“The secret of life is to die before you die and find that there is no death.” Eckhart Tolle – The Power of Now

That’s one hell of a powerful quote don’t you think? but what on earth does it mean? How can you die before you die? and how can dying paradoxically be the secret of life?

Well it’s only in the second ‘die’ that Tolle refers to physical death. The first ‘die’ actually refers to the death of our identification with mind.

Throughout our lives since we are very young we form a self-identity. This is who we think we are which is partly based on our experiences and partly formed by our social environment – that is how people see us and interact with us.

We have a nexus of ‘evidence’ – images, memories, impressions, beliefs – that make up the mental profile we have of ourselves. A cumulative life-history that gives us a sense of self. It’s a long list full of “I am this, I know that, I have this, I love this, and I wish that”.  I think you get the idea.

We attach these things to our own self. That is to say we identify ourselves with them. In other words, we identify ourselves with external things or partial and fleeting perceptions we have about our world and how we feel about it.

We don’t do this intentionally or with purpose. It is a default ‘program’ of the mind to make associations between things, identify fixed points of reference and make sense of reality by categorizing things and experiences.

There is no fault as such in this. The problem comes when that program completely runs your life unconsciously. This means that you are not conscious of the fact that you can be different or more than that image or identity you have of yourself.

You run the risk of attaching yourself to a false identity. This is what some spiritual traditions call the illusion of mind and of the self. You become completely entrapped in that reality like there is nothing more outside of it.

The essence of the problem is that because you identify yourself with certain beliefs, ideas or external things you strongly believe that if you lose them you will lose who you are (this is why we react badly when we feel that one of those things – like our beliefs – are being challenged or threatened). Or else that in order to be more complete you need to get more of those things like possession, social status, recognition, knowledge, special abilities, relationships and what have you.

The truth is that none of these will actually bring completion. When you get them you realize that you’re still not there and you search for more down a bottomless pit. It brings eternal dissatisfaction which no self-gratification can relinquish.

Death, according to Tolle, is the stripping away of all that is not you. It is the stripping away of those beliefs encoded by society, those fears, those assumptions, those half-baked truths that become your internal reality after many years. Death is when that bubble bursts and you see yourself as you truly are. You understand that you are much more than you thought.

This brings us back to the quote. To die before you die is a way of saying that you strip off those illusions before you physically die and realize that there is no death for you are more than your physical embodiment and those limited perceptions you identify yourself with.

To die before you die is realizing that you are not what you possess or achieved or your inclinations and dispositions. It’s understanding that your being is much more than your having or your doing. It’s peeping in your naked true and authentic self and being more alive than you can ever be.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Gilbert Ross

    Thanks Beverly you made my day 🙂 A shower of blessings to you too!

  2. Gilbert Ross

    Thanks Salinya for sharing your thoughts and congrats for the nice blog…I had time to peep in a little bit. For anyone seeing this comment I recommend taking a minute and check out Salinya’s blog here http://mindfulness-workout.com/

  3. Salinya

    Hi Gilbert,

    I thank you for posting this. Indeed it involves being mindful about yourself, being able to understand fully who you really are and why you think/fee/act the way you do. By practicing mindfulness, you strip yourself of the emotions that can possibly influence you to act spontaneously, and thus you will be able to further understand and make better decisions. The boundaries that we define not only keeps people out, it fences us in. Therefore we should free our minds from the boundaries that we impose on them, making us live the life we have to the fullest.

  4. [email protected]

    Hello Gilbert,

    That is indeed a pretty powerful line, but I think, of course as my own opinion, that he actually didn’t mean that the first life is your conscious life, but that is in fact the life you live.

    The fact that someone choose to end his life, like socialization with other people, having fun and all those things that people consider as a life. Many old people choose to stay in house all day watching tv and not doing anything else, this is actually dyeing.

    Of course this is only my opinion 🙂

  5. Gilbert Ross

    Hi Evita,

    Thank you so much for your comment. It’s always good to hear from you. I perfectly understand how you feel about dealing with people who are so heavily attached to their ‘earthly’ and ‘surface’ view of life and self. It’s hard to convey information when you are on different channels but I also personally know very well that the hardest part is getting through to them after you have changed and transformed yourself. Because you have changed your expectations are different and when you deal with others who are like you were at earlier stages of your own personal development, it subconsciously makes you feel like you have stepped back through those stages yourself. This makes you feel a bit irritated and perhaps dragging you down.

    I like Tolle because he has this kind of ability to convey his message directly to that deeper part of ourselves below the ego’s radar. That is the real power of his work and why it became so famous. I think we need to learn a little bit from this perhaps.

  6. Evita

    Hi Gilbert,

    Thank you for exploring this topic further. And as things always have a timely presence in our lives, this article from you today offers me support within right when I needed it. I am currently sorting through a few people in my life that are so heavily attached to their mind, and have such a complex sense of self, which includes me being a certain way.

    And since I am not, since I changed, this seems to cause them issues…. ahh, life 😉

    Anyway, it was a great read. I love Tolle’s work and it is always good to be reminded that we are so much greater than what we think.

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