Death, the inevitable parting of the ways, where we say goodbye to our physical form and to everything we know and love forever. It’s the end of all endings when it comes to our life as we know it.
Every living thing will eventually grow old and die, without exception. It’s permanent and beyond all control. No amount of money, status or power can exempt any of us from it. Despite the fact that it’s a necessary part of the circle of life, death remains one of the biggest fears shared by billions of people.
As you can imagine, this doesn’t sit very well with us. Humans love control, we enjoy the familiar and for the most part aren’t so crazy about change. This is why change is another prominent commonly shared fear. We cling so tightly to our identities as what defines us. So much so, that we’ve become a culture obsessed with delaying or avoiding aging and death altogether. Both are inevitable changes that directly jeopardize our identity. There are entire billion dollar industries dedicated to this, think of how big the cosmetics & plastic surgery industries have become. We’ve even gone so far as to explore cloning & cryonics.
We’re so focused on death as the end of our soul’s physical journey that we tend to forget that it’s a concept that goes beyond the expiration of our bodily form. Over the course of our lives, we also experience multiple “little deaths” that will shape our path and how we experience life, although they don’t get as much attention.
These “little deaths” come in the form of change, evolution, growth and letting go. They’re moments in our lives where we need to let something “die” in order to make room for other things, where we allow ourselves to close an old chapter in order to be able to properly open a new one.
Change is a necessary part of life. Buddhism explains it nicely with the concept of “impermanence”; We’re meant to embrace our experiences and be present in them but not to cling to them, all the while knowing that we must then let them go to embrace what comes next. This means that who we are; our likes and dislikes, our habits, our mindset, our lifestyle and our appearance, all the things that make up our identity are also impermanent.
Just like mother nature, we’re meant to experience different phases and seasons throughout our existence, which are not meant to be permanently fixed but rather to be fluid & ever changing. Trying to preserve everything perfectly just the way it is prevents progress & evolution. It’s also a great way to miss out on this beautiful unpredictable adventure called life.
Think of this in the grand scheme of things; Can you imagine if our ancestors never left their caves, never discovered fire? What if the moon never separated from the earth to then go on to play an integral role in creating and sustaining life on our planet? What if earth and our universe never went through the many drastic changes they did to create the awe inspiring world we know today?
Now If we scale it back, just try to imagine what your life would be like if you; never took that risk, dropped that habit, changed your mindset, met that friend, opened yourself up to that partner, went on that trip?
How about if you had stayed in that toxic friendship or relationship? Or if you stayed in the same job all your life?
What if you never went through any struggle that made you grow stronger, that showed you the dark to help you appreciate the light?
Although you may not see it by looking at me now, I used to be very resistant to change, even the positive kind. This resistance was rooted in fear. Fear of the unknown, of failure, of loss, and of making a mistake. It was also rooted in the comfort found in the familiar and an attachment to an idea of the path I was meant to take and the way my life was “supposed to” look.
While this kept me “safe” from certain types of disappointment or hurt, it also created stress, anxiety, suffocation, and the restlessness that comes with walking in such a straight narrow line. It robbed me of the joie de vivre that comes with taking risks without being able to control the outcome, to actively participate in life and give it color & excitement. While you can’t necessarily call this being dead, you also can’t really call it living. This was simply existing and it wasn’t for me.
It was time to start learning how to be smarter about leaving certain things behind & letting them “die” in order to progress. It was time to learn the art of letting go; letting go of control, of ego, of my attachments to my fears, my identity, my expectations and to anything that was holding me back. Not doing this is like trying to swim across a lake with a boulder chained to your ankle.
Since that realization, I’ve gone through multiple “little deaths”. Some of which include;
- Changing my lifestyle to work towards greater mindfulness and well being;
- Learning to trust others & myself;
- Evolving my goals as I evolve;
- Letting go of friendships & near decade long romantic relationships that were no longer right for me;
- Consistently tackling the unfamiliar to advance my career, and having the courage to walk away from what I thought was supposed to be my dream job and a chance to continue to climb the corporate ladder.
I’ve faced the darkest parts of myself to be able to let go of old sources of pain, anger and fear by facing them head on & letting go of attachment to the identity that came with them.
I’ve learned the importance of trusting myself to take more chances for the better (even when it means starting all over again), going against the status quo and letting go of things or people you once held close. Shedding your old skin can be scary and chances are parts of it will be tough but making the choice to embrace it is one of the best things you can do for yourself.
It’s easy to cling to the wrong things for the wrong reasons and to lose sight of the fact that everything (including our universe) is meant to be imperfect and ever changing, we’re no exception. Some of the most beautiful things were born out of imperfection. Making a conscious effort to be more present and checking in with yourself on a regular basis will help you learn to identify and embrace the “little deaths” that are meant for you and guide you to hold onto the right things in the moment and season that they are meant for.
Free yourself from the chains of who you think you SHOULD be, what you think you SHOULD have, how much money you think you SHOULD make and of predetermined expectations for yourself. Stop holding on to an identity and a rigid path based on a previous version of yourself.
Instead, I encourage you to embrace the unexpected and the little deaths that continuously create new versions of you. Open yourself up to what the different seasons of your life will bring because this is what makes this crazy journey worth the trip!
This post was previously published on Medium.
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