“It’s a Great Day to Die!”
By Keith Varnum
Wow, what a crazy thing to say!
Yes, it is—unless you consider its source and meaning. This famous cry of freedom was uttered by Crazy Horse, the Sioux chief who defeated U.S. General Custer at the Battle of Little Bighorn.
Why did this legendary Indian warrior greet each dawn with talk of death? What better time! Isn’t the beginning of a new day the perfect time to celebrate a wake for all the dead things in our life—the beliefs and patterns that no longer serve us?
As the light returns to our world in the morning, the cry of Crazy Horse “zens” our attention to the life-giving sun that shines stronger with each hour—each ray of energy adding to our courage to face the truth. The truth about what aspects of our lives are still vibrant with self-sustaining vitality—and those which are DOA. Dead On Arrival in the revealing brightness of honesty. The launch of a fresh day is a great time to die to old limitations and outmoded ways of thinking.
Death is Not What We Think It Is
The word used for “death” in the Aramaic tongue—the language of Jesus and the Bible—literally translated means “not here, present elsewhere.” In most ancient and native cultures, the border between life and death is highly permeable. This natural transition is not feared, but rather welcomed as an opportunity to liberate oneself from endless unconscious cycles of repeating life patterns.
Death—the inevitable ending of each life event—is actually something that we experience in every moment of our lives. Transitions from life-to-life, as well as from moment-to-moment, are opportunities to renew our lives with fresh, authentic passion, excitement and vitality. In facing the truth of death directly, we have the opportunity to come fully into life. “Die to the moment!” counsels St. John of the Cross.
Death is a Sacred Rite of Passage
Death is actually only a loaded word for “transition” and an emotionally charged label for a very natural, safe “rite of passage.” Our current Western society has lost touch with the value of preparing people for this basic reality of life: constant change, continual transition from one form to another.
Until the modern era, sacred rites of passage have been important to the health of human societies for thousands of years, enabling individuals to negotiate their inevitable life transitions with purpose, ease and meaning.
Is it time to re-embrace the fact that we are constantly dying and recreating ourselves? If so, we could help each other to master our transitions between careers, relationships, marriage and divorce. Together we could move with grace through grief and loss, addictions, and illness. We could teach ourselves and our children to celebrate the coming of age, menopause, midlife crisis, aging and spiritual awakening. Our reward would be a more fun and harmonious journey on this planet.
“Make Death Your Ally”
With this motto, indigenous shamans advise us to make the inescapable demise of each moment a source of power and motivation to live more vibrantly and fully in each moment. “Dying” is our friend when we allow it to remind us to let go of expectations of how “things have always been.” “Death” is our ally when we let it remind us to open again and again to choosing innocence—that is, choosing to be innocent, free, of the past and preconceptions of who we are. Being innocent of the past identities and patterns frees us to enjoy the present more deeply.
“I Feel Like I’m Dying!”
Some common feelings people experience when moving through life changes and personal growth are the emotions of impending death, or of wanting to die. Tribal people recognize these feelings as signals that the soul is integrating more fully into the body, threatening the beliefs of the personality and who the personality thinks “I am.”
The ego, totally identified with its limited view of itself, feels threatened when something “unexplainable” or “uncontrollable” happens, or when something familiar begins to transform into something unknown. So, when we identify ourselves only with our ego personality, we feel in danger of dying. When we recognize that it’s only our old beliefs that are dying—not our physical bodies or our real self—we can allow the old points of view to dissolve.
Overcoming “Life Fright”
“Life fright” is extended “stage fright!” The whole world is the stage and the scary, intimidating audience is everyone outside of us. And the irony is that we are not really afraid of dying—we’re afraid of really living. Most people on Earth are having a Near-Life Experience! Afraid to speak the truth. Fearful of disapproval and rejection. Anxious about safety and survival. Scared of deep love and joy!
Does life fright limit our ability to enjoy self-expression, creativity and professional and personal fulfillment? You bet! But we can learn powerful tools to integrate and release our inner saboteurs. We can open to a new sense of ease, aliveness, spontaneity and freedom in all areas of our life.
Ancient Tools to the Rescue!
From the ancient wisdom of spiritual traditions and native cultures, we can learn easy, effective techniques to dissolve our old beliefs—and the intense emotions that go with them. At the core of most meditative practices is the guidance to feel human emotions as pure energy, sensation or
vibration—without the labels and names we usually use to identify them, without the need to understand, intellectualize or categorize them.
Labels create resistance and confine us to feeling the experience inside the box named by the label. If we welcome “e-motions” as “energy in motion”—flowing sensations, pulsating vibrations, we can release our death grip on our belief system and allow our old limiting paradigms and self-images to transform.
Then every day becomes a good day to die! … to our outmoded ways of thinking and living. We can clear our soul of the karma, trauma and drama blocking our natural trust, openness and vitality. We can release ourselves from past influences and present-day self-defeating patterns. We can live and love freely again. We can recover our natural aliveness, creativity and playfulness in order to heal, grow and blossom. We can reclaim wholeness, meaning and joy. We can complete the past, fully enjoy the present, and creatively open to the future.
People in touch with ancient and native wisdom know that all dying is simply a transition to another state of existence—another state of light energy. Each morning we experience a worldwide transition as light energy infuses the entire planet—and night dies to our collective experience. With each dusk comes the demise of another day—and the birth of night.
If we label these feelings “dying,” “depressing” or ” scary,” we will experience the energy within that label framework. If we experience these same feelings as “flowing,” ” dense sensation” or “exciting,” we can surf the tides of transformation. Ancient and indigenous wisdom teaches that by embracing and moving with unlabeled vibrational energy, we experience life’s changes more easily, playfully and quickly.
When we master our emotions, we master Death. When we master Death, we master our happiness!
Does He Know Something We Don’t …
Mahatma Gandhi suggests, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
Why not assume the next moment—the next life—will always come along? What do we have to lose? Only fear. What do we have to gain? The gifts every moment has to offer!