What would it mean to you if I said that you have to “die before you die,”? Does that sound a little batshit to you? It’s ok, people think I’m a slightly nutty all of the time, but hear me out….it probably doesn’t mean what you think it means. Many different spiritual leaders have said this in many different ways and I’ve seen this idea referred to in a lot of the books I have read over the years. The main idea I want to share with anyone reading this is that it is ESSENTIAL to your journey to enlightenment that you shed your false self and live from your true self. According to Father Richard Rhor who wrote Immortal Diamond (a book I just finished) “Your False Self, which we might also call your “small self,” is your launching pad: your body image, your job, your education, your clothes, your money, your car, your sexual identity, your success, and so on. These are the trappings of ego that we all use to get us through an ordinary day. They are a nice enough platform to stand on, but they are largely a projection of our self-image and our attachment to it. When you are able to move beyond your False Self—at the right time and in the right way—it will feel precisely as if you have lost nothing.” You can “die” at any point in your journey or you can wait until the bed of your physical death, but it is inevitable…the choice is yours and the opportunities are frequently presented to you.
The way I see it is that any time something challenges the images of the false-self you have, you have a chance to evolve into your true self. You will either learn that those things were never the real you to begin with and move closer to the person you were meant to be or you can continue to cling more and more and create a lot of suffering for yourself. And as I have frequently discussed the opportunities will continue to present themselves and will most likely be more challenging. I moved to a new school when I was 15. In fact I moved to an entirely new state at 15. It was seriously TOUGH. Can you think of anything more utterly tragic at that age? I remember crying and fighting with my mom not to make me go to school during those first few weeks…it was awful. Of course she made me and of course I thought she was evil for it. I had to establish an entirely new sense of self at an age when most girls aren’t even quite sure who they are to begin with! A memory that still stays with me to this day (because of what it taught me) was something a girl said to me that I had a class with. It was a few weeks into school and it was still a really hard transition and I was still plotting ways to move back to New Jersey where in my mind I really belonged. This girl, who actually treated me a lot more nicely than the majority of the of the girls at school said these words to me, “Did you know everyone hates you? I’ve tried to tell them that you’re actually really nice but they all still really hate you.” O M to the freaking G this statement was brutal to 15 year old me. Like I actually want to go back in time and hug her and tell her how happy she will eventually become. Me at 30? I know that someone hating me would just be ridiculous and without any basis and entirely a reflection of them, but at 15????? This could seriously define the way a person would view themselves and others. It could’ve been one of those points in life that turns someone bitter or creates the basis for terrible self-esteem. I could’ve taken this pain and created many different paths with it. I remember thinking “How can anyone hate me? Everyone has always loved me. People have always told me how nice I was. I had a zillion friends at my old school. This is TERRIBLE.” Then it occurred to me. Did a group of people who knew nothing about me change who I was? Did going from being well liked to, well, the opposite of that disturb who I was at heart? No, that was impossible. Although it was hurtful it laid a foundation for me to understand that no image anyone portrayed of me, not even the one I could try to portray for myself would change my inner truth. It taught me two things- People not liking me took no part in defining who I was in the same way that being well-liked took no part in defining me.
Now that story might sound very minor and trivial in the mind of an adult, but put yourself back into adolescence, it was a tough blow to my self-image. I KNOW there are entirely more major ways in which life tries to assist you in identifying your true self. It’s not like I got that one little lesson and that was it. Oh no, trust me, I have had way more serious things occur in the time since that have continued to help me shed the old and evolve into the new…I just think my point in sharing that was because it was one of the first times I can identify with that helped to show me the things that mattered vs. the things that didn’t. At a young age I knew I had to shed the part of me that was very attached to the way I was viewed by others. I share that story with you to help you analyze the situations in your life that present themselves so that you can die well before you die. “If a person keeps growing, his or her various false selves usually die in exposure to greater light,” Richard Rhor.
The next time you suffer a loss of the false self ask yourself if it is a chance for growth. Examine whether or not you have been clinging and attaching to some false sense of self and believing not only that it was the true you but that it somehow made you better than someone else. Or possibly the other end of the spectrum; maybe there’s something you’re attaching to that makes you feel less than and not good enough. The loss of your job, your fortune, your marriage. Maybe a betrayal of family or friends. Maybe one of your children disappoints you and that threatens the image you’ve built of being the perfect parent. Maybe you think the position you hold at your job gives you more power and prestige than the next guy and then bam, you’re laid off. It can be as simple as someone (gasp) insulting you or as major as the illness or death of a loved one. The point is the opportunities are always there. It’s up to you whether you find your true self or remain stifled by the image of the false self.
There is probably a lot of joy that you gain from the things I mentioned above and that is totally fine. If you’ve worked your ass off you deserve the big house and bank account. If you’ve worked tirelessly to raise good kids then you deserve the good feelings you get when they do well. You SHOULD grow and thrive from and enjoy all of the relationships you have in your life, romantic and familial. If you put your health and wellness at the forefront and have a kick ass body, good for you! I’m simply trying to share that the second you ATTACH to those things, the second you think that they are who you ARE, the second you become better or less than because of them….that’s the second you are living from the false self. And the more feverishly you work to cling to these things the harder the universe will work to prove to you who you truly are.
Living from the true self means that you can enjoy all kinds of experiences in life all while realizing who you are, the one before this life and the one that remains after. That self will stay the same with and without all of the above mentioned things. And don’t forget there is a season for everything. If you remain centered in your truth you can weather any storm and bask in the sun when it shines all the same.
If you have children I think it would be a great idea to help them understand the two sides to being a human being while they are young. And actually they already innately know it…it’s usually us adults that help to reinforce their false self. Imagine if we can help build them up in a way that they could face all the good and bad in life with equal peace and centeredness?
“I promise you that the discovery of your True Self will feel like a thousand pounds of weight have fallen from your back. You will no longer have to build, protect, or promote any idealized self image. Living in the True Self is quite simply a much happier existence, even though we never live there a full twenty-four hours a day. But you henceforth have it as a place to always go back to. You have finally discovered the alternative to your False Self.” -Richard Rohr
The Enlightened Mama