Dying into Living

froAwareness by Anthony DeMello . .

I’ve often said to people that the way to really live is to die. The passport to living is to imagine yourself in your grave.

Imagine that you’re lying flat in your coffin and you’re dead. See the body decomposing, then the bones, then it all turning to dust.

Now look at your problems from that viewpoint. Changes everything, doesn’t it?

Do this for a minute or so every day and you’ll come alive.  It’s unbelievable how alive you’ll feel. But most people don’t live; they’re just keeping the body alive.

That’s not life. You’re not living until it doesn’t matter a tinker’s damn to you whether you live or die. At that point you come alive. When you’re ready to lose your life, you live it.

Whenever I talk about doing this meditation of imagining yourself in your grave, people say, “How disgusting!” But what’s so disgusting? It’s reality, for heaven’s sake, but many of us don’t want to see reality. We don’t want to think of death.

If you’re protecting your life, you’re dead. If you’re sitting up in the attic and I say to you, “Come down!” if you’re protecting your life you’ll say, “Oh no, I’ve read about people going downstairs. They slip and they break their necks; it’s too dangerous.”

If you can’t peep out of your little narrow beliefs and convictions and look at another world, you’re dead.  Life has passed you by. You’re sitting in your little corner, where you’re frightened, afraid you’re going to get hurt, worried you are going lose the things you think you need to be happy.  

Are you ready to risk it? Life is for the gambler, it really is. That’s what Jesus was saying, that you have to die to be reborn again. You won’t be ready to gamble on that until you discover that the thing most people call life is not really life. People mistakenly think that living is keeping the body alive. Living is about being alive to something far greater, far more miraculous than the body.

An Italian poet said, “We live in a flash of light; evening comes and it is night forever.”

It’s only a flash and we waste it. We waste it with our anxiety, our worries, our concerns, our burdens. But, as you make that meditation, imagining yourself in your grave you, you can end up with a greater awareness, a greater understanding. What a relief when you can look back on life from that perspective.

In that moment of awareness, you are new. At least as long as it lasts. So, love the thought of death, love it. Go back to it again and again. Think of the loveliness of that corpse, of that skeleton, of those bones crumbling till there’s only a handful of dust.