From birth to death and maybe beyond, we have all been conditioned to believe what we are told. No matter how enlightened one might think or feel they are, we are all still in need of change. Even ancient teachings have said that the mystery is ongoing for all us. The writing in this material gives us a clear path on how to live life to its fullest.
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We Must Live Now and Move Forward
From conception to birth and maybe before, we are all what life and death consist of. I will try to stay away from the mind-motivated speculations on the aspects of life and death and instead try to fill these pages with the heartfelt concepts I feel are more real and relevant. To start with, we are all conditioned, to some degree or another, to believe what we have been told to believe. Even the ones who consider themselves gurus or enlightened beings are conditioned to some degree.
Spirit is all. You can call it God, divinity, love, the universe, the One, presence, awareness ... or whatever you want. The name is not as important as the connection we have to it. The connection to it is what we are all about. The connection to it is what death and life combine into and form.
All too often we hide from the importance of death rather than embrace both the concept of life and death. Some of us, out of fear of death, create religious systems to satiate the selfish part of our egos' need to believe that life after death is certain. This type of cover-up leads to all sorts of false ideas and suppresses the deeper fears we all possess. We rely on hours of chants or prayers or the promises of gurus that we will live forever, and it might be true. There may be an afterlife. There may be continuations of living on earth after death. Yet what is our true motivation? Does it come from the reality we allow ourselves to see from the depth of our being, or are we being motivated by a need to feel safe while here on earth?
Life Is Beautiful, as Is Death
Our minds create a gap that tells us that if we focus too much on death, we may very well die. Thus, it is best to avoid these kinds of thoughts like the plague, by shaking them off or, even more manipulatively, saying to ourselves and sometimes others that we need to practice thinking only positive thoughts. And I believe that, in essence, this is true, but it also can prevent us from considering all our thoughts in order to process which ones are generated from the selfish ego and which ones we need to be aware of.
I believe we must learn how to think about and even feel the experience of death in order to truly live. In the book Advice on Dying: And Living a Better Life, the Dalai Lama says,
"It is crucial to be mindful of death — to contemplate that you will not remain long in this life. If you are not aware of death, you will fail to take advantage of this special human life that you have already attained. It is meaningful since, based on it, important effects can be accomplished.
Analysis of death is not for the sake of becoming fearful but to appreciate this precious lifetime during which you can perform many important practices. Rather than being frightened, you need to reflect that when death comes, you will lose this good opportunity for practice. In this way contemplation of death will bring more energy to your practice.
You need to accept that death comes in the normal course of life."
Ecclesiastes 3:1–14 states,
"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has placed upon the human race. He has made everything beautiful in time. He also has set eternity in the human heart, yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. Each of them may eat, drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil — this is the gift of God. Everything God does will endure forever."
The Quran states, "That you shall assuredly pass on from one stage to another" (Al-Inshiqaq 84:19). Pretty heavy, huh? None of it needs to be overwhelming or scary. As we learn to live in awareness and presence, with loving intention, we see that it all makes sense, we walk in true acceptance and peace, and we become more and more in harmony with all that life has to offer. The practice is to let our deeper selves come up to the surface in order to accept the reality of our own and everyone else's death and not let the selfish ego unconsciously bury this reality within us. Acceptance and peace will follow as we consistently practice awareness and use the simple tools of looking deeply within, allowing ourselves to let all feelings and thoughts — whether they are good, bad, or ugly — rise to the surface. And with the help of Spirit, as well as other like-minded people, we can heal our past worldly conditioning and past trauma, which we all have to one degree or another. When more and more of us rise above the conditioned way of feeling and thinking, we will usher in what I call the collective shift.
Love and True Healing
We are born with an innate ability and desire to love and be loved. Much research and many testimonials have suggested this to be true. But how do we determine if our love is genuine and balanced? It happens as we connect more genuinely to our true selves, and it manifests itself in caring, giving, forgiveness, true grief, maintaining presence, and so forth.
Some might ask, "How do we know if it's real, and how do we maintain it?" What I have found is that as we practice awareness/focus/presence, other aspects of life become clearer, and things seem to work themselves out without too much interference from our selfishly motivated ego. We all have and need an ego. It is necessary for survival. The word ego means "a conscious, thinking person," and the ego enables us to use the tools that are available to survive.
