Welcome friends to Episode #63 of the Own Your Best Life Podcast. I’ve often found that changes to our lives can bring us to rediscover another part of ourselves. Changes in our lives dissolve our identities. Take the pandemic. As we emerge from the pandemic, I began to think about what I would want to remain from this last year, and how to handle the oncoming travel, social agenda and return to life. I find it particularly helpful to reshape one’s life by turning the contents of our lives on its head, dissolving this fixed way of thinking and living. The pandemic did just that. If you were to remove all the social engagements, travel and ways of being with one another easily, who are you and from where does your joy come? Another example is our family constructs. If you are in a relationship with a partner or have kids, where does your sense of belonging or purpose come from if those weren’t your main focus? If you are not in a relationship and kids are not in the picture, how would your sense of belonging or purpose change if you did have these constructs in your life? Change upon change upon change. Each change is a death of some part of ourselves from the previous minute, day or a week or months. Today, we’re going to talk about how death changes what we would do today, and help us get to where we are looking to go even faster.
Through my journey of waking up and realizing that life was more than just the things I was doing and the places I was going and the people around me, I’ve seen that thinking about death has given me a way to guide myself to what matters most. It was after I experienced multiple deaths of those around me in a short span of time that I suddenly had a sense of urgency about life and what I was doing with my time here. We think about death as this thing that is in the distant future. Something we can’t even imagine, yet it’s the one thing we know with certainty. It’s the one thing that doesn’t have a question mark. I remember the first time I experienced a tarot reading with a group of friends and one of them was concerned about the reading and asked, “what if she tells me I’m going to die?” I responded, “well, you are going to die. That’s not going to be a surprise, is it?” She laughed as she realized that the worst thing that could happen was that someone would tell her a truth she already knew.
Yet, there’s a part of us that doesn’t want to die and fears death. There’s a part of us that thinks that if you or I were to die tomorrow, that it would be a terrible thing. Life, however, never told us our body’s expiration date. You could live to 101, or not – and when we focus on the uncertainty, we could live feeling uncertain and that nothing we do matters. What if instead, we focused on the certainty of death? What if we did it without a sense of gloom, dread, sadness or fear? What if we instead, lived our lives as if we knew that death was always happening and the body’s death is just another shape that it’s taking. Then, everything matters.
We are always dying
As I began to contemplate death more and more. What emerged was a sense that everything was always dying. We are always dying. Every change was a death, an end to something, and a beginning of something else. I began to see that there was a rhythm to all of our lives. There was a season of birth and a season of death. There are seasons in nature with the birth and death of plants and all the living beings around us. That’s what makes them alive – the possibility of death. Each breath we take is a death of the moment just before, the breath just before. Each night is a death of the day and each day the death of the night. If we were searching for a moment to start over, it is ever present and available. Instead, however, we focus much more on how there is no season, expecting everything to stay the same. A desire for certainty doesn’t mean that we need things to be a certain way. A desire for certainty can manifest itself by seeing that life is always changing.
What I would have
How do we deal then with the practical matters of our lives if we were thinking that death was happening either right now or tomorrow? Does that mean we wouldn’t save our money? What about retirement? What about thinking about the future? Do we just not work and spend every waking moment with loved ones or traveling the world? Those questions are the beginning of your search for the deeper meaning of death. You’re asking yourself, “why am I doing what I’m doing?” This is a beautiful place to be. This allows you to answer the question and bridge the gap between us having a human experience and a spiritual one as well.
Who are you
What if you could see yourself as a spiritual being having a human experience? One that was sent to this human experience to understand life even more. The meaning of things, experiences and events then become a way for us to understand ourselves better. The focus then becomes the internal. Imagine yourself as an energetic being first and foremost. Imagine you were this big ball of light, vibrating and moving and that the physical world and physical body of yours fell away. Imagine that this vibrating ball of light is bigger and brighter than that which it is surrounded by. So much so that it leaves a trail of light in its wake. Your energetic body is like this yet what we make even more real is the physical body. The body that we can see. Turn it inside out. Life is about turning ourselves inside out, to start living from that energy. To see that now you are the one which experiences things and when you experience it from a human body point of view, things start to look petty, not right, small and confusing. Yet, when you experience it from the point of view of your energetic and spiritual body – you start to see past the external world. The energetic and spiritual body can see beyond your touch, sight, taste, hearing, and smell. When you can shift your consciousness out of our senses into that realm, you’ll experience that the external world does not matter as much as we believe it does.
So what happens now when we shift our perspective and live more from the inside out? We start experiencing life differently. It’s not that the things around us change. We change. And when we change our perspective and our perception, our projection of what’s around us changes as well.
