By Temple Hayes
Too many people have come to accept death as an ordinary way of life. We expect people to lose heart, lack enthusiasm as they age, but dying in the middle of your life is not natural. I know because I talk to people whose energy seems dead all the time.
As a spiritual leader, people often come to me in search of a different or new way of life. The first thing I do is ask them, “When did you die?” It’s meant to be a catalyst and a mirror. I want to know when did your soul stop expressing its authentic self, and I want you to see not the past and not the future but the unlived life you’re living right here and now in this present moment.
These are powerful questions in the throes of a spiritual process that address your biggest fear and your greatest loss. It requires deep thought and consideration. And it’s important to think before you answer because it’s not your near death experience that is of interest to me. I want to know about your near life experience — the times you did not bring all of yourself and vital energy to an experience. These are the times you almost saw the light but held back.
I started dying when I was a little girl. At the age of 5, I had my first mystical experience. I knew God loved everybody all the time and that I would be the one to bring the world this message. True, I didn’t have the vocabulary to explain metaphysics, and I hadn’t yet discovered my favorite mystic, Rumi. But I had a knowing and a powerful vibration erupting from deep inside me. So I began to tell people that I wanted to be a minister. This was a daring dream for a young girl in a small southern Baptist town where women were not allowed to have leadership roles, much less become ministers.
Little by little, people began to take my dream away from me. This was the tumultuous 1960s when fear ruled the world. My early beliefs were heavily influenced by the conflicting tides of the times. There was the religious right and there were also civil, women’s, gay and animal rights. Guess which side I was on and how that manifested? A favorite aunt disgraced me for not agreeing with her. A teacher shamed me for wanting to be original. My seventh-grade peers turned on me because I welcomed the black kids coming to our classes.
I became afraid to be me, so not long after, I discovered the effects of alcohol. I could secretly believe what I wanted without having to feel the consequences of my thinking. I continued to drink for the next 13 years. It was a deep and painless sleep. I was unconscious and without dreams.
According to Jungian psychology, first, we must realize we are asleep. Then, we wake up, and then we die so we can be born. Think about it: You cannot be born until you die, and you cannot die until you wake up. In the spiritual sense, dying many times is crucial to our growth and well-being in this lifetime. We must learn to rise up and thrive.
Cats have always known this. These highly evolved creatures sleep about 15 hours a day. I think it’s because they like to dream, and if we pay close attention, they’ll lead us beyond this world and back. They’ll teach us to dare and dream and dare again. If we do, we’ll realize the curiosity, in fact, may kill us, but the satisfaction will bring us back to living again and again.
Have you ever almost reached a goal, a dream, but closed back down, afraid of the unknown, the uncertainty, that mystery of not knowing? Like the moment you almost let yourself become vulnerable to love and then held back? The promotion at work you could have received and didn’t go for because of fear of rejection? The holding back of anything when you almost saw the light?
We must open up to the reality that we’ll have many deaths in this lifetime. To be open is to rid ourselves of fear. When we let go of fear and make peace with fear, we make it our sacred friend. Then we can become committed, and when we commit, we begin to live fully as these lines attributed to Goethe demonstrate.
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves, too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”
And, like the cat who licked the platter clean, you’ll live a very authentic, very satisfied life.
Look for From Good to Amazing, a new blog by Temple Hayes beginning in September on reneweveryday.com.
Temple Hayes is ordained as both a Unity and Science of Mind minister. Hayes is 28 years sober and the author of When Did You Die?, a profound wake-up call for our emotionally and spiritually drained society.