The answer is yes and no, like many perplexing questions in life. Do I really know the answer? Probably not. Not sure anyone does, but based on my experience in my short time on Earth, and in the last year in particular, I feel strongly the answer is ‘Yes’. If you’re amongst the few who’ve either been apart of my life since I began writing, or those who’ve been following this “blog”, first off, thank you. Second, you are probably aware a dear friend of mine nearly lost his life in a terrible bike accident last year. I wrote about it here, endlessly in my personal journals, and to my loved ones through letters and cards, but suffice it to say the experience jarred me from a waking sleep and into a hyper alert reality that death is not only certain, but its influence in each of our lives is pervasive and there is absolutely no way to predict when and how it will knock on our doors.
The term “born again” usually refers to reformed Christians, those choosing to let their previous lives of “sin” go, in order to make room for a righteous way of living now. My intention in writing today is to discuss the way human beings renew themselves, by force or by choice. We learn in life, emphasized while studying Yoga, that our lives are full of cycles with a beginning, middle, and end. We have birth, life and death. At any given moment, you are starting, enduring or finishing something, big or small. Our breath is an ideal, consistent example of this.
On July 11th, 2011 my irrational fears died and my genuine fears came to life. The level of uncertainty swirling around those few days left me with the worst unease in the pit of my stomach. Since I was young, I’d been rehearsing, planning for the future, fine-tuning with arrogant clarity how my life would play out. My twenties had been a tumultuous experiment in how wrong I could be and how laughable it is to even think you can outline your life even moments from now with any real accuracy. Everything I assumed about myself, about others, about life was so unbelievably, utterly wrong and that realization came crashing down shortly after my friend did. From that moment on, I was new, born again. The same old me was there somewhere, but a fog had been lifted and I was seeing clearly, from a more intelligent place than just my eyes. I saw myself for the first time, the error of my ways and the pain I’d inflicted on myself was crippling.
I wasted little time with guilt, an emotion I let sit uncomfortably in my gut for many years previously, and one I’m nearly 100% rid of now. I witnessed someone, 6 years younger than me, who lived with such humbling openness, with such joy, such courage, such exuberance, that I’d spent much of my friendship feeling in awe of that personality trait, as if it was something he was born with and I was born without. I learned what it meant to be truly generous, to give another permission to be their full selves and to celebrate them for it. That’s fucking generosity. You can keep your 20 bucks, your gifts, your things. Give me a doorway into authenticity and fullness and that will inspire a thousand re-births in others. I saw that how we treat people is a choice we make before we walk into the door. Instead of waiting to see if someone will impress us, if they’ll be convincing enough to earn our connection, we instead go in knowing the potential to laugh and engage with another human being is imminent and we’re all worthy of that exchange.
The way we choose to approach our day, independent of our interaction with others, can tell us definitively if we’re operating out of love or fear. I don’t mean to simplify what is probably a very complex life for you, as it feels to me, but events in our lives can inspire a lot of reflection, a lot of pondering. Catharsis breeds change, from the inside out. Through the beauty in my friend and others, I saw the fallacy in my own being. I lived almost entirely inside my head rather than out of my heart. Each day, each person, each encounter, went through my internal processor for analysis. This required judgment, an interpretation. I wasted so much time deciphering things that just were, they needed no opinion, there was no result, but somehow I made it so. The short list of things that matter in life have no opposite, just as life itself does not. There is birth and death. Life is simply life. Genuine love has no opposite and the truth needn’t any debate. It is what it is.
Before, I feel I was over-thinking every decision, allowing the images and my perception of others influence how I felt about myself, how I approached my career, my relationships, communication, and connection. It was bassackwards! I spent many years feeling so inadequate and stuck, wanting to do so many things but finding no courage, no gas pedal to actually pursue them, to try and fail, to fucking live. I was always honest in words but a liar in action. What I despised in others clearly was living within me. It felt so impossible to break that cycle, to find the end, and to begin again anew. I’ve written before, many times, that I was uncomfortable letting my old self go. Everything I was doing and saying was some recycled form of bullshit I’d said and done before. Nothing was original, nothing was extraordinary, nothing was me. I’d believed every bad word I’d heard or thought about myself previously and allowed that to inform my decision making. I had a loving, supportive family. I lived in Europe for three years. I’d landed every job I applied for. I had many interesting, amazing friends. And why? Did I deserve it? Was I worthy? Had I earned it? How easily could it go away?
