The young Warrior, during his first taste of war, becomes hunkered in a trench on the outskirts of the battle. To his surprise, his body will not move. He is not injured, and yet his legs have frozen, his hands have lost their motor skills—he is trapped by the grip of fear. The Warrior closes his eyes to meditate, hoping to discover the source of his fear and the answer to its unlocking. Soon, his Master appears before him in the trench, staring intensely as though right into the Warrior’s heart, as he often did years before at the training temple. “You are afraid because you are attached to life,” begins the Master. “And you are attached to life because you have forgotten the truth.”
The Warrior is confused, trying desperately to remember his lessons. “What truth?” the Warrior asks. There is only a brief moment of silence, but to the Warrior, it feels like an eternity… “That you are already dead,” his Master says swiftly, like a sword cutting through the air. Immediately, the Warrior’s eyes open. His Master is gone, but his hands and feet are suddenly free and relaxed; his heart feels liberated. The Warrior rises, without any fear at all, and charges back into the fight, ready for whatever comes next.
What does it mean to die and keep on living? Every great mystical tradition speaks of the notion of accepting death in life, of recognizing our intimate and perhaps indistinct connection to that which lies beyond the physical realm. The important element of this understanding is not to view ourselves as “walking dead,” but rather to realize that there is no “real” difference between life and death.
The concept of death in American culture connotes a negatively judged state of being (or non being); but in other cultures it does not. So perhaps we, as Americans, should not call our realization “death.” We can instead call it “spirit,” and realize that we are already spirits, and that which we call life is simply our spirit having a human experience. When the experience expires, then, it is not the end of existence, just a return to original form; and so there is no real difference in the underlying spirit.
Hence, life and death are the same; they are NOT TWO. Once we realize this as truth, many of the things we hold so significantly suddenly lose their ultimate importance. All the anxiety-producing minutia, the stubborn ego-driven grudges, the self-important and unforgiving positions—all of it vanishes. We are liberated. The realization of our death already come—of our eternal spirit right here and now—sets us free. Try it and see how you feel. Say to yourself: “I am already spirit.” Or if you’re feeling especially courageous: “I am already dead.” Say it again, say it until you feel liberated from all the various things, until the fear of the realization feels like power.
So what is important then? If we are already dead, if ultimately none of it matters, then why strive for anything, why bother at all? We have no choice in our spirit, in our death—it is there, always has been, always will be. But we have been given a beautiful opportunity to live in a human body for a minute period of eternity. To live this way and to experience what we can while doing so—this is our choice, our power. So how will you live? Will you quit, give up, try for nothing, hate the pain, envy the joy, succumb to the easy and avoid the hard? Or will you CHOOSE to live every moment of this GIFT to its utmost potential? Will you choose love, pain, fear, joy, adventure, challenge, beauty, abundance, pleasure? Will you choose it all and strive with every morsel of this fragile body to get the goods while you still can, to experience what these bones and brains and emotions can experience before your form changes and you no longer have the opportunity?
Best not to waste a gift. But it’s up to you. It’s your choice. Your power. Perhaps none of it ultimately matters. Though you may look back at the end of this physical experience and wish for just one more day to make a different choice. Think of that day and realize your future memory is of this moment, right here, right now. So, what will you choose? How will you live? Whatever your choice, don’t wait—start now.