It is what I call the selfish ego that gets in the way. That part of us manipulates us to look outside of ourselves instead of finding our truth from within. The selfish ego can be cunning and manipulative in order to maintain control. We all have within us aspects of the selfish ego. It tells us we are right and they are wrong, or they do not have the better way, but we do. We also sometimes use the selfish ego to protect ourselves from being emotionally or physical harmed. These unconsciously motivated actions can become our conditioned realities that we follow to protect ourselves. We reject others' ideas and instead continue to hide what we truly feel in order to maintain our safety. We do this individually, as well as globally.
We will swear by what groups tell us is true, and many will even die instead of taking a step to look deeper inside themselves for their own answers. As I mentioned earlier, we all have past traumas, to one degree or another, and we bury them in order to protect ourselves from emotional or physical harm. And as long as they are not healed from within, we will continue our existence, with continued wars and unnecessary deaths.
A friend of mine defined why we continue to unconsciously hide our traumas. She called it "protective denial." The selfish ego will try to ensure that the individual or collective can continue its current path no matter the consequences. An extreme version of this would be the actions of those who feel killing people is right because of their beliefs. A subtler depiction of the selfish ego taking control is when we are adamant about something, and someone else is certain about the opposite point; then we begin to argue our beliefs over and over again, or even more subtly, we just give in to keep the peace. In order to heal and to help others, we need to break through the selfish ego's control, and we can do this only by what I call "living in the spaciousness of truth." This can be accomplished by practicing being in a state of spiritual awareness. And when we are living in this spaciousness, all other aspects of life become clearer, which gives us a clearer path toward understanding, accepting, and having more peace about death.
Some might be asking, "Well, how do we know if it's our more balanced selves or the selfish ego?" Well, we might notice that we become selfishly angry, or we begin to negatively judge others, or we become frustrated because we aren't getting our points across. As we consistently practice awareness, using tools of self-exploration, healing becomes more of a natural process.
And still others may be asking, "Does that mean there is no work involved?" True healing involves consistent work. That work, however, becomes a work of joy, dedication, and love, as we consistently bring ourselves back to this place of spacious awareness. Some of us try the next best technique if the one we've been using doesn't work. And still others settle for a relatively small degree of peace. Still worse, many believe that their techniques or systems are enough. There is no one technique, teaching, or religion that is going to help you maintain a truly balanced life. And don't get me wrong. If you are happy with the belief systems or tools you are using, then fine, but please see that only your own true answers from deep within will get you to the higher place of becoming balanced Human Beings. Our dualistic confusion results from thinking we must either work hard to achieve, or walk away from ego desire and trust the moment.
And to a degree, they both have merit.
The more you can stop focusing on which is the right way and which is the not-so-right way, you can focus more on practicing bringing yourself back to this place of spacious awareness, which causes presence and love to become more easily attainable. You will then find yourself being more easily directed, and true healing will occur. And when the selfish ego begins to fight back, which indeed it will, do not fight back; instead, bring all thoughts and emotions into this divine place of spacious awareness. Continue to use the tools that help you look deeper inside. This may cause you to initially feel worse than when you did not practice this simple principle, but by maintaining your focus, you will go forward through the crossroads and not deviate to the left or right or, worse still, remain at the crossroads or go backward.
We have an obligation to the world and ourselves to move forward together within this thing called life and death. What separates us is the fear of letting go of conditioned thinking, created by societies or spiritual leaders. And please don't get me wrong. I believe very strongly that there is much truth in what societies and spiritual leaders have taught us, and we will discover more of the collective truths as we practice bringing ourselves consistently back to the place of spacious awareness, along with presence and loving intention.
As we make the effort, the Spirit is always there to encourage another step forward. It may cause an event in our lives that helps us to let go of the selfish ego's control, or it may cause us to pray or meditate more consistently. When we begin to see the movement toward truth, we are hooked, and nothing else can easily manipulate us away from our own created truth. And the steps are not always pleasant. Please try not to hold on to the pacifying commentary of others, such as "It doesn't have to be painful. You can find constant bliss immediately." Is this true? Yes! Of course it is. Yet more often a statement like this is motivated from trying to extinguish the immediate pain and not letting the more natural course take its place. The more natural course will cause quicker and more lasting healing. Find people to whom you can open your heart, and let them help you break through the confusion with supportive spiritual interdependence. As you practice true healing, the pain that most of us encounter becomes less painful, and we are able to allow deeper realities to surface. And after a while, the old selfish ego gives up more and more.
