17. Contemplating Death
It is truly a great cosmic paradox that one of the best teachers in all of life turns out to be death.
No person or situation could ever teach you as much as death has to teach you.
While someone could tell you that you are not your body, death shows you.
While someone could remind you of the insignificance of the things that you cling to, death takes them all away in a second.
While people can teach you that men and women of all races are equal and that there is no difference between the rich and the poor, death instantly makes us all the same.
The question is, are you going to wait until that last moment to let death be your teacher?
A wise person realizes that at any moment they may breathe out, and the breath may not come back in.
Any time you’re having trouble with something, think of death.
It shouldn’t take death to challenge you to live at your highest level. Why wait until everything is taken from you before you learn to dig down deep inside yourself to reach your highest potential?
A wise person affirms, “If with one breath all of this can change, then I want to live at the highest level while I’m alive. I’m going to stop bothering the people I love. I’m going to live life from the deepest part of my being.”
Imagine that an angel comes down and tells you, “Straighten up your affairs. You will not awake from your sleep tonight. You’re coming to me.” Then you’d know that every person you see that day, you’d be seeing for the last time. How would you feel? How would you interact with them? Would you even bother with the little grudges and complaints you’ve been carrying around? How much love could you give the ones you love, knowing it would be the last time you’d get to be with them?
You should contemplate this. Death is not a morbid thought. Death is the greatest teacher in all of life.
Take a moment to look at the things you think you need. Look at how much time and energy you put into various activities.
Imagine if you knew you were going to die within a week or a month. How would that change things? How would your priorities change? How would your thoughts change?
Think honestly about what you would do with your last week. What a wonderful thought to contemplate.
What are you doing with life? That is what death asks you.
Imagine come the Angel of Death for you and you say: “But no. You’re supposed to give me a warning so I can decide what I want to do with my last week. I’m supposed to get one more week.”
“My God! I gave you fifty-two weeks this past year alone. And look at all the other weeks I’ve given you. Why would you need one more? What did you do with all those?”
Death is a great teacher. But who lives with that level of awareness?
why not be bold enough to regularly reflect on how you would live that last week?
If you were to ask this question of people who are truly awakened, they wouldn’t have any problem answering you.
Not a thing would change inside of them. Not a thought would cross their minds. If death were to come in an hour, if death were to come in a week, or if death were to come in a year, they would live exactly the same way as they’re living now.
There is not a single thing they carry inside of their hearts that they would rather be doing. In other words, they are living their lives fully and are not making compromises or playing games with themselves.
There is a story of a great yogi who said that every moment of his life he felt as though a sword were suspended above his head by a spiderweb. He lived his life with the awareness that he was that close to death.
No matter what you’re doing, you can be sure somebody died that way.
Let this knowledge help you to live every moment of your life fully, because every moment matters.
Everything is a million times more meaningful in that final week. What if you were to live every week that way?
Why aren't you living that way? You know you are going to die. You just don't know when.
Every single thing will be taken from you. You will leave behind your possessions, your loved ones, and all your hopes and dreams for this life.
You’ll be taken right out of where you are. You’ll no longer be able to fill the roles you were so busy playing. Death changes everything in a flash.
If all these things can be changed in an instant, then maybe they aren’t so real after all. Maybe you’d better check out who you are. Maybe you should look deeper.
It’s not what you’re doing; it’s how much of you is doing it.
Imagine a person in a hospital bed who has just been told they’ve got a week to live. They look up at the doctor and say, “Can I walk outside? Can I look at the sky just one more time?” If it were raining outside, they would want to feel the rain just once more. For them, that would be the most precious thing. But you don’t want to feel the rain. You run and cover up.
What is it that won’t let us live our lives? What is inside of us that is so afraid that it keeps us from just enjoying life? This part of us is so busy trying to make sure the next thing goes right that we can’t just be here now and live life.
Don’t you want to live before death comes?
You’re probably not going to get a warning.
Almost everybody just takes a breath and doesn’t know they didn’t take another.
So start using every day to let go of that scared part of you that won’t let you live life fully.
Since you know you’re going to die, be willing to say what needs to be said and do what needs to be done.
Be willing to be fully present without being afraid of what will happen in the next moment. That’s how people live when they face death.
Learn to live as though you are facing death at all times, and you’ll become bolder and more open.
If you live life fully, you won’t have any last wishes. You will have lived them every moment.
Only then will you have fully experienced life and released the part of you that is afraid of living.
There is no reason to be afraid of life. And the fear will fade once you understand that the only thing there is to get from life is the growth that comes from experiencing it.
Life itself is your career, and your interaction with life is your most meaningful relationship.
What actually gives life meaning is the willingness to live it. It isn’t any particular event; it’s the willingness to experience life’s events.
