of my life ending — and it’s also helped me feel freer in the days between now and then, lighter.

My general approach to learning more about anything is to teach it. To learn more about meditating on mortality, I’d like to lead a group, using a loose and flexible plan I’ll start with.

I see Meditations on Mortality as a direct form of exposure therapy. Lots of strong thoughts and emotions will probably come up. It won’t be easy to just notice them and go back.

I will be careful.

I’ve done things like this before, but never quite this way.



Tom Nickel

Learning Technologist focusing on VR, Video, and Mortality … producer of Less Than One Minute and 360 degree videos