I painted it from a Victorian photograph I found online (and yes I did look, and no I did not find that it is copyrighted... but credit for the concept definitely goes to the original photographer, whomever he or she may be!). The image spoke to my newly deliberate practice of accepting that life will, indeed, kill me someday.
Shamatha means 'peaceful abiding' or 'calm acceptance' in the Buddhist tradition. It has to do with learning to be with what is. In Western cultures we are typically quite uncomfortable with the idea of our own mortality, and we work hard to avoid the whole disquieting reality of the fragile nature of our bodies. The problem is that the evidence of our impermanence is constantly around us --- certainly illnesses, injuries and deaths among our close associates are a clear reminder, but also the constant stream of media covering violence, accidents, natural disasters and topics related to illness. And don't forget the fictional reminders via TV shows, movies, video games and literature.
It seems odd that death as an abstract concept is so ubiquitous in our culture, and yet we actively avoid incorporating mortality in any meaningful way into our lives. I am finding that in not running from my eventual meeting with the Grim Reaper, I am much freer to actually live --- really and truly live --- my life. I find I have deeper compassion and connection with others. I find myself less critical; I'm less invested in 'things' and more appreciative of small joys; I laugh more; I cry more; I sing more; I have a deeper tolerance for annoyances; and I'm much, much less anxious.
From my heart to yours, the wish for Shamatha.
Freedom from fear.