“An infallible sign of enlightenment: one no longer cares what other people think and say.” ~ Anthony De Mello
Sometimes one’s own consciousness can be a little like an unwelcome houseguest. Awareness of things we would rather avoid can create discomfort, and send one into a flurry of activity, designed to prevent unsettling thoughts from really registering.
For many, the most unsettling thought of all is the certainty of our own physical death. Generally, once past the age of forty, it becomes increasingly difficult to pretend we will live forever. The body has its ways of reminding us of our mortality. While the prospect of wrinkles and other telltale signs of age may haunt the young, what they do not yet know is the richness that comes to all relationships when those things are no longer of importance.
Souls do not get wrinkles; they do not get old. When we connect on the level of soul, we really do touch eternity: we truly understand the insignificance of the packaging. Anyone who has ever had a brand new car can identify with the care and attention that was given to the body of the vehicle. They can also identify with the trauma of the first scratch or dent. In time, the vehicle becomes just a vehicle, and our attention is focused more on where we are going in it. If we are going to meet with friends, we park our vehicles outside, and then go inside to spend time together.
If we are going to connect with souls, we can similarly park our egos outside, and delight in what is inside. Eventually we will park our bodies, but by then we will realize that we do not really need them anyway. Soul life certainly will not grind to a halt. In fact, we might imagine that when we existed as pure souls, we heard that there was a new planet that could support life. We all wanted to go there. The only catch was that it had something called a “three-dimensional reality” and so we would need special equipment in order to function there. The souls among us who specialized in these things designed something like a space suit that we could wear. Actually, it was an Earth suit: a physical body. As our astronauts don special suits when they leave our world, so it is that souls don their ‘birthday suits’ when they are born into this reality.
In a three-dimensional world, there is naturally space and time, hence aging. However, souls are not of the three-dimensional world; they are only visitors here. It is the ego, of course, that becomes attached to itself, and can barely think of all this. When we make that quantum shift back into spirit form, it is the ego that gets the layoff notice. No wonder ego does want to come to the meetings where we talk about downsizing.
So how do we co-exist in the meantime, soul and ego? The idea is not to ostracize or isolate ego, but rather to gradually (dis)integrate it. Helping it to understand the entire process, and the essential role it has played, can be helpful. Ironically, we need some cooperation from ego in order to tame it.
Many years ago, when I would go away for a wonderful vacation, it was my (unconscious) habit to count the days. I would count the days until my departure, and once at my destination, I was acutely aware of how many days I had. I always felt a little sad when I was past the halfway point. One year I realized that the second half of my vacation was always tainted by a little regret that the days were numbered. I always loved the first half better, because at that point the vacation seemed endless. As soon as I realized what I was doing, I stopped. I decided to live each day of my vacation for what it was: a day in paradise. After that, my vacations all seemed endless. When the end came, I was ready to go home, because I had lived each day fully.
I always knew full well that the vacation would not last forever, but once I accepted that, and stopped regretting the passage of time, I was at peace – and free to simply experience whatever the day brought. If I had been afraid to go home, unwilling to go home, or resistant to the idea of going home, that thought would always be hanging over me, taking the edge off my joy.
Life becomes a more peaceful journey when we accept that we will eventually go home, and become determined to fully experience our days here. Instead of worrying about the aging of the physical form, or about how long this journey will last, it is more peaceful to surrender to the certainty ‘of’ and the uncertainty of ‘when’. Thinking of death as a time when we shed the weight of the human form, and go skinny dipping in the warm ocean of eternal love (be that God, Universal Oneness, Cosmic Intelligence) makes it a little more palatable.
Knowing that those who go before will be waiting to greet us, and those we leave behind will soon (in cosmic terms) join us, reduces the agony of separation. In the meantime, embrace each sunrise, revere each sunset and bathe in the wonder of life, with all of its pains, pleasures, sorrows and joys. It is, after all, what we came here to do.
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