Finding Life Through Death

April 28, 2023

Judith Suryanto (she/her/hers), Low Entropy Volunteer Writer

In the heat of an argument, your face tenses, and your heart beats twice as fast. The temperature in your body rises and your peripheral view shifts out of focus as you defend your position during the quarrel. For many, losing an argument can be seen as a form of death. In conceding to the other person, you face an inner loss, a defeat, a sense of powerlessness. In the seconds proceeding the aftermath of the argument, your ego dies. It is in this way that a simple argument becomes more than a trivial matter — it becomes a matter of life and death. 

When described in this way, it undoubtedly sounds absurd. While the idea of a simple disagreement may seem trivial, many of us have personally seen and experienced how such arguments can very easily escalate into major disputes — sometimes even violent ones. Eckhart Tolle, a spiritual teacher, explains this phenomenon as “identifying with the form.” In his book, The Power of Now, Eckhart speaks about the chaos of form, and why contemplating and practicing death is a tool to enhance our quality of life. 

Identification with the form 

Eckhart explains that our realities are filtered through the lens of what he calls the “surface I.” This is the dimension in which most of us understand ourselves to be — one that has a past, a future, and our personal story. Through the surface I, we base who we are on the circumstances around us, such as our family and friends, career, achievements and failures. 

Through this lens, our sense of identity is ever-changing, as it is bound by form. What arises from this are feelings of insecurity, instability and an over-importance of the people, things and situations with which we identify that make us who we think we are. People can even identify with a particular idea — over which they would fight tooth and nail to win an argument — because it holds their very sense of identity.

But there is a second dimension called the “deep I.” Eckhart describes this as the dimension beyond the surface I. In this dimension, you no longer identify with form. Instead, your sense of identity lives in the understanding that you are already complete and whole. 

Contemplating death before you die 

Death is oftentimes considered a dreadful thing. It brings a sense of sorrow and fear. Yet, death is a natural process that all living beings will experience. Understanding and accepting the reality that our lives are not meant to last forever is a crucial step to finding peace. 

Although what happens after death is a mystery, many people who have experienced the death of a loved one can agree that an existential shift occurs in every passing. The body becomes cold, detached and lifeless. Yet, the essence of the being that once was can still be felt from time to time, as if it lives on forever.  

Although our bodies dissolve, our essence remains untouchable. To prepare us for this inevitability of death, we can extend the same understanding of life’s impermanence to our day-to-day lives. As we continue to remove our identifications from people, things and situations, we realize who we really are — beings who are beyond form; essences who go beyond death. 

Experiencing the fullness of life

As we continue to practice living our most authentic selves, we can appreciate what life has to offer in a more meaningful way. We can let the inevitability of death remind us of the impermanence of form. In the end, the only life worth living is not the one that lasts forever, but one that realizes the truth of who we really are. 

Judith has a background in psychology and statistics. Her deep interest in human behavior and affinity for self-reflection motivates her passion for helping readers better understand mental health and personal growth. Visit her personal blog here for more of her work:

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