What if you knew that the next person you’d see would be the last person you would ever see?
It wouldn’t matter what they were saying; you’d just enjoy hearing the words because it would be the last conversation you’d ever have.
What if you brought that kind of awareness to every conversation?
That’s what happens when you’re told that death is around the corner: you change, life doesn’t change.
The true seeker commits to live like that every moment and lets nothing stop them. Why should anything stop you? You’re just going to die anyway.
If you challenge yourself to live as though it were your last week, your mind may come up with all kinds of suppressed desires.
You have to understand that it is your attempt to get special experiences from life that makes you miss the actual experience of life.
Life is not something you get; it’s something you experience.
Life exists with or without you. It has been going on for billions of years. You simply get the honor of seeing a tiny slice of it. If you’re busy trying to get something, you will miss the slice you’re actually experiencing.
Life is not something to waste. It’s truly precious. That’s why death is such a great teacher.
It is death that makes life precious.
Look how precious life becomes when you imagine you only have a week left to live.
How precious would life be if there was no such thing as death?
You’d waste every second of it because you’d figure you’d always have it. It is scarcity that makes things precious. It is scarcity that makes a simple rock become a rare gem.
So death actually gives meaning to life. Death is your friend. Death is your liberator.
Try to learn what it’s saying to you.
The highest way to learn is to take each moment of your life and realize that what matters is to live it fully.
If you live each moment completely, you will have a fuller life and you will not have to fear death.
You fear death because you crave life. You fear death because you think there’s something to get that you haven’t experienced yet.
Many people feel that death will take something away from them. The wise person realizes that death is constantly giving them something. Death is giving meaning to your life.
You’re the one who throws your life away; you waste every second of it. You get in your car, drive from here to there, and you don’t see anything. You’re not even there. You’re busy thinking about what you’re going to do next. You’re a month ahead of yourself, or even a year. You’re not living life; you’re living mind. So it is you who throws your life away, not death.
Death actually helps you get your life back by making you pay attention to the moment.
If you are living every experience fully, then death doesn’t take anything from you. There’s nothing to take because you’re already fulfilled.
You really don’t need more time before death; what you need is more depth of experience during the time you’re given.
That’s the way to live each moment of your life. You let it fill you completely. You let it touch you to the depths of your being.
The promise is that all things are temporal; they are all just passing through time and space. If you have patience, this too will pass.
The wise realize that in the end, life belongs to death. Death is the one who comes in his own time to take life from you. Death is the landlord and you’re just the tenant.
Feel grateful to death for giving you another day, another experience, and for creating the scarcity that makes life so precious. If you do this, your life will no longer be yours to waste; it will be yours to appreciate.
Death is an ultimate reality of life. The yogis and saints fully embrace death.
Yogis have traditionally gone into graveyards and burning ghats to meditate. They sit there to remind themselves of the frailty of the body and the inevitability of death. Buddhists are taught to contemplate the temporal nature of things. It is all temporal, and death says this to you.
So, instead of getting lost in the normal mental chatter, why not contemplate the temporal nature of life? Why not think about something meaningful?
Let Death encourage you to experience life fully.
Don’t waste a moment of life trying to make other things happen; appreciate the moments you are given.
You live it as though you were on the verge of death, because you are.
18. The secret of the middle way
One of the deepest of all spiritual teachings, the Tao te Ching.
It discusses that which is very difficult to discuss, that which Lao-tzu called “the Tao” (pronounced: dow). Literally translated, this means “the Way.”
The Tao is so subtle that one can only talk around its edges, but never actually touch it.
It is a treatise on the balance of the yin and the yang, the feminine and the masculine, the dark and the light.
You could easily read the Tao te Ching and never understand a single word, or you could read it and tears could pour from your eyes with every word you read.
The question is, do you bring to it the knowledge, the understanding, and the basis for comprehending what it is attempting to express?
Those who have truly learned the secrets of life recognize these truths without having read anything.
If you want to understand the Tao, you must take it very slowly and keep it very simple. Otherwise, you may miss it, though it is right in front of you.
is it good for a person to eat sometimes? Yes, obviously it is. Is it good for a person to eat all the time? No, of course not. Somewhere in between, you passed over the Tao.
Is it good to fast periodically? Yes. Is it good to never eat? No. The pendulum can swing all the way from gorging yourself to death, to starving yourself to death.
Those are the two extremes of the pendulum: the yin and the yang, expansion and contraction, nondoing and doing. Everything has two extremes. Everything has gradations of this pendulum swing.
If you go to the extremes, you cannot survive. That’s how extreme the extremes are. For example, do you like hot weather? How about 6,000°F? You’d be instantly vaporized. Do you like cold weather? How about absolute zero? The molecules of your body would never move again.