Death is as important as life. By learning to live in the present, in a state of true awareness — with the acceptance of living and dying — love, peace, and joy will follow.
True healing occurs when we stop relying too much on others and instead heal from within. With the support of others you will find that spark of life that is uniquely yours — run with it. It may not look pretty; it may be riddled with errors. You may even at times go in the wrong direction, yet if you continue the practice of bringing yourself back to the place of spacious awareness, you and Spirit will continue toward a quicker and more lasting happiness, and a deeper acceptance and understanding of life and death. And am I saying that death is always going to be pleasant? No, I'm not. What I am saying is that we will begin to become more concerned about all the unnecessary deaths around the world, and we will become more empathetic toward all mankind. And with our collectives voices we will be able to help decrease the unnecessary deaths in our world.
Some of us deeply believe that there is a life after death, and some do not. It does not matter if you do or don't. I strongly believe that by living with a connection to our true selves, we will not fear death. We, as human beings, have too much of the human part in control, and too much of the being part of us is hidden. As we live this life of awareness, we become more balanced human beings.
Of course, as most of us have heard, it is important to not focus so much on doing, but instead focus more on being. It is even more important to not let any idea take precedence over your own unique learned internal voice. Then see for yourself if focusing on happiness, sadness, and so on is best for you.
True healing will make itself evident. The biggest hurdle will be the selfish ego, and next will be those who try to tell you how to do it. By consistently bringing everything into this spaciousness, which is you, you will excel. Above all else, just do it.
A lot of ideological principles try to explain how to become more of a spiritual person and how to tap into a power that will allow us to heal ourselves emotionally and physically, by virtue of an intelligent energy that manifests itself through metaphysical acts. Here are some definitions of "spiritual" from the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
1: of, relating to, consisting of, or affecting the spirit: incorporeal
2: a: of or relating to sacred matters
b: ecclesiastical rather than lay or temporal
3: concerned with religious values
4: related or joined in spirit
5: of or relating to supernatural beings or phenomena
Wow! That's a mouthful. Here's my definition of "spiritual": an awareness of one's connection to an energy that is invisible, all-knowing, and everywhere. The idea that an intelligent, omniscient power manifests material changes by desire, request, or intention is becoming more and more acceptable for many. Some people call these acts miracles or acts of synchronicity. Carl Jung coined the term "synchronicity." It means that if someone is in need of something, a manifestation will occur that coincides with what that person needed or thought. He called it "meaningful coincidences."
If you believe in a God or an energy that can help you, then you most likely believe that this energy can manifest itself by means of physical and emotional healing. If you accept all or part of what I'm saying, then you probably believe that if you connect with this energy, then the acts of synchronicity/miracles can occur more often. So why then (especially with all the significant increases of spiritual teachings, CDs, books, and seminars) are we not growing significantly more spiritually? Well, based on what I call "f lowing spiritual logic," we are not connecting well enough to the energy source.
Why is this? Well, with all the spiritual tools we have, such as spiritual teachings, herbal remedies, meditation groups, yoga groups, spiritual seminars, and help from richer westernized spiritual gurus, it can become very difficult to process for ourselves. Our brains are wired to accept new information as just that, new information, and will not process it as the same old repetitive stuff we keep digesting. There is nothing new, and there is no secret to staying connected to Spirit. There is nothing wrong with going to seminars or reading the next new great spiritually relevant book. The problem is that we need to stick with a system that works initially and then continue growing with that system. Our minds tell us we need to have more and that we need to rely on the teachers and tools.
Excerpted from "Life and Death"
Copyright © 2017 Ronnie Figueroa.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: We Must Live Now and Move Forward, 1,
Chapter 2: Life Is Beautiful, as Is Death, 3,
Chapter 3: Love and True Healing, 7,
Chapter 4: Life, 23,
Chapter 5: Death, 27,
Chapter 6: Groups, 31,
Chapter 7: Saving Ourselves and This Planet, 35,
Chapter 8: Breaking It Down, 37,
Chapter 9: Conclusion, 41,