Let’s take material things for example. When I focus myself on my human existence full of fears of not enough or being bored or needing to be busy, I accumulate stuff. I’m now trying to live without this fear-based way of thinking so I start thinking about my relationship with all the stuff in my life. If I weren’t so caught up in the accumulation of things and the doing of things, what would I have in my life? There’s a certain amount of stuff as I look around me right now. I can see kids’ toys, books and decorative items like pillows. Simplicity is the quality of being easy to understand or do. I want to be able to feel freedom from all the things that are here yet I still live here. So we bridge. We don’t need to be so rigid about all the stuff that having it in my life also brings me stress, but clear that having a place to sit makes the human experience easier. Having some toys to play with is done out of love. The question then becomes, what do I have because I love, not because I fear. If I have all the toys because I fear that the kids will be bored, I’m existing tied into a physical world as if that would solve the problems of the internal world. If I have some toys because it’s fun to have some toys and imagine and play – then it becomes less about the toy. I could use a cardboard box and have it be the thing. With that type of thinking, the material things in this world are just passing through my life. I give things away and buy things easily. I don’t buy things just as easily. I’ve asked myself to go through periods of not buying any clothes just because I knew that would test a part of myself that desired to fill the void of worthiness with outfits, and saw that I was fine. I also asked myself to go through periods where I say yes and buy easily, because I knew that another part of myself wanted to hold onto its identity as a certain kind of person by hiding behind clothes that didn’t allow me to stand out or be seen. Which one is right? Neither. Our relationship with the material world becomes much more then about a projection of our internal world. Am I buying because I fear? Am I not buying because I fear? Do the opposite and growth comes no matter what material stuff you have or don’t have.
What about my job?
What would I do if I were to die tomorrow and realize that life isn’t about the material world? Why would I bother working if I didn’t need money for tomorrow? That’s a good question because it brings up the idea of why do we work? Is it just for the money? If it’s just for the money then we do it just for the money. Let’s call it what it is. We need money to pay the bills so we work to pay the bills. But if you start thinking, “It’s not just about the money” then it’s not just about the money. You see that you are the one that creates the meaning of work in your life. There’s no right or wrong here again, which is what confuses us. We think that there is one path, one way, and one answer when in fact, there are as many answers as there are beings in your life.
What we bring to our lives and our jobs is our unique blueprints, understanding and ways of being. We show up and express ourselves in our daily lives whether we work or don’t work. Work becomes a way for you to express yourself through. Living is a way for us to express ourselves through. Expressing ourselves is another way of saying that we are learning to see ourselves as we are in relation to other things. All of this is something we’ve decided in our minds are important. It’s another way for us to see how we’ve placed ourselves in a human world. What if you saw that you’re a spiritual being having a human existence and the job doesn’t mean as much as you thought it did. Suddenly you’re realizing that it doesn’t really matter what you do. Do you feel a sense of frustration or futileness? I would encourage you to in fact feel the opposite. It’s when we can dissolve our sense of identity as someone that must be this or that, that we start to see that we can be and do anything we want.
It’s in our being and not in our doing. We see what’s in front of us and we relate to it as a way to bridge the human experience. Pay attention to what life is asking us to do versus what we think we have to do. Right now, you likely don’t have to decide if you’re working tomorrow because you’ve already made that decision. You probably already decided that you’re working or not working. Life isn’t changing yet for you to have another decision to make. So we roll with the punches and see what life brings us. We show up to our work and do our job or we don’t. What feels like the right next thing to do? The thing you would do out of love and not fear? That’s what guides you. Your intuition, your higher self, your all-knowing self and your connection to the divine.
Truth feels like clarity amidst a storm. Truth feels like peace. When you’re not sure what you’re supposed to do, ask yourself from a place of peace and stillness what you should do. That’s where the clearest answers come.
How I would live: Live more simply
When I think about the death of either myself or those around me, I feel the urge to live our lives more simply. How? By worrying less and by keeping my focus on accepting and loving my current reality. I realized that I could take care of myself and those around me without worrying about the next thing. That is one thing I would like to emphasize. The worry. If I were to die tomorrow, there would be no worry about what’s next. Just a true presence of mind for what is happening now. It brings to mind that saying that the future and the past are just stories.
When we suffer from chronic stress, we are living in the future or the past in the present moment – over and over again. We bring our worry thoughts about why we haven’t yet done it and why we can’t do it based on the past into the present. We also bring our worry thoughts about why it’s going to be hard and what is going to happen from the future into the present moment. We play it on a loop in our mind. The same thought over and over. No original thoughts. The same thing goes for relationships.
