Your life story will end with decline and death.
That’s not being morbid; it’s being truthful. It’s the same for me and everyone else.
The relevant question is: “How should we respond?”
We instinctively react with fear. We fear death. Although we try not to think about it, it’s always in the back of the mind. We at least want to decline and die with as little pain and suffering as possible.
Is such fear justifiable?
My suggestion is this: re-examine the story, in other words, take another look at your autobiography. With the right kind of examination, you’ll find that it’s not the whole truth.
Here’s the problem with not conducting for yourself the right kind of examination: you’ll stay stuck living out your life story. You will continue to live with awareness of your (future) death and that will continue to erode your (present) enjoyment of life (your happiness, your well-being).
Because we are dissatisfied, we incessantly look forward to future fulfillment. We think, “If only I had X, then I’d finally be satisfied (happy, living well).” This is called “the someday syndrome.” We hope that gaining X (whatever it is) in the future will rescue us from present dissatisfaction and make all our suffering worthwhile.
I don’t mean to suggest that we are always acutely suffering. We aren’t. I’m using ‘suffering’ in the broad sense to refer to living with dissatisfactions. Even our most joyful moments are tinged with sadness because we realize that they won’t last. We cling desperately to them in an attempt to prolong their departure. After they have passed, we look forward to enjoying such moments again in the future and we use that hope to carry us through an impoverished present.
The mind is not satisfied with whatever unfolds in the present. Ordinarily, the mind is filled with thoughts of remembered past times, imagined future times, or satisfactory present times elsewhere that we are able only to dream about. In other words, we react with hope, with expectancy, with desire for future fulfillment.
So the present moment for most of us is tinged simultaneously with fear and hope.
Your life story is the story of a human being living between apprehension about the future and desire for the future. Your life story is a story of fearing the future (because that’s where decline and death are) and hoping for the future (because that may be where fulfillment and satisfaction are). Your life story is, then, one that is not satisfying. The present moment is incomplete and unsatisfactory.
Your life story is like my life story and the life stories of everyone else. It’s the human condition. There’s no use denying that or blaming yourself. It’s the way life is for human beings. It’s why we are essentially dissatisfied. Most people eventually find ways to endure the dissatisfaction, live out their lives, and die dissatisfied. We are the unhappiest of all creatures.
Most of us, but not all.
Sages are not like the rest of us. You, too, will become a sage when you directly experience the incompleteness of your life story.
(There are degrees of being a sage. Some sages are more awake [more spiritually enlightened, more spiritually developed] than other sages. Let’s here, though, agree to set that point aside because it’s an unnecessary complication.)
To experience directly the incompleteness of your own story is to expand your apprehension of who you really are. It’s not that your life story is false; it is true as far as it goes. It is, indeed, part of you. However, it’s not the whole story. Salvation lies in that incompleteness.
The whole story is that you are Being. It’s not just that you are interconnected with everything else; it’s that you and everything else interpenetrate. Your whole story is nothing less than the story of Being.
Without directly experiencing your true nature, these are just words and thoughts. They are, at best, lifeless judgments. They are, by themselves, not at all convincing. They are like reading signposts to a distant city without visiting that city.
Even just theoretically, however, what if it’s true that you are also more than your life story? What if it’s true that you really are Being itself? What if it’s true that you are not really separate from everything else?
Since all dissatisfaction, all suffering, comes from separation, realizing that unity would mean the end of separation and, so, the end of all dissatisfaction and suffering!
Put another way, correctly experiencing the present moment, which is how sages experience it, is experiencing yourself as Being itself. That joy is not tinged with sadness.
This idea that you are Being, that your life story is incomplete, makes no sense whatsoever to the mind. The mind thinks judgmentally using concepts, which are principles of separation. For example, to have the concept redness is to be able to separate all objects into two classes: red or not-red. How does the mind think unity? Since all judgments are dualistic, the mind is incapable of thinking unity.
Since you are capable of experiencing unity directly (in other words, nonconceptually), you are not the mind. Identifying with the mind, with judgments (thoughts, beliefs, propositions) you accept, is incomplete and radically misleading. Many people identify with their judgments: “I’m a Christian” or “I’m a Republican” or “I’m an American.”
To do this is to commit the fallacy of mistaking a part for the whole. Someone who is a Christian is also really a non-Christian. Someone who is a Republican is also really a non-Republican. Someone who is an American is also really a non-American.
Although merely thinking such thoughts isn’t convincing, the mere possibility that they may be true is exciting. It’s the good news that liberation from conceptual bondage is possible!
The successful re-examination of your story cannot be conceptual.
As a practical matter this means that the only thing keeping you stuck between fear and hope in the present moment is your attachment to the mind. It’s possible to detach from (let go of, release) thoughts instantly! Salvation does not require any more time. Salvation is at hand.
Realizing it requires dropping attachment to incessant thinking – even for only a moment!
That is not easy to do, but it’s just that simple. To become a sage yourself, all you need to do is to stop clinging to thoughts.
Either you will or you won’t. Nobody else can do it for you.
I wish you success!
As always, if you think someone might benefit from reading this, please pass it along
Recommended resources: My Personal Transformation and Eckhart Tolle’s “Through the Open Door to the Vastness of Your True Being” (2 audio CD set).