Before I Wake Up, Part 3
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6:19-21
One way to picture our journey to spiritual awakening, heaven, nirvana, unitive consciousness, enlightenment, or any other of the names for our growth toward God is through the gates of cleaning up, growing up, showing up, and waking up. At the beginning of this series of reflections I posed the question, “What happens if I die before I wake up?” I should probably disclose, again, that I have no personal experience with death, as in the ending of my earthly days, at least not in this lifetime. In addition, since waking up is a metaphorical as opposed to a concretized concept, the degree to which I have awakened is questionable.
Waking up, in the spiritual sense, refers to the realization that there is a vast, unfathomable, and eternal life occurring just beneath the surface of the life we know on earth. Of course it is not literally “beneath the surface” of this life, as in being physically below us. Rather, it is all around and within us. We catch glimpses of that life, although we seldom recognize what we are seeing or experiencing as such. We write off these manifestations as coincidences or other random chance events. Most often, perhaps, we do not see the emanations of the greater life simply because we are not looking for them. We tend to limit our attention to familiar, predictable aspects of our lives, and we treat the rest as if it does not exist. Just because we do not notice something, however, does not mean it does not exist. Think of cell phone signals, radio waves, and dog whistles.
Once we develop a belief in the expansive life that supports this earthly life, we begin to realize that there is a greater, truer self that is the foundation of the more limited self we identify with in this earthly life. Many authors call this foundational essence our true self, while naming our more familiar self as our false self, small self, or ego self. Author and teacher Tilden Edwards names the ego our confused friend. That label honors the fact that having an earthly identity (false self) is necessary, but without the knowledge of our deeper being and of our deeper life, that self is insecure, narcissistic, bossy, and often petty. Our ego self tells us we are what we do and what others think of us. Our true self knows we are manifestations of God, created in the image and likeness of God. That knowledge transcends everything we do and overrides anything others say about us. I believe that in Jesus’ reference to our treasures that moth and rust consume, he is pointing to our false self and our tendency to look to it as our true essence and treasure. His encouragement is to find our true essence and treasure in something larger and eternal – like the love of God – which is most fully experienced through our true self.
Waking up occurs as we begin recognizing the eternal love from which we manifest. Not unlike waking from an unpleasant dream, we remember that life is good, we are good, and that we are loved and cared for in spite of our oft-displayed shortcomings. To understand that we each have a deeper, eternal nature is the underlying reality of faith, which is not something that we force ourselves to proclaim because we feel we should. Rather, true faith is based on knowledge from experience, even though that knowledge is not from measurable data nor is it anything we can easily put into words. Once we have awakened to it, we know, and nothing can separate us from that knowledge.
So, what happens if we die before we wake up, having been reacquainted with our eternal and true self? We live life on earth out of our false self, characterized by all manner of insecurities, fears, self-doubts, and suspicions. Because we feel small, threatened, and disconnected from the life around us we react violently, in verbal or physical ways, to whatever does not fit our limited picture of life. Are there eternal consequences to not waking up before we die? Probably not, because I think our false self dies with our body at our physical death. Waking up may make little difference in terms of eternity, but it makes a big difference to our experience in this life, as well as in the lives of those around us.
This is the 51st in the series of Life Notes titled, If I Should Die Before I Wake. I invite your thoughts, insights, and feedback via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through my website, www.ContemplatingGrace.com. At the website, you can also sign up to have these reflections delivered to your Inbox every Thursday morning, if you are not receiving them in another manner.
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