If Death were no obstacle, how could we allow ourselves to accomplish anything less than miracles?
I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately. A month has come and gone since my father’s passing, so that makes sense. I’ve been looking at it as a spiritual and psychological process, rarely slipping into morbidity. As Shavuot approaches, my thoughts veer toward Death with a capital D, the unseen force that not only affects the physical body but is also responsible for the demise of relationships, prosperity, and happiness itself. But Shavuot isn’t about Death. It is about the Revelation of an undying energy that has existed since the dawn of humankind. It is about standing in the totality of the Creator’s Light, and in that flame, Death doesn’t stand a chance.
And then along comes Eckhart Tolle.
“Death is the stripping away of all that is not you. The secret of life is to ‘die before you die’ — and find that there is no death.” – Eckhart Tolle
I had to re-read that line twice as I revisited The Power of Now. Each time I see it in unyielding type, I think of another way it applies to me and, most likely, all of us. We get attached. It’s normal and human and rooted in our DNA that helped us evolve into a species that values its old and young alike and gain the perspectives of both.
But evolution can go too far sometimes. It can lead us to a place that works physically but hampers us spiritually. Great Buddhist teachers have pontificated on attachment and its ability to lash us to the lives that we can see and experience in a tactile sense, depriving us of something far more profound.
Tolle described a Death that is useful, but I think the power of Shavuot grants us a way to supercharge that detachment and “stripping away” as we find ourselves in a place much more unified to our Source at this time of year.
I rarely quote two people in my blogs, but David Foster Wallace, in his commencement speech at Kenyon College, elaborated on just this point:
“In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship—be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles—is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things—if they are where you tap real meaning in life—then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure, and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already—it’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. Worship power—you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart—you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out.”
And that’s it, isn’t it? We get so connected to these concepts of what we strive for and what we think we love that we forget to put in the work to truly elevate ourselves, and we run out of our limited time on Earth.
Karen Berg liked to tell the story of when God wanted to give the Torah to the people at Shavuot. The angels became angry and said to God: “Why would you want to give the Torah to people? To finite beings that are corrupt, mean, and do all the negative things that finite beings do?”
And God answered the angels: “My beloveds, you were put into this world to do my bidding with no free will of your own. These finite beings which I have created were given the ability to choose between Light and darkness. This is a tool I have given to them to bring their souls back to me, so that they may appreciate the harmony that can exist in the total unity of the Creator and the created.”
Shavuot is a window that allows us to tap into a unique energy that can help us choose between Light and darkness. It is an opportunity to touch immortality; to choose to live in unadulterated truth, growth, and change. It is a moment to shed everything that is not us and receive a Revelation of what we can be when we are fully connected to the divine.
So, what are we doing with this moment of energetic cohesion?
RETHINK MOMENT: What part of yourself can you detach from to become the person you want to be?
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