I used to worry so much more about what this or that means about the future for someone else. It’s when I realized that they are not in my control and never were – and that their actions and even their death is part of their own experience, that I slowly relinquished control. I started imagining that whoever I was talking to or with would die tomorrow and it changed the quality of my conversations and relationships forever. You cannot undo that feeling of compassion and kindness that comes when you start to see everyone as someone just like you, doing their best today – not knowing exactly what tomorrow will bring. We are all doing the best we can, making decisions we think are the right ones. How else would we live?
My state of being: Focusing on what matters most
When I think about how I would be in the face of imminent death, I would focus on what matters most. In that one moment where we know we’re going to die immediately, what would you want your focus to be on? I’d focus on an all encompassing sense of love, peace and joy. I would feel that bursting out of my body and radiating into everything I know. So why wouldn’t I live like that today? Death is imminent and how would my experience of life change if I were to live with that sense of being? It would eliminate the suffering in my life. The suffering that is chronic stress or concern brought about by thoughts. It’s not the stuff we have or don’t have, it’s the thoughts of not having enough or being enough. We get stressed when we think about needing more and not having it. We get stressed when we think that there’s not enough time. We get stressed when we think there’s not enough money. If you were to die tomorrow, you don’t know how much time you have exactly or how much money is enough. These are essential realizations to the idea that right now everything is ok. Right now, you have enough time because you have the time you have. Right now, you have enough money because it’s the money you have.
Even while you work towards saving more or making more, because you need to pay the bills or serve yourself and others with your work, you can do it without a sense of worry. You can live in the future and the present all at the same time. By doing what you know now to do, practically, you don’t have to worry. You’re doing something about it. Thinking about dying doesn’t mean you stop everything. Thinking about dying means the quality of which you do things changes.
When we are grateful for what we have, knowing that we need exactly what is in our life right now, clarity comes. We stop resisting what is and we start loving it. We begin to focus on what is true. When we begin to focus on what is true, we focus on what is truly important. I have gratitude for each of the deaths that occurred in my life. I also experienced the human emotions of grief and sadness. So much so that it surprised me. How did I know that death was going to happen yet still get so affected by it? That’s what led me to dive even deeper into the spiritual world. I realized that the logical plane, the one where I understood concepts logically – wouldn’t address my questions regarding the depth of emotion and my understanding of my experience. It would tell me that a person died and that it was possible because it happened. What I wanted was to know the sequel. What happens when we die? What happens to me and you? What happens when we witness death? What happens when we are with someone who is dying?
On a logical plane, we are there physically. However, on the emotional and spiritual plane, we are witnessing a moment of change. One where we know could change us forever, if we let it. We wake up from the seemingly endless complaints and feelings of being the victim. We allow full responsibility for our lives to walk in. This is what’s possible.
How I would show up
You would then show up differently. Who are you not to speak your mind or truth? Who are you not to allow love, success, joy or abundance into your life? If it doesn’t matter that much anyways how much money you have, why not allow yourself to have more of it without attachment or fear? If it doesn’t matter what your status is or what people think about you, why not allow yourself to serve yourself by doing what you care about and where your curiosity takes you? If your job, money, and stuff doesn’t matter as much, you can show up as a quality of being that is constantly experiencing joy. Joy in this job or the next job. Joy in not having a job. Joy in this amount of money or that amount of money. Joy in being in a relationship or not. Joy in having this material thing or not. Joy everywhere and limitless. Abundance everywhere and limitless. Success everywhere and limitless. There is no limit to the spiritual and energetic plane. We would truly live without limits when we realize that our material world has limits. This is one of the most freeing thoughts of all. The ego dies and is burned up and you are immersed completely into the intelligence of the universe.
How this changed things for me was that I put less pressure on myself and the material world to have to show up in a certain way in order for me to be happy. I became happy just because. There is a passage from the Tao te Ching which says this:
“Giving birth and nourishing,
having without possessing,
acting with no expectations,
leading and not trying to control:
this is the supreme virtue.”
Once we can take a step back from our own mind by experiencing the death of our beliefs, thoughts, things, bodies, people we love and what we hold so dearly, can we understand them even more. Maybe the death we most feared is exactly what brings us back to life.
Some resources I shared:
- Tao te ching – version by Stephen Mitchell
Let me know what resonates with you and how you use this. In this month’s Leadership group coaching, we’ll be covering the mind/body practices. How do we learn what our bodies are telling us, connect to these external experiences from a place of internal truth, and live our healthiest lives. If you enjoy these kinds of topics, you can go to www.mayempson.com/contact to learn more.
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