To be a happy person, one must contemplate death five times daily” -Bhutanese folk saying

What if there was an app that reminded us everyday that we are going to die?

Yes there is one, I spent a dollar for an app called WeCroak which has been telling me, at unpredictable intervals: “Don’t forget, you’re going to die.” At random times…just like death…nudging me to take one moment for contemplation, conscious breathing or meditation. Contemplating mortality regularly helps us to: accept what we must, let go of things that don’t matter and focus on what matters most.

Our culture conditions us to resist opening to the reality of impermanence. This makes us fearful of the subject, therefore naturally there is a lot of resistance to thinking about the subject. Growing up in India, where I really experienced death firsthand, you grow up seeing bodies being carried to the cremation grounds on a regular basis. Any death in the neighbourhood or even your town – you would either see it, as the body is kept at home with the doors wide open for everyone to visit and pay their respect. If further away, it is customary that someone from the family would go to each household to inform them of the event, a tradition that was established before everyone had phones and is now maintained out of respect.

According to a study Americans check their phone an average of 76 times a day. While many would like to cut back, simple willpower isn’t always enough. Perhaps we can transform the iPhone from a stressful distraction into a source of clarity and peace.

As I gasp at the mountain of boxes (from our recent move to Reston) to be unpacked, the to-do-list, noticing my agitation at my 10 year old’s tantrums who is frustrated about a challenging math problem, aware of the futile attempts at shushing the puppy who barks at every slight vibration he hears in his new surroundings, while simultaneously scrolling through emails, Instagram or social media, WeCroak interrupts me with the sobering reminder that it is not just my attention these apps are consuming, but chunks of my life. Along with the accompanying quote from meditation teacher Thich Nhat Hanh:

Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if its is the axis on which the earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.”

I realised that I am staring at the now empty, beautiful yellow mug that my beloved brought me that said “you are my sunshine” – my morning tea that I planned to enjoy is gone and I don’t recall the event.

These reminders also help me to loosen the grip on how I think things “should be” or how much I want to accomplish this day. The simplicity of WeCroak is that, this is not an app on which one can linger. It has no option to browse previous quotes – the only button on the app which repeats: this is WeCroak, and it sends you five quotes a day. The idea is to “disengage people as quickly as possible.”

Carlos Castaneda said “When you need an answer, look over your left shoulder and ask your death”.

What would you do differently or change, if you know you only have one year left… one month… one week… one day… one hour… one minute… one breath?