Jacques-Louis David, The Death of Marat, oil on canvas, 1793 (Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels)
You probably think you are “(insert your name)”. You’re not – you can legally change your name, but you won’t have changed what you are – your name is just a handle with which the world is able to pick you up and examine you.
You probably think of yourself as either a man or a woman. You’re not. That is just a gender association that you make based upon the genetic choices that your cells made when your body was being formed biologically. You are only an association as long as you are not being the genuine article.
You probably think of yourself primarily as your body. Most people do...
You’re not your body anymore than you are your car!
When you sit in your car, you don’t say: “I am a Ford / Honda / Daewoo”! (At least, I hope you don’t). You probably say: “I’m driving my Daewoo”.
Your car is just a vehicle that transports you from A to B.
Your body is just a vehicle that transports you from A to B. A very beautiful, wonderful, miraculous vehicle, but a vehicle nonetheless.
You are not your body. This may sound strange to you until you consider the following: if you have an accident one day and the doctor has to amputate a leg or two, (let’s say for the sake of argument – all your limbs)… will you be any less you? No, you’ll be the same you, just without arms and legs.
You probably think of yourself as American (or Slovene, English… whatever nationality passport you carry). You are not. That is just a label that you were given. Labels limit you – you are much more than a label.
You are not American any more than you are Christian, or Buddhist, or Jewish, or Muslim, or … insert any other religious / spiritual belief system. These are just labels that you identify with. The real you is beyond labels, beyond identification.
You are pure light (bear with me here if you’re allergic to new-age-isms – I am too! But this is truth…) You are all colors and no color. You are pure light.
You are pure light. You are pure consciousness. You are pure love.
What is pure light, consciousness, love? Are these just nice words; nice new-age concepts that are devoid of real meaning?
No! They seem that way sometimes because their meaning is so subtle… but love, light, and consciousness are the fundamental properties of existence!
‘In the beginning was the word’: Consciousness.
And God said, ‘let there be light’: Consciousness.
Pure consciousness is what you really are.
Pure consciousness is your essence.
Your body, emotions, and thoughts are simply waves of consciousness. All that you think you are – just waves of consciousness.
What you really are is pure consciousness.
Swami Vishnu Devananda used to say something every morning when he taught the Sivananda Yoga teacher training course. He used to ask the question:
“What is today?”
When I was asked this same question (by his disciple Swami Mahadevananda), I replied ‘Monday’.
He said ‘No’. And waited.
‘No’. Long pause.
Smile. ‘No. It’sanother day closer to death’.
Today is another day closer to death.
Death is coming. Sooner or later it will catch up with you… how will you feel in that moment?
Will you be afraid? Sad? Regretful?
Will you be joyful? Excited? Will you celebrate?!
What dies is only the body. We do not die. Just as it is written in the Bhagavad Gita:
“The wise grieve neither for the living nor for the dead.
Nor at any time indeed was I not, nor these rulers of men, nor verily shall we ever cease to be hereafter.
Just as in this body the embodied (soul) passes into childhood, youth and old age, so also does he pass into another body; the firm man does not grieve thereat…
…The unreal hath no being; there is no non-being of the Real; the truth about both has been seen by the knowers of the Truth.
Know That to be indestructible, by whom all this is pervaded. None can cause the destruction of That, the Imperishable.
Weapons cut It not, fire burns It not, water wets It not, wind dries It not.
This Self cannot be cut, burnt, wetted nor dried up. It is eternal, all-pervading, stable, ancient and immovable.”
So, the job, the house, the ‘stuff’. All the places we direct our attention: how important are they? You can’t take any of it with you.
At that final moment, when you are about to leave this body, the only thing that will matter is how you feel. That is important. You won’t be thinking about your bank balance, or your mortgage, or the news, or any of the other things that take up so much of our time these days.
You will be aware only of how you feel.
My advice: get out feeling good (without regret; without sadness; without fear).
Because perhaps death is just the first step of the next part of your journey, and the first step of any journey is a big one.