Konstantin Eriksen, Guest Writer
“Die before you die” is a famous zen saying. It is a strange phrase, it sounds pessimistic. And yet, if you truly try to understand it, you realize its true meaning and its ability to transform your life.
Have you ever seen somebody transform completely? Perhaps you know somebody who was not a good person and then, something bad happened to him, and his personality changed. What happened to his old self? Where is the “person” that he was before? Is he the same “person” or not?
Are you your thoughts? Are you the concepts you believe about yourself? Are you your habits? What are you?
Die before you die is about metaphorically “killing” your past self: The things you held on to cease to have importance. If you were egoistic, you drop your ego and become human again. If you were obsessed with money, money loses its value for you.
In short, you drop your attachments to your thoughts, your emotions, your ego, money, people, your ex-husband, beliefs, everything! You wipe the mirror clean. You are no longer the person you used to be.
This is what it means to die before you die.
Life is a process. You are a process. You are not a label, a career, a social status, a social category or a relationship.
What the Zen masters and sufi poets were getting at here is that only by letting go everything that pins you down, of everything that constrains your lifestyle and thinking and emotions, then and only then can you truly transform yourself and change your life for the better.
Otherwise, you become an actor. If you go out and buy a bunch of Zen books and start thinking “I believe in Zen now,” that’s not it – you’re not getting it. You’re deceiving yourself. If your dog takes a shit in the house, you clean the shit, you don’t cover it with a blanket, light incense to fill the room with lovely smells and forget about it, do you? The shit is still there.
Die before you die means you have to get rid of the shit in your mind and all the useless shit in your life. The more you let go, the more free you become. As you let go of past habits and things you were attached to, you become free to transform yourself and your life.
Your past “self” becomes like a reflection in a pond. You remember yourself, but you’re not that person anymore. Your processes are different.
Die before you die is practical. Bring yourself into the present. How would you describe yourself up until now? What label or labels would you glue onto yourself? Shy? Fat? Not good at ____ ?
Now wipe the slate clean. Start thinking about the first step you can take to improve. Each second is a new you. Let go of everything.
Imagine the possibilities of who you could be if you let go of all the negativity from the past.
Die before you die is optimistic, because it means that you can transform yourself. Have a look at the resources on my website.
I’ve let go of a lot of my former “self.” Perhaps you can do the same.
About the Author
Konstantin Eriksen is a philosopher and a 32-year-old former stock-trader, long-time natural health researcher, neigong enthusiast and fledgling internet entrepreneur. In my spare time, I enjoy hiking, music, mountaineering, meeting interesting women, studying whatever interests me and Piazzolla. Please visit his excellent blog, Life-Sucks.
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