Ex with relationships:
You want to be so close that you’re the same person.
you want your own space. You do your own thing. You’re independent. you travel separately, you eat separately, and you live in separate houses.
Both of these extremes will end up the same. Too close, too far away—in either case, you won’t be talking to each other before long.
The balance of food, relationships, sex, money, doing, not-doing…
Everything has its yin and yang. The Way is the place in which these forces balance quietly.
And indeed, unless you go out of the Way, they will tend to stay in peaceful harmony.
neither extreme can last. How long can a pendulum stay at one of its outermost positions? It can only remain there for a moment. How long can a pendulum stay at rest? It can remain there forever because there are no forces moving it out of balance.
That is the Tao. It is the center.
First you have to realize that since everything has its yin and yang, everything has its own balance point.
It is the harmony of all these balance points, woven together, that forms the Tao.
Its power is phenomenal. If you want to imagine the power of the Tao, examine how much energy is wasted swinging sideways.
This concentration of energies is used to accomplish the given task much more efficiently.
When you stop swinging between the opposites you’ll find that you have far more energy than you ever imagined.
That which takes somebody else hours will take you minutes. That which wears out other people will draw very little of your energy. That’s the difference between struggling with the opposites versus staying centered in order to get something done.
Basically, you waste tremendous energy at the extremes. The more extreme it is, the more it becomes a full-time project.
it takes all your energy to do the extremes. The inefficiency of your actions is determined by how many degrees off-center you are.
Extremes are good teachers. When you examine the extremes, it’s easy to see the effects of imbalanced behavior patterns.
When you spend your energy trying to maintain the extremes, nothing goes forward. You get stuck in a rut.
But how do you stop the pendulum from swinging to the outer edges?
Amazingly enough, you do this by leaving it alone. It won’t keep swinging to the extremes unless you feed the extremes with energy.
Just let the extremes go. Don’t participate in them, and the pendulum will naturally come toward the center.
As it comes to the center, you will get filled with energy. This is because all the energy that had been wasted is now available to you.
It finds its own way to the center of each event that takes place in life and remains quietly in the middle. The Tao is hollow, empty. Like the eye of a hurricane, its power is its emptiness. All things swirl around it, but it is unmoved.
The swirl of life draws its energy from the center and the center draws its energy from the swirl of life.
As you center by not participating in the swings,
The experience of being present in each moment will become your natural state.
As you get clearer, life’s events will actually seem to unfold in slow motion. Once this happens, events will no longer seem confusing or overwhelming, no matter what they are.
This is quite different from how most people live. If they’re driving a car and somebody cuts them off, they get upset for the next hour, or maybe for the rest of the day. For the being who is in the Tao, events take place and last just as long as they are taking place.
If you’re driving and somebody cuts you off, you feel your energy start to pull off-center. You actually feel it in your heart. As you let go, it comes back to center. You don’t follow the extremes, so your energy comes back to the current moment. When the next event happens, you’re there.
You’re always there, and that makes you much more capable than the person who is reacting to past imbalances.
Almost everyone has a point at which they get out of balance.
When you move in the Tao, you are always present. Life becomes absolutely simple.
In the Tao, it’s easy to see what’s happening in life—it’s unfolding right in front of you.
But if you have all kinds of reactions going on inside because you’re involved in the extremes, life seems confusing. That’s because you’re confused, not because life’s confusing.
Ex: sailing when there’s no wind: we’re not going anywhere.
when there’s tremendous wind but there’s no sail: we’re not going anywhere.
Sailing is such a good example because there are many forces interacting together. There’s the wind, the sail, the rudder, and the tension of the ropes on the sail. There is a tremendous interplay of forces. What happens if the wind is blowing and you hold the sail too loosely? It doesn’t work. What if you hold it too tightly? You tip over. To sail properly you must hold it just right. The “sweet spot.”
Imagine that feeling when the wind hits the sail just right, and you’re holding the ropes just right. You take off with a perfect feeling of balance. Then the wind shifts and you adjust to it. You, the wind, the sail, and the water are one. All the forces are in harmony. Should one force shift, the others shift at the same instant. This is what it means to move in the Way.
You move from balance point to balance point, from center to center.
You are merely an instrument in the hands of the forces, participating in the harmony of balance.
You must reach the point where your whole interest lies in the balance and not in any personal preference for how things should be.
The more you can work with the balance, the more you can just sail through life.
Effortless action is what happens when you come into the Tao.
Life happens, you’re there, but you don’t make it happen. There is no burden; there is no stress. The forces take care of themselves as you sit in the center.
