The Beauty of Life and Death

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P1000035“…and the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom…” Anais Nin

Darkness and light; destruction and creation; constriction and expansion; death and birth. It is so hard for us humans to be fully present to and accept the cycles of life. We see it in nature and celebrate all of it, fully appreciating the harmonious unfolding of the seasons. Yet in our own lives, we seem to cringe at, and recoil from the very thought of death, seeing it as an absolute end. Every one of us has an opportunity to experience this process daily, not in a literal sense, but in a psychic, egoic sense. Every day death visits us in some form or another. More often than not we do not recognize it for what it is, an opportunity to shed our emotional, intellectual and physical skins as we grow into our next level of development.

I vividly remember the moment I grasped the illusion of birth and death. While intellectually I understood this concept only too well, it was not until I read Grace and Grit that I got it on a cellular level, an integrated level, on the level of true knowledge; a knowledge that informed my every thought, emotion and action from that moment on. I suddenly recognized the beautiful dance of life and death.

I withdrew from the world for one month after reading this book. I knew that I needed to go within, to explore my inner being, in order to discover the meaning of my life. With that act, being alone, shutting out the outside world so that I can hear my own voice, the voice of my soul, I agreed to face death in all its manifestation. I called on spirit to guide me and show me the way. It was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made in my life. I was tormented with the constant chattering of my mind, challenging me to heed the voices of fear- fear of being alone, fear of being wrong, fear of being emotionally and physically bankrupted. I stayed put, listening to those voices, but not letting them control me. I remained present to them all as I continued on my self-discovery journey. At some point I broke through the existential fear and recognized it for what it was, a fear of psychic death.

When I came out of my retreat, little did I know that spirit was about to teach me this powerful lesson in the flesh. A few weeks later, a close friend introduced me to one of the most extraordinary people I have ever met. He was everything I thought I wanted in a partner. We shared so many similar values and ideas. We were both therapists, involved in Landmark work and deeply committed to our spiritual growth. He had read Grace and Grit and was a student of Ken Wilber. It was an instant recognition of two souls who had been looking for each other our whole lives. Until that point in my life I had only had that kind of connect with one other man, and that was twenty years before. Frankly I began to give up on the idea of ever finding the “right” one.

When Charles came into my life, I surrendered fully and completely to him and to us. We began to spend every free moment together. We laughed and cried and shared our inner and outer worlds. He knew me and I knew him. We completed each other’s sentences. He taught me and I taught him. We played and worked and slept and loved together. It was 1999, and a new millennium was coming upon us. We spent Christmas in a spiritual retreat and discussed how we would spend the bringing in of the new-year, the new decade, the new millennia. We agreed to stay home, cook a delicious meal, and be fully present to each moment as we celebrated with the rest of the world.

The day before New Year’s, we spoke in the morning and agreed to reconnect at 10:00 pm that night in order to further discuss our plans. I called him at 10:00 and he was not home. I beeped him, but there was no response. By 10:30 I began to feel concerned. Being our word was one of the main values we shared. I could always count on him to be with integrity. As the minutes and hours passed, 11:00pm, 12:00pm, 12:30, with no contact, I began to vacillate from concern to anger to fear. I could not imagine where he was and how could it be that he was not calling.

Sad, angry and confused, I finally fell asleep around 1 am. Startled from a deep sleep, I jumped at the sound of the phone ringing. I looked at the clock; it was 1:10 am. His voice on the receiver sounded calm and matter of fact, “I am sorry to call so late, but I knew you were expecting me and I wanted to get back to you.” “Are you alright?” I asked. “Yes,” he responded. “I just lost track of time.” “What do you mean you lost track of time?” I asked, “It is 1:00 O’clock in the morning.” “Where have you been?” Here began a long conversation, going back and forth with me attempting to get to the truth. At first, he would not tell me nor would he take responsibility for being out of integrity. My mind was reeling, my emotions intensely distraught. It took an hour for him to admit that he had been with his ex-girlfriend. My heart sank as I tried to understand what he was saying. He seemed to be completely disconnected from what we had shared and who we were for each other. None of it was making sense. Who is this guy? What is going on? Totally confused, hurt and in rage, I chose to end the conversation. 006.It-takes-COURAGE-to-face-your-fears-and-move-through-them.- On-the-other-side-is-wisdom

I hung up and began to cry uncontrollably. My head was spinning. I was beside myself. How could this be? What is going on? I could not get a handle on this situation. The pain was unbearable. My body was on fire. It felt as if I was plummeting into some kind on an abyss. Darkness came over me. Every part of my being was hurting. I could actually feel my teeth, my bones, my hair in excruciating pain. I began to envision pieces of body parts being torn off me and splattering on the wall. My world as I knew it had collapsed.

These tormented feelings continued for over three hours. I let go, surrendered to everything I was feeling. I allowed myself to just be in it all. I embraced the pain, the agony, the betrayal, the rage, the hatred…all of it. As the depths of the emotions and the physical pain continued to sear my every being, I knew that a part of me was dying. I gave in. Suddenly, a sense of objectivity came over me. In the midst of this turmoil, a calm space arose inside of me. I recognized this space as the witness, the part of me that is not my mind, not my emotions, not my body. It was the part of me that is immortal, that aspect of me that represented the soul, spirit. In that calmness, a question surfaced in my mind, “why all this suffering?” The answer came without hesitation, “I am the source of this suffering.” The truth fell upon me with clarity and beauty. I realized that the source of my suffering was my own expectations. My mind had created an image of who Charles was and how he should be. My suffering was due to my resistance toward how he was showing up. In my mind I had created a Charles, based on my experiences with him thus far. I saw him as a person who was with complete integrity, honesty, openness and love; the person I had been searching for my whole life. His actions were completely incongruent with my mind’s version of how he should be.

treeAt that instant I realized that my suffering arises out of my inability to be with what is when it is not congruent with what I want it to be or what I thought it should be. Images descended upon me of all the times I had felt pain and conflict over my inability to accept the world exactly as it is showing up, railing against it with my desire to impose my own version of how it should be. As this awareness solidified itself into my every cell and being, an extraordinary calm came over me. A sense of freedom and joy enfolded me. I experienced the beauty of letting go, of surrendering my ego, of embracing life exactly as it shows up. At that moment I knew I had discovered my higher self. I knew that I had just died into my higher self. I knew I was transformed forever. My only responsibility in life now is to be with all that comes my way, without attachment to how I think it should be. Trust that the universe is unfolding perfectly and I am here to bring my empty self into the moment, exactly as it is, and co-create with that moment. Letting go means accepting. Letting go means freedom. Letting go means being fully present to the beautiful unfolding of life just as it IS.

I fell asleep like a baby. I woke up three hours later, fully alive and in joy. I called Charles to share my experiences with him and to thank him for being the vehicle who had opened the door to true love of life, unconditional and fully present.

Life and Death; they are inextricably connected and feed off each other, physically and psychically. The more we embrace psychic death – letting go of our egos attachments to the world as we wish it to be and embrace it as it is – the more freedom we experience in life and the less we fear physical death.

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