To Die Before You Die is Real Living

At the end of an age, it is time to realize one’s true nature

Simon Heathcote
5 min readMay 23, 2023
Photo by Grant Whitty on Unsplash

‘The mystic is one who is not bound by appearances. He has journeyed from the unreality of the outer world to the reality that is found within the heart.’ Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee

Unless you have been sitting on Mars or one of the other ‘personal’ planets close to the Earth — even those outer or transpersonal planets farther away — you may have noticed we are living through unprecedented times.

The world is changing and, as many pundits are saying, will never be the same again.

Native peoples and religious have predicted this period, in Hinduism known as the end of Kali Yuga, for the longest time. It is a time I call the Karmic Full Stop.

A time when accounts are squared and battle lines are drawn up. Either you place your vote with Maya, the illusory world of concepts and objects, or the divine world that is the undifferentiated spiritual heart and is free of objects in world or mind.

You either know yourself as form or formlessness.

The latter is the emptiness many of us fear and which without adequate developmental support in childhood, proved overwhelming.

There is still time and opportunity to know yourself not as a body and a mind, but as consciousness — the I Am — and beyond that, awareness. Consciousness is awareness plus an object i.e. I am conscious of something.

Discovering the God-like Self is a process of shedding, of moving back towards the emptiness we came from. Many people’s response to the terror of their own emptiness is to remain glued to concepts and experiences.

These are the attachments we need to be rid of to graduate from Earth and never have to return. It is simple but not easy and quite impossible while clinging to that which makes us feel safe.

That’s why the genuine seeker is a warrior cutting through the ties that would mislead, sitting regularly for meditation, and becoming comfortable in the pulsing no-thingness that upholds the universe.

And although our early forays into meditation are most often attached to an object — candle, breath and so on — the final meditation takes us beyond the mind as awareness focuses on itself. We get to know our formless nature.

Speaking to a close friend this morning, he was off to find a tribe of like-minded souls and there is no doubt this can be helpful, but the final steps are always free of people, places and things.

For when the heart is truly known and we arrive in the silent clarity of awareness watching itself, all objects appear as the Self and separation is no more.

Think about why the world has plunged into chaos and disarray. Does it not all stem from the belief in separation which leads to fear and thus selfishness?

As the pioneers of the recovery movement famously wrote nearly 100 years ago: ‘Selfishness — self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate.’

The wave might believe it is separate and not part of the ocean just as we from within the prison of memory and imagination can only know a limited, private world.

But that doesn’t mean it is true. Evidently, we are living a lie, spinning stories in our own mind which at their worst turn to paranoid fantasies and mental breakdown.

Because we have elevated mind to the throne of consciousness and don’t know any other way, it is hard to step into the unknown, to take the risk of going within.

Yet we are called to deeper adventures than mind would permit which has already cut us off from memories of situations we could not face as children.

As this epoch draws to a close, history sits, knocks and calls us deeper to uncover that which waits beneath the veils of mind, that which never comes and goes and is eternally you.

The portals are stillness, silence, non-grasping and enquiring Who Am I? This is the first turning about, as the mind begins to stop looking outwards for the source of life in the objective world.

Objects of course must have a subject, but it is quite possible to be free of both.

At night, when we enter deep sleep, we have to reject everything we clung to in the daytime — all experiences, thoughts and ideas, perhaps even our loving partner who might be right next to us.

All of this we leave behind as we burrow into dreamless sleep. Then, usually in the early hours at the first stirrings of wakefulness we begin to dream in which the ‘I’ thought, the subject, again appears within night time’s imagination.

Once more I am at the centre of an illusory drama. The drama of our waking life is equally illusory but harder to see, yet will be known on the death of the body.

The opportunity presented to the willing soul at this time is precisely to know the waking world is simply another form of sleep while you are formless and need no more experience, ever needless and complete.

If you are lucky, a deep world or soul weariness may accompany you in life. Each romance may seem like another helpless, hopeless cycle where you live the same drama with a different face to accompany you. Ambition may be waning, meaning in short supply.

These are positive signs that you are ready for real life.

Many clients I have met over the years are in just such a position, but without any reference points provided by family or education, simply feel ungrateful, guilty and lost.

It is hard to know where to turn when the Dark Night of the Soul comes for you. Nothing has prepared you. You have no idea what a spiritual crisis is and that it could be the best thing to ever happen.

When you have been swimming in Maya so long, there is little chance in surviving these treacherous waters alone. Reaching a rock bottom and asking for help is often the first genuine sign of humility, the balm that soothes.

The real journey has now started. There is a way out although not through any of the methods you have likely been shown. In fact, you need to turn about face and travel in quite the opposite direction.

Ego or separate self seeks to fulfil itself through objects and experiences while soul knows that only in shedding all such attachments can you know the bliss of true contentment and peace.

This is the end of seeking, the gateway to new life. As the great teacher Adi Da Samraj said: ‘Spiritual life begins when seeking fails.’

Seeking must fail for you to be born and remember your true nature. Emptiness and failure far from being the tragedies perceived are always your best friend.

The great discovery is that emptiness loves you from the very inside of your own heart, the core of your being.

Copyright Simon Heathcote

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Simon Heathcote

Psychotherapist writing on the human journey for some; irreverently for others; and poetry for myself; former newspaper editor.