“It is not the end of the physical body that should worry us. Rather, our concern must be to live while we’re alive. To release our inner selves from the spiritual death that comes with living behind a façade designed to conform to external definitions of who and what we are.”
So much of our lives revolve around maintaining what we have there often ends up being little room on our list of priorities for seeking those things that we truly desire for ourselves. Obligations toward family, friends, and work tend to take precedence and end up taxing our time and resources in a way that leaves us feeling drained, yet content knowing that we successfully maintained the standards we have deemed necessary to uphold. Contentment however is not what we have been put on earth to find. We have been put on earth to live. That feeling of aliveness that you have when you feel yourself on the precipice of the divine cannot be found through seeking contentment. It can only be found through taking risks.
One of the reasons that we fear risk is due to our innate fear of endings. Maintaining what we have is so much safer than beginning again. What we have and who we are to others becomes the basis of our very identity. Changing these perceptions can often feel like a death —a state we are programmed to avoid at all costs.
Daniel Gilbert, psychologist and author of the book Stumbling on Happiness, writes of what he describes as our psychological immune systems. He finds that people make choices they believe will shield them from pain, but these choices tend to bring about the very feelings of regret those people tried to avoid. Gilbert writes, “Because we do not realize that our psychological immune systems can rationalize an excess of courage more easily than an excess of cowardice, we hedge our bets when we should blunder forward.” This results in one of the observations that Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and others who have studied the dying process have found. People die regretting the choices they didn’t make rather than the mistakes they did.
We tend to like the idea of new beginnings, but find it difficult to execute in practice. We are attached to those that are attached to us. We are attached to the familiar circumstances that become the building blocks of our daily routines. New beginnings inevitably shift those attachments or end them all together. We are then left redefining ourselves and shedding our old skins, and in so doing we invariably emerge more raw—naked. We are all inherently uncomfortable being naked but it is this nakedness that allows us to truly be seen for who and what we are.
The feeling of being exposed is at the heart of feeling alive. Events that thrill us, frighten us, and challenge us always have a way of breaking through our facades. We feel courageous after these moments because courageous is precisely the word for what it takes to embrace life. The word courage literally means with the heart. This is how we can know that our risks are worth taking. If a choice that frightens you comes from the heart, this should be the direction of your life.
This inevitably calls for letting go and accepting certain end
ings. This is part of living. Eckhart Tolle has often written that whenever we do not accept what is, we always cause ourselves pain. Endings are inevitable and must be accepted as a condition of our surrender to life.
Ross wrote, “It’s only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth, and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up, will we then begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.”