Die Before You Die So That You Can Truly Live
Die before you die is a practice which I’m now incorporating into my life. My rediscovery of this knowledge has been equal parts novelty and wonder. I say rediscovery because this information feels timeless, as if it was always there waiting for the student to beckon the master.
The Mirror Speaks
My journey throughout life has been one of denial, anger, bargaining, and depression with regard to my mortality. I began walking this path early as a young child. One day the realization of my ultimate annihilation was delivered in a moment of introspection in front of the mirror. To say that I was ill-equipped to process the thought would be too kind.
The last of the five stages of grief would not visit for another thirty plus years. Religion did not help. As a child, the message of judgment and doom only served to intensify my fear. Acceptance of the duality of life and death was postponed indefinitely, or so it felt.
The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time. — Mark Twain
Love, Loss and Pain
My fear was further exacerbated in my early twenties with the passing of my mom. The event triggered the memory of another realization I had in front of the mirror on that fateful day as a child. The absolute horror of my demise was not all that was conveyed in the message. For you see, my mom was the first face I saw after realizing that my time here was not eternal, and this implied that neither was hers or all those whom I loved and who loved me.
Thoughts of what life is all about amplified with her death. Should a person who lived an exemplary life be forced to suffer a death that arrived too early, lasted too long, and robbed my family of our goodbye?
The whole experience that is life seemed quite pointless and further removed acceptance from the conversation. The fight with the universe was now on and fueled by equal parts anger and denial. And so I continue to live with this background noise of my precarious journey throughout life, chasing the promised future of a grand thing which needed to arrive before the clock wound down.
You Have to Wake Up!
The recent acceptance of my eventual demise has been a blessing, brought about by a spiritual awakening. The majority of the credit for this mental freedom from the bondage of fear goes to a man whom I never met and will never do so in this life. You see, Alan Watts died one year after my birth, yet today it is as if he carefully crafted and bottled a message just for me. (As a side note, who is that unknown person that you can impact if you only relinquish your fear and false inferiority?)
Life and death are one thread, the same line viewed from different sides. — Lao Tzu
Meaningful CoincidencesSynchronicity led me to rediscover the philosophy of “Die before you die.” One day I was scrolling the interweb, only to have my attention stolen by a Youtube video on the very subject. Later that evening, the exact phrase leaped off the pages of “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle, and into my consciousness. This rediscovery was only the start of these meaningful coincidences, as I would soon discover the words of Alan Watts on the very topic of releasing one’s fear of death.
Something magical occurs when you can willingly peel away the layers of your form and return to the void of infinite nothingness. You soon realize it is this very nothingness from which your first emerge to take on the identity of “I” and knowing this, you understand that the very nothingness you were in fear of contains everything, including you, and cannot be contaminated. The illusion of a separate form is what promotes so much pain in life and causes us to become blinded to the present with thoughts of past regrets and future concerns. All fears sit atop our one primal fear of death.
Can We Talk?
This article itself was birth from synchronicity. A few nights ago I stumbled upon a documentary on PBS entitled “Facing Mortality: How to Talk to Your Doctor.” The documentary followed the end-of-life conversations between cancer patients and their doctors. The point of the documentary was to show the degree of ineptness that both parties brought to the table.
It would be easy to render judgment on the medical profession and blame inadequate schooling for this deficit, but this would deny the inability of the patients and their families to broker these very conversations. What followed was a dance of sorts with both parties careful to not to trip the landmine.
Sadly, many of the patients faced the fear of their mortality, which claimed the last vestiges of much-needed closure with family members as well as life itself. “What can we do better as a medical profession?” was a top of mind concern voiced by those interviewed. But something more profound struck me as I sat there enthralled. “Why do we wait until it is too late to broker this discussion? Why do we deny death and live as though it does not exist?”
There Will Never Be a Right Time…Do It Now!
No financial advisor would postpone retirement planning conversations until the dwindling days of their client’s career. But we live life with this denial as a society and defer the moment to our death bed when we are least prepared and equipped. If people were able to die before they die early in life, then it would open the possibility for how they would indeed live that very life, as one of excitement, presence, fulfillment, and enlightenment.
Conversations of mortality should not be relegated to the background because, quite frankly, they cannot be. Try as you must, unchecked fears of death rob one of life, as least one worth living. How much more of life could be unlocked and made accessible if only we could embrace death as we emerge from the void and open our eyes to the world?
To “die before you die” is a worthy endeavor we should all pursue in earnest because it allows one to see that you are more than an isolated form living a precarious existence. You become aware that you are connected to everything and everyone and as such never truly die. You become liberated from the fear of death to embody the death of fear. You become aware that you are the sum of all “I’s” and with this knowledge comes compassion for those around you.