The Death that Finally Allows You to Live

 

Xander Ashwell

Xander Ashwell

 

 

Somewhere along the way, I learned how not to feel, how not to notice breathing, how not to consciously experience the moment, the colors, the sensations, the shapes, the life right before my eyes and ears. I learned everything my parents, teachers, friends, television and books had to teach me. I learned my way right out of presence. And I paid a high price. My disconnection from the here and now created an insatiable appetite for escape of any and every kind. By the time I was 20, I had mastered the art of escaping present life. I was clawing and stratching my way out of my own skin, smoking pot until my lungs filled with blackness, swallowing pills like they were M&M’s, drinking alcohol like it was water, and searching for love in every place that it was not.  I learned my way into a dream world where I was the main character – deficient, flawed. I was engrossed in a search that led nowhere and getting more and more exhausted from not finding whatever I was looking for.  I did not even know what I was looking for. I just learned to search, like I learned everything else. In this search, I could not fully live. I was too busy escaping life as it appears in this present space.

I’m glad to have come out of that alive. I am grateful to have the opportunity in each moment to notice that life actually happens right here, right now. I am falling in love more deeply each moment with the presence that alluded me for so long. I love seeing that there is no such thing as discovering presence once and for all, because it is always changing, always showing me something that I had not seen before. It is like a lover that has a new face in each moment. The unlearning of all that I have learned is like falling in love with the presence that society told me to escape. I can now feel the touch of my fingers on this keyboard, notice the movement in my bones and muscles as I type, hear my breathing happening automatically, see the colors magnificently displayed in front of me, feel every movement of sensation coming and going, notice every thought arising and falling back into an unknowable space. There is nothing that I can call “life” as any fixed thing, for the play of life is not fixed at all. All that learning I did for years told me that things were fixed and static. Leaving behind the world of things, I notice the fluidity of the play of arisings. It is so fluid that I cannot put my finger on anything, for as soon as I point to something, it dies a perfect death, allowing something new to be born.  As soon as I type a new word, the previous sentence has already died. This is how everything is.

Everything I learned has been challenged in the deepest way – including who I am, who you are, what life is, what truth is, where I have been, where I am going and whether there is any self here at all. There is no religion in this kind of seeing. Nowhere to hang my hat. Nowhere to place any certainty. And that’s why it is so delicious. This is the deepest kind of falling in love, where you give up your certainty and your self for the sheer curiousity of what it is like to be totally awake to what is here in the moment. I once learned that falling in love meant finding someone to fall for, some dream to fall into, some ideal to chase. But this falling is something different altogether. In this falling, the dream itself is challenged, obliterated. Everything that appears dies a sweet death a second later. Images do not point to anything. They can’t, because everything is constantly in flux. Words do not refer to anything, for the movement of life is way too fluid to match up to a static set of words. 

In this falling, there is peace and acceptance in the deepest sense. Yet there is no “I” to grasp what that means or to hold onto it. And that is why the peace and acceptance is always here – because grasping never actually happens. Just words and pictures that appear to grasp at what is ungraspable. This falling cannot be learned.  It is an unlearning into a constant death.  But there is nothing morbid or sad about it. It is a death of self, a death of other, a death of things, a death of understanding, a death of learning. And in that, I can finally live. I can thrive. I can follow passion without knowing where it is going and without caring. I can let the waves of enthusiasm take me to the next moment, which will be totally brand new.  I can engage more fully with another precisely because I see no other there.  In this death, in this falling, everything is always new. Always. That is why death is so sweet. It makes room for the new. All of that learning never made room for anything new. It only made room for more thoughts, more learning, more searching, more exhaustion.

Come follow me into the falling. Follow me even though society says it is insane. Follow me even when your fears say “no.” Follow me even when you want to seek instead. Follow me even though your heart will break along the way. Follow me to the place where there is no me and you. There is only this moment, dying again and again to make room for the next. Follow me into the death that finally allows you to live.



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