In a recent post, Choose Life II, I wrote:
I was increasingly motivated by dread of facing a future based on past experience. Subconsciously, I had succumbed to a death sentence suggested by people far too “nice” to kill me outright, but all too capable of driving me to slow suicide.
Since then, going a few years back in my notebooks, I found my response to a scary conversation. At least ten years ago, we were in a car, on the way home from running an errand as I recall. The driver was flawlessly made up, as usual. She was wrapped in an ankle-length, black fax-fur coat.
I gently suggested in a general way (nothing personal, of course), that sometimes, surely unintentionally, some people push those they can’t control to self-destruction.
She shook her head, No. It was definitely intentional, she objected.
Horrified, I searched my mind for the right survival response. (My belief in reincarnation rules out suicide. At best, unfinished business would just reappear.)
As the issue continued to come up, here is the solution recorded in notebooks over the years. Whenever circumstances or people push me to suicide, I will die – but only to be reborn in this lifetime, over and over, each time better than before.
I called it The Phoenix Response.
I associated this intentional positive decision with the death and resurrection of Christ, whose archetypal pattern represents a possibility for each of us, at any time, as a matter of personal choice, commitment and dedicated follow-through.
This was, in part, the thinking behind the following essay from Conscience: Your Ultimate Personal Survival Guide. I include it below for the benefit of those who, especially given the pressures of our “interesting” time in history, may be pondering similar choices.
ESSAY 2. DEATH
Patricia E. West, Two Sides of a Coin:Lao Tze’s Common Sense Way of Change
Dying patients went through the five stages, but then after “we have done all the work we were sent to Earth to do, we are allowed to shed our body, which imprisons our soul like a cocoon encloses the future butterfly,” and … well, then a person had the greatest experience of his life. — Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, The Wheel of Life
Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished.
If you’re alive, it isn’t.
— Richard Bach, Illusions
Some day, maybe, there will exist a well-informed, well-considered, and yet fervent public conviction that the most deadly of all possible sins is the mutilation of a child’s spirit; for such mutilation undercuts the life principle of trust. — Erik Erikson, quoted by Jonathan Kozol in Death at an Early Age
Webster’s definition of death is the act or fact of dying — the permanent ending of all life in a person, animal or plant. Personified, death is pictured as the grim reaper, a hunch-backed, black-robed skeleton wielding a scythe. The term refers to extinction, as in the death of hope.
These definitions, however, represent an extreme cultural bias with important effects on behavior. They reflect the materialistic belief that the physical is all there is. When the body fails, there is nothing else. There is no essence which survives to travel on.
The I Ching embodies a more inclusive, comprehensive view. Like the learned amongst most ancient cultures, Chinese sages regarded birth and death as natural changes, complementary stages of an ongoing, cyclical life process.
Sages continue to regard death not as extinction, but the culmination of a winter season most wisely spent preparing for the coming spring. They teach that a soul, having learned the lessons and completed the work of one life cycle, separates from its used up shell. Once the spirit moves on, the shell collapses. The life essence, however, simply migrates, possibly to take on another form.
Meditation practices are instrumental in reconnecting the alienated rational mind with the life principle, restoring trust. They can prepare advanced souls to depart the physical form consciously at the auspicious time of their choosing. They also induce the changes of heart and mind that the Bible alludes to as rebirth. To be born again isn’t necessarily an emotional self-deception. Technically, from I Ching perspective, it’s very possible.
As described by healer/teacher/author Barbara Ann Brennan, total transformation and rebirth can also take place within the same body. She describes spending two years of prayer and intense discipline. By the end of that time, as a result of her efforts, every aspect of her life had changed for the better.
Going through stages similar to those described by Kübler-Ross, she released her old life, so that new attitudes, better relationships, and a significantly more satisfying lifestyle replaced that which had been outgrown and put away.
Country music star Naomi Judd, another example, refused to accept the death sentence placed on her by a short-sighted medical establishment. Instead, she chose to accept her illness as a challenge and blessing in disguise, taking the self-responsibility to restore her health.
With a combination of faith and true grit, Naomi educated herself in a broad spectrum of healing arts traditions and succeeded in regenerating herself from the inside out. She not only survived, but became healthy enough to endure the rigors of another music tour. She called it “The Power to Change,” using it as a platform for urging fans to rise to the challenge of change as she had.
Fear is the natural outcome of limited materialistic beliefs equating the end of physical life with total extinction. Those who experience the True Self as immortal and indestructible are not plagued by fear of mortality. No doubt the courage and solace which sustained Socrates as he calmly accepted his death sentence — not as an escape, but an affirmation of principle — came from the depth of his soul awareness.
Permanent extinction, however, is possible. Real death is not dissolution of a temporary form, but the annihilation of the soul itself. According to learned traditions, a soul beyond redemption by its own repeated wrong choices can be extinguished forever. Even the thought is cause for horror, powerful incentive to make right choices.