Get out feeling good. (The wise grieve neither for the living nor for the dead).

Via Ben Ralston
on Jul 14, 2011
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Jacques-Louis David, The Death of Marat, oil on canvas, 1793 (Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels)

You probably think you are “(insert your name)”. You’re not – you can legally change your name, but you won’t have changed what you are – your name is just a handle with which the world is able to pick you up and examine you.

You probably think of yourself as either a man or a woman. You’re not. That is just a gender association that you make based upon the genetic choices that your cells made when your body was being formed biologically. You are only an association as long as you are not being the genuine article.

You probably think of yourself primarily as your body. Most people do.

You’re not your body anymore than you are your car!

When you sit in your car, you don’t say: “I am a Ford / Honda / Daewoo”! (At least, I hope you don’t). You probably say: “I’m driving my Daewoo”.

Your car is just a vehicle that transports you from A to B.

Your body is just a vehicle that transports you from A to B. A very beautiful, wonderful, miraculous vehicle, but a vehicle nonetheless.

You are not your body. This may sound strange to you until you consider the following: if you have an accident one day and the doctor has to amputate a leg or two, (let’s say for the sake of argument – all your limbs)… will you be any less you? No, you’ll be the same you, just without arms and legs.

You probably think of yourself as American (or Slovene, English… whatever nationality passport you carry). You are not. That is just a label that you were given. Labels limit you  – you are much more than a label.

You are not American any more than you are Christian, or Buddhist, or Jewish, or Muslim, or … insert any other religious / spiritual belief system. These are just labels that you identify with. The real you is beyond labels, beyond identification.

You are pure light (bear with me here if you’re allergic to new-age-isms – I am too! But this is truth…) You are all colors and no color. You are pure light.

You are pure light. You are pure consciousness. You are pure love.

What is pure light, consciousness, love? Are these just nice words; nice new-age concepts that are devoid of real meaning?

No! They seem that way sometimes because their meaning is so subtle… but love, light, and consciousness are the fundamental properties of existence!

‘In the beginning was the word’: Consciousness.

And God said, ‘let there be light’: Consciousness.

Pure consciousness is what you really are.

Pure consciousness is your essence.

Your body, emotions, and thoughts are simply waves of consciousness. All that you think you are – just waves of consciousness.

What you really are is pure consciousness.

Swami Vishnu Devananda used to say something every morning when he taught the Sivananda Yoga teacher training course. He used to ask the question:

“What is today?”

When I was asked this same question (by his disciple Swami Mahadevananda), I replied ‘Monday’.

He said ‘No’. And waited.

5th February?

No’. Long pause.

Your birthday?!

Smile. ‘No. It’s another day closer to death’.

Today is another day closer to death.

Death is coming. Sooner or later it will catch up with you… how will you feel in that moment?

Will you be afraid? Sad? Regretful?

Will you be joyful? Excited? Will you celebrate?!

What dies is only the body. We do not die. Just as it is written in the Bhagavad Gita:

“The wise grieve neither for the living nor for the dead.

Nor at any time indeed was I not, nor these rulers of men, nor verily shall we ever cease to be hereafter.

Just as in this body the embodied (soul) passes into childhood, youth and old age, so also does he pass into another body; the firm man does not grieve thereat…

…The unreal hath no being; there is no non-being of the Real; the truth about both has been seen by the knowers of the Truth.

Know That to be indestructible, by whom all this is pervaded. None can cause the destruction of That, the Imperishable.

Weapons cut It not, fire burns It not, water wets It not, wind dries It not.

This Self cannot be cut, burnt, wetted nor dried up. It is eternal, all-pervading, stable, ancient and immovable.”

So, the job, the house, the ‘stuff’. All the places we direct our attention: how important are they? You can’t take any of it with you.

At that final moment, when you are about to leave this body, the only thing that will matter is how you feel. That is important. You won’t be thinking about your bank balance, or your mortgage, or the news, or any of the other things that take up so much of our time these days.

You will be aware only of how you feel.

My advice: get out feeling good (without regret; without sadness; without fear).

Because perhaps death is just the first step of the next part of your journey, and the first step of any journey is a big one.

Get out feeling good.

‘Like ‘ it, share it, spread the love!


About Ben Ralston

Ben Ralston has been practising personal development—necessity being the Mother of invention—since he was about six years old. He’s been teaching and sharing what he’s learnt along the way for a couple of decades. His main thing is Heart of Tribe retreats—whose very purpose is to help you fall back in love with life, no less. Leading these retreats alongside his woman Kara-Leah Grant—also an elephant journal writer (that’s how they met!)—they combine a deep well of lineage-based yoga teaching experience, with expertise in healing trauma and various other methods of personal development. Ben also works with clients one-on-one via Skype, writes, makes videos from time to time, and is passionate about parenting. He lives in an intentional, tribal community in the hills of Croatia, where you might find him gardening barefoot and talking to the rocks. Connect with Ben on Facebook or YouTube or check out his website for more info.


29 Responses to “Get out feeling good. (The wise grieve neither for the living nor for the dead).”

  1. Ben_Ralston says:

    Leave a comment. Comments are good 🙂

  2. Wow. This is not only a well written piece, but also takes away that generally esoteric feeling I get when thinking of death and how that fits into this life. Keeping in mind that today, being Thursday, being the evening I teach, being a day in which I'll probably have some pasta, is also one day closer to death really does change the vibe. Thank you for writing this, for sharing your vision, and for reminding me that I am much, much more than my body. Kindly, ~Temple

  3. Ben_Ralston says:

    Wow. This comment is not only really well written… thank you 🙂

  4. Laura says:

    Great article! This is a good point especially for a society with high expectations. I tend to forget these important things as I get stuck in the rat race, or fear. Having witnessed a close family member die from brain cancer, it really put things in perspective. During her illness and fight, she was a true hero who gracefully accepted life, death and everything in between.

