“We are told that Plato, on his deathbed, was asked to summarize the Dialogues, his life’s work. Coming out of a reverie, Plato said simply, “Practice dying.” May all beings practice dying.” – Rodney Smith 1998, May All Beings Practice Dying
As I was walking today it started to rain. I opened my umbrella just as a gush of wind picked up. It tugged hard on my umbrella and I held on tight not wanting to lose a nice umbrella. I felt a strong urge to let the umbrella go. Then, it dawned on me that we have so many opportunities each day to practice letting go. Sometimes literal opportunities. Since I could not afford to let go of my umbrella I picked a leaf off a tree. The next time the wind blew I let go of the leaf and felt the sweet release and freedom of that action.
Every time we let go of something, even as small as a leaf in the wind, we are letting a piece of our ego go. The ego dies a little every time we let someone win an argument, refrain from giving unsolicited advice, sacrifice our wants to fulfill another’s needs, leave work early to spend time with our family or accept our gray hair and wrinkles. Every time we let go of something we practice dying whether we realize it or not. Ultimately, we have to let go of this all. We will lose all we have in this physical existence, we will lose ourselves. The ultimate and total release of the ego is physical death. Many spiritual traditions, religions and philosophies teach us the power of practicing dying while we are alive and healthy. The Tibetan Book of The Dead teaches a meditation on visualizing, in detail, our own death.
I read in Deepak Chopra’s book, Life After Death, that we have the power to choose how we die. We can begin the process ourselves while we are alive and healthy. When the time comes we will willingly and gracefully drop the blanket of this world of form or we can have the blanket ripped from us. It is our choice. Everyday and in every moment we can work to slowly release our addiction to the material world, if we choose to do so. Through this process we can get a glimpse of our Divine destination. We can see a piece of what we are returning home to.
When we practice dying we release a piece of egoic baggage. We kill another construct that our mind created to hook us into the world of form and distract us from being awake and present. Every time we practice dying we open the door to Nirvana a little more. When a piece of the ego dies its opens us up to being consciously aware in this moment. We release the bonds that hold us to the ego and keep us unconscious; we wake up to the reality that Heaven is here on earth right now.
So try letting go of your umbrella: when you lose something let it be lost, when someone leaves you let them leave, when you are wrong admit it, when you sad don’t try to feel better or when you feel the urge to defend yourself do nothing.
When I was in Al-anon I learned the concept of detachment with love. I used to think that it meant to detach from others’ unhealthy behavior but now I realize it is more than that. It is about detaching from our own mind constructs that keep us from living fully and being presence. It was about practicing dying every day and bit by bit finding our happiness through each release.
“Try saying to yourself, right now, seriously, that you have only twenty seconds to live. What happens to your mind during those seconds? Immediately there is spaciousness. Immediately everything is simplified, and your way is clear. That is the power of death. It gets your attention and takes you suddenly into the experience of life.”- Rodney Smith 1998, May All Beings Practice Dying