That is the Tao. It’s the most beautiful place in all of life. You can’t touch it, but you can be at one with it.
you’re not going to wake up, see what to do, and then go do it. In the Tao, you are blind, and you have to learn how to be blind. You can never see where the Tao is going; you can only be there with it
A blind person walks down a city street with the use of a cane. Let’s give that cane a name: it’s the seeker of the extremes, it’s the feeler of the edges, it’s the toucher of the yin and the yang.
People who walk with the use of that cane often tap from side to side. They’re not trying to find where they should walk; they’re trying to find where they shouldn’t walk. They’re finding the extremes.
If you cannot see your way, all you can do is feel for the edges. But if you feel the edges, and don’t go there, you will stay in the Way. That’s how you live in the Tao.
The extremes create their opposites; the wise avoid them. Find the balance in the center and you will live in harmony.
19. The loving eyes of god
We have so many teachings, so many concepts, and so many views about God. But they’ve all been touched by people.
Fortunately, deep within us, there is a direct connection to the Divine.
You can consciously choose to identify with that part, rather than with the psyche or the body.
Just as rain makes you wet and fire makes you warm, so you can know the nature of God by looking into the mirror of your transformed self. This is not a philosophy; it is a direct experience.
You may have experienced a time in your life when you felt a lot of negativity, anger, and resentment. You know how that feels, and you know how you feel toward others when you’re feeling that way. You know how your heart feels, and you know what your thoughts and actions are like. You know that space. It’s not a philosophy; it’s a direct experience.
The cloud may still be there, but if you don’t identify with it or hold onto it, it can no longer hold onto you. As you release the lower vibrations, you naturally stop thinking they’re you or that there’s anything you have to do about them.
How do you know your Spirit drifts upward? You know the same way you know that you’re breathing, the same way you know that your heart beats, and the same way you know that you have thoughts. You’re in there and you directly experience it.
You’re no longer held down to your earthly self, so you begin to feel more spaciousness inside. You feel that there’s more of a distance between you and the thoughts and emotions inside of you.
How does it feel when you drift up? You don’t feel as much anger, fear, or self-consciousness. You don’t feel resentment toward people. You don’t close or get tight as often. Things still happen that you don’t want to happen, but they don’t seem to touch you as much. They can’t reach back to where you are because you’ve drifted behind the part of you that reacts to things. These are actual experiences, not merely something you were told about. It’s just what naturally happens when you let go of the lower vibrations of your being. You drift in and up to the deeper vibrations.
Where are you going? Even if you have no basis for understanding what is happening to you, you are still having the undeniable experience of going somewhere. What you begin to feel is that you’re going into your spiritual bein.
What does it feel like to identify more with Spirit than with form? You used to walk around feeling anxiety and tension; now you walk around feeling love. You just feel love for no reason. Your backdrop is love. Your backdrop is openness, beauty, and appreciation.
You don’t have to make yourself feel that way; that is how Spirit feels.
If you were asked how the body normally feels, you might say that it’s generally uncomfortable about one thing or another.
How about the psyche? If you were being totally honest, you’d probably say that it’s generally full of complaints and fears. Well, how does Spirit normally feel? The truth is, it always feels good. It always feels high. It always feels open and light.
The personal self cannot touch Spirit; you must release the personal self.
You get higher in vibration and higher in the amount of love and lightness that you feel. An ever-increasing progression.
Saints: When they let go of the lower aspects of their being, they experienced just what you’re experiencing. They felt tremendous love, Spirit, and light waking up inside of them.
They felt that nothing could come in through their senses that was higher than what was already going on inside.
They drifted further and further back and got higher and higher. Then one day, all of a sudden, they weren’t there. There was no sense of “I” anymore.
There was no sense of a separateness experiencing the love and light. There was only the ultimate expansiveness of their sense of Self merging into the love and light, like a single drop of water merging into the ocean.
The individual consciousness falls into the Universal Oneness.
The drop of consciousness, which is individual Spirit, is like a ray of light emanating from the sun.
When consciousness stops identifying itself as the ray, it comes to know itself as the sun.
Such a state exists; one can merge into the Universal Absolute. One can merge into God.
This is how you know something about God. You become one with Him. Ultimately, the only way to know about God is by letting your being merge into The Being, and then seeing what happens to you.
imagine what would happen if you started feeling tremendous love for all creatures, for every plant, for every animal, and for all the beauties of nature.
Imagine if every child seemed like your own, and every person you saw looked like a beautiful flower, with its own color, its own expression, shape, and sounds.
As you went deeper and deeper, you would start noticing a phenomenal thing—you are no longer judging.
There is just appreciating and honoring. Where there used to be judging, there is now respecting, loving, and cherishing.
To differentiate is to judge. To see, to experience, and to honor is to participate in life.