Turns out everything we experience in life will go away at some point. That purse you bought a couple weeks ago will mean nothing to you very soon. The degree he earned will prove meaningless once he enters the work force. Then, his work experience is the standard by which he’s judged. That high school or college girl who broke your heart will move on to another, as will you. And that money you earned will somehow be spent, as it should be. There are no bills and no barter system in the afterlife. This is all we get. That 5 bucks someone borrowed from you and forgot to pay back is lost in the hands of another now. That food has been swallowed, digested and excreted out of your body, only for the cycle to begin again. That embarrassing moment witnessed by dozens of others will be forgotten by all but the subject: you. Can you let go of all that you were up to this moment and decide right now to come forth as a lighter, healthier you? You can.
You don’t need to lose a loved one or even experience grave danger yourself to recognize what patterns are not serving you. Each word you utter, inside your head and outside to others, carries weight. In it, along with your gaze and facial expression, your body language and attitude, houses your belief in yourself, your view of life and just how consumed you are by the voice in your head. The edge of my words signaled my distrust, my negative expectations, and because my attitude was so hardened, so cynical, my experience reflected my assumptions. Cycle after cycle it was never me, it was life. Forget that I AM LIFE and my perception is 100%, entirely dependent upon my thoughts and emotions preceding it. My friend had a beautiful experience in life, he believed (believes still) so strongly in Love, because that is precisely was he is and was. He is life. He is love. We all are. Once all the B.S. was put on pause and all that was shown was compassion, trust, encouragement and hope, I suddenly realized what a waste of time and energy everything else really was.
Of course there are and always will be frustrating people, violence, atrocity, failure, tragedy, confusion, loneliness and negativity of innumerable colors. Money will come in and out like the wind. People will float in and out of your life. You will own clothing, furniture, homes, jewelry, cars, boats, stocks, bonds, electronics; and then one day, you won’t. You’ll barely remember them, nor should you. None of that speaks to who you are and what you have to give. Not a stitch. Not a penny. Not a grade. Not a brick. No image, no noun can adequately reflect the intangible properties you bring into the world at any given moment. If you feel uncertain, unworthy, undeserving, the solution is to start over, re-define yourself and be born again into a world whose only judge is You and the standard of living is based upon how much you laughed, learned and hugged each day.
This isn’t about renouncing possessions and moving off the grid, an exaggerated re-birth where there’s very little semblance of the lessons you’ve learned, the influences that have carved your path and the loved ones that have seen you throughout your journey. Money is essential in feeding, clothing and sheltering ourselves and in enjoying some luxury experiences like travel and skydiving. But that in no way means we must define ourselves by it, assume we are less than another because we have less, have earned less, weigh more, have a different education, wear less shiny things or simply have different talents or skills. There is no one like us on this planet. There are 7 billion human beings and not one has your D.N.A., not one sees the world from your perspective, not one whose heart beats for the same reason yours does. In that same vein, you can look across the bus, cafe, street to another and know that they’ve experienced pain, they know loss in some way, they have anxiety and stress and they, too, get in their own way as we all do at some point.
My hope, my goal, in however long I’m granted this life as a human being is to complain less and feel grateful more. I want to say yes more and no less, to myself in particular. I’m going to continue to talk myself into things that clearly scare me, to recognize my excuses as just that, a ticket out of living. I’ll no longer pay rent in stagnancy. I am in perpetual motion, beginning, persevering and ending all day, everyday, without fear. I acknowledge that I have an infinite capacity to love, my energy and time are valuable, and this truth applies to every other human being on this planet. I will treat even the rudest assholes with respect because it feels good inside my being to be calm in the midst of a storm, to be kind amongst antagonism, to be genuine around even the most insincere, to be patient during fits of frustration, and to be loving in overwhelming swirls of hate. We each can be a beacon of light even when surrounded by darkness.
Die to your old self each night and be born again into a fuller, better, happier You each day. Don’t put off living because of your fear of dying. It takes courage to be authentic, to see the good in yourself and others, to laugh loudly, cry benevolently, dance wildly, to do what you love regardless of the sacrifice or reward, and to live ecstatically every single damn day just because. You choose your experience, your view. Choose wisely. Choose lovingly.
~Feel Stupefied To Be Alive~