How will you die? I don’t mean what will kill you; I mean what will be the character of your life in those final days before your passing?

Of course, we don’t have much control over when and how we’ll die. A few of us will go quickly, without much warning or preparation. But most of us will have some time, and our wits about us, for a few days, a handful of weeks, six or more months of living with a terminal illness, maybe more.

The centuries-old Book of Common Prayer contains a prayer that says, “Lord, spare me from dying suddenly and unprepared.” Most of us today want the opposite. “Take me quick, Lord.”

But when we go quickly, we miss the opportunity to die well. And the ability to die well gives us the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy.

I have a friend whose mother’s dying. She’s lived with dying for seven months. But the fact of her dying didn’t mean she stopped playing tennis, going to the opera, visiting with friends, and nurturing her children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. She’s dying well. Last month she took her four adult children to Ireland for one last trip together. Last weekend, she took the whole family (dozens of them) to the opera . . . “Because I love it.” And now that she’s stopped eating, she’s started blessing each and every one of her kin . . . with intention. She’s dying well, really well.

So, if you’re “spared from dying suddenly and unprepared,” how will you spend your last days?

If you don’t take this question seriously, you’ll do very little to prepare yourself for dying. Then when death comes for you, you’ll not be able to live big, give love, let go with dignity, and as you do, inspire, empower, and envision others to live their lives with some special gift that comes from your dying. And if you can’t live well when you’re dying, I wonder how well you’re really living now.

Intention: Today, I’ll consider the kind of person I’d like to be when I’m dying. Then I’ll begin to live in such a way that when the end comes, I’ll have something beautiful in my soul to pass on to others. God, make it so that when I’m dying I can give to others some gift to help them live well so that when they find themselves at death's door, they can pass on gifts of grace to others. 

A TED talk by photographer Louie Schwartzberg, and a short film (exquisite) narrated by Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast. Watch and open your life to Life, experience the truth that "Today is a gift that was given to you, and the only appropriate response is gratitude." See the world again through the eyes of a child and an elderly man.

Life has rhythms that make sense to follow. There's the daily rhythm shaped around night and day. There's the weekly rhythm, the monthly rhythm. There are seasonal rhythms too. Schools shape our rhythms. So do business cycles. But sometimes these rhythms get blurred. The electric lightbulb has made it possible for people to ignore the enforced rhythm night once brought upon us. We can now work 24/7. And while seasonal rhythms still affect us, heating and air-conditioning have made it so that we feel these changes less than our great grandparents once did. Not having to go to bed at dusk because there's nothing else you can do comes with great benefits. You can read a book, post something on Facebook, see a movie, drive a car. And who among us wants to feel the lethargy or even danger we'd feel if we could find no air-conditioned break from a stretch of 108 degree August weather?

But I wonder if we've not lost something important about being human when we find ourselves distanced from the natural rhythms that would shape our lives if we had no modern technology.

Look, I'm not suggesting we become Luddites--those nineteenth century British textile artisans, who, sensing the massive changes coming toward them at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, destroyed the new power looms that were displacing skilled human labor with time saving machinery. No, I have great affection for so much that technology brings into our lives to join them.

I am wondering, though, if learning to create some space between ourselves and our devices might bring more balance, pleasure, and beauty into our over-crowded, overly stressed lives. When you've got virtually instant access to a vast global library of everything under the sun, and when you are accessible through your laptop, tablet, or smartphone, 24/7, to anyone wanting to text you, email you, or instant chat from anywhere in the world, something's got to happen to your soul. You lack the natural rhythms that create healthful boundaries and structures for human life.

Intention: Today, I'll take a more critical and suspicious posture to my devices. Grateful for them in so many ways, I won't let them blind me to the fact that they can use me rather than me using them.  I'll create some period during the day when I'm not accessible to anyone or anything that's not actually in front of me.  I'll unplug and begin to regain the more natural rhythms that can heal my soul.

Calm. Composure. Level-headedness. Poise. I'll bet these are things you want in your surgeon or pilot. And I'm guessing you'd like to possess them yourself. The ability to hold yourself calm in the eye of a storm will save you a lot of suffering over the long haul. But calm doesn't just come over you; you've got to work it into you, massaging it into the deep tissue of your being through practice, practice, practice.

Contemplative prayer is such a practice. Through meditation on the name of Jesus or some other simple prayer, you make a habit of drawing of your mind down into your heart and holding it there in the presence of God. In this way you train yourself to dwell at the center, remain composed and calm, no matter what's going on around you.

One of my kids called late one night. He was stuck in on the 134 in LA. An accident. Traffic at a dead stop, not even crawling along. People around him pounding their steering wheels in rage. Others swearing out their windows. His own anxiety skyrocketing in the midst of the mayhem. Never mind that someone's suffering, maybe dead on the road ahead. Thousands are stuck in gridlock, feeling claustrophobic and powerless to do anything but rage against it all.

Unless you've trained yourself for such a time as this, you'll get sucked into the collective insanity.

Practice poise. Enter the stillness each day in prayer. For 5 minutes (but the more, the better), do nothing in the presence of God but fend off the thoughts that try to pull you away from center. Return to the center, to God. Just be.

Then when you're on the road or in a meeting, answering an email or listening to the news you're less likely to get sucked into the collective insanity of so many around you who do not practice peace.

Intention: Today, I'll practice poise. I'll grow still in prayer. I'll massage into my deep tissue a growing trust in God's presence in and around me.

You know how you see people on the sidewalk, or in the crosswalk, in what's become a typical pose--one elbow crooked like they're flexing a bicep, a hand raised to about six inches in front of their face? They're squinting, face glued to the tiny screen in front of them. Or think about how often you see people at a restaurant, sitting comfortably across from each other but one of them is texting while the other looks idly at her food. Sometimes she's glued to the screen as well.

Or, God forbid, the number of people at a stop light, looking down into a little screen.

It's hard to get away from the constant and instant access afforded by our digital devices.

A recent study found that 80 percent of 1,000 U.S. workers surveyed worked after leaving the office. The study found people check their email in bed in the morning (50%), before 8 a.m. (68%), after 10 p.m. (40%), when they are out with their families (57%), and when they are at the dinner table (38%). And 69 percent say they can't go to bed without doing so. All of this means we are almost working an entire extra day of work from home. (The Atlantic Wire website, July 2, 2012)

But there's a revolt afoot. Or, at least, there are young cultural leaders who are finding a more healthy way to live in relationship to these devices.

Digital Detox is a movement started by a young 28 year old techy, who hosts parties and even weeklong summer camping "retreats" that help tech-obsessed young people get off the grid and find a better way to be human again.

Here's what the movement says about itself:

Disconnect from technology and reconnect with yourself. Recharge your mind, body and soul.

Digital Detox is an organization dedicated to finding and creating more balance in the digital age.

The Digital Detox retreat is a tech-free personal wellness retreat where attendees give up their smart-phones and gadgets in exchange for a few days of serenity and bliss.

Intention: Maybe I can't get away for a weeklong detox from the technology that too often runs my life, but I can learn to take breaks, close my lap top, turn off my phone, and engage the world that's right about me. The world won't end.