  5. Iwona Borawska-Cebra says:

    Ohhhh… so that is why I refuse to attach myself to this life so consistently for a long time! short and wise explanation – thank you Ben! XOXO

  6. Ben_Ralston says:

    Hi Laura, yeah it's a good point that society's high expectations pull us out of our simplicity.
    And I understand your perspective gained from your loved one's illness. I also experienced this, and although it was painful and challenging as hell, when i look back I realize that it was equally transformational and enlightening. If you're interested, I wrote a couple of articles about it here:
    With love, Ben

  7. Ben_Ralston says:

    But there is a very fine line Iwona, between living fearlessly (non-attached) and hiding because of some deep subconscious fear (also non-attached, but obviously, for opposite reasons.
    If I understood you correctly (intuitively) there is some fear…
    Thank you for the comment, and I hope you understand what I'm talking about!
    Love, Ben

  8. Tracy says:

    Thank you for putting into words exactly how I feel!

  9. iloveginger says:

    I want to live fearless!! feeling comfort after ready this piece Ben, it has changed my day..this day closer to death.

  10. Ben_Ralston says:

    Thank you for feeling exactly what I put into words!

  11. Ben_Ralston says:

    What's stopping you from living fearlessly Ginger? Tell me, I want to know.

  12. Nadine says:

    Awesome! Love it!

  13. Laura says:

    Wow Ben… I'm speechless.. Thank you for those links. Thank you for being so honest and sharing such a painful, sad loss. And allowing us in your mind/being (regrets, lessons etc.).

    When I looked into my mother-in-law's eyes, I saw the peace and surrender. I saw fearlessness in her eyes. It was absolutely heartbreaking to see such a strong, beautiful woman slip away by this horrible disease. Losing motor skills, having seizures, etc. And yet, she remained with a great sense of humour, dignity and wisdom. My husband and I cared for her, as long as we could, until the rest of the family came and she went to a home and hospice care.

    Sometimes I felt confused by all these different feelings and emotions. A strong sense of powerlessness, anger and disappointment with God, struggle with my own dreams in life. "What good is it for when a disease can wipe it all out??"

  14. Laura says:

    I still struggle after this intense experience. But then I read articles like yours, and it reminds me of all the lessons I learned from her. Different words, perspectives, revelations, lessons, experiences, leading to that same thing "You can't take it with you".. and "Get out feeling good". Thank you:)

  15. tanya lee markul says:

    Great article! Very inspiring!

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Assoc. Yoga Editor
    Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
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  16. Lezlee says:

    A wonderful article, thank you Ben.

    I have no conscious fear of death and hope to pass over with a smile on my face. Although I am in no hurry to leave this time, this visit to earth, I look forward to the day I am released from this body with excitement!

    As you say, this body is just a vehicle to carry our true selves around while we are here. We come to be a part of something; to learn, to grow and, possibly the most important part, to ‘experience.’ Sadly we forget all this as we enter the world and struggle to find meaning in existence. Thankfully, more and more people are waking up to the fact that there is more to us than what we physically see; much much more.

    Due to my beliefs being the same as yours I don't see the need to grieve much either as I look forward to the day I will be reunited with kindred spirits, on the other side. People I have been blessed to know have spent the time here they were meant to and if they have passed over, then it was their time to pass over and be released from their physical vehicle. It seems to me that people attach so much emotion to others that if someone dies they are completely beside themselves with grief and I wonder if it's because of their fear of death for themselves. I look forward to the day when we celebrate the person’s life and celebrate that we got the chance to spend time with them rather than focusing on the fact that we think we will never see them again. In any parting of ways, either through passing over, moving physically away, losing touch etc, we should reflect on the time we had with that person and ponder on what we may have learnt. In every relationship there are lessons to learn for all.

    What puzzles me is why this vehicle has to be so bloomin complicated inside!!

  17. tanya lee markul says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage. <3

  18. Ben_Ralston says:

    Thank you 🙂

  19. Ben_Ralston says:

    It's only complicated when we *think* about it. When there's a problem, we think about it, and then it appears complicated right?
    But usually everything works as it should and we don't even notice it. For example – the digestive process. Normally you eat, and after swallowing you don't give any more thought to the food. Your body breaks it down, processes it, filters out what you need from what you don't, and finally excretes the stuff you can't use. Pretty amazing, and pretty complicated, but when it's all working properly we don't pay any attention and it seems to be very uncomplicated.
    Only when there is a problem do we feel that the body is complicated… then we suffer.
    Just a thought…

  20. tanya lee markul says:

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  21. Ben_Ralston says:

    Yes, I read lately about how when people are dying, they tend to have similar regrets. "I wish I had.."
    Not worked so hard at a job I didn't like…
    Kept in touch with my friends…
    Spent more time with Loved Ones…
    None of 'it' matters, except that life is really short, and we must relish it.

  22. […] Get out feeling good. (The wise grieve neither for the living nor for the dead)./a> […]

  23. […] Get out feeling good. (The wise grieve neither for the living nor for the dead)./a> […]

  24. Melissa says:

    This is one i will definitely revisit. I want to print it out and hang it on my wall! Thank you, Ben!
    Much love,

  25. Sam Drewel says:

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  26. Glenn says:

    Ben, you nailed it again…another great article bringing us back to the simple important truths. Ties in with a quote I read couple of days ago that stopped me in my tracks "You're afraid to die and you're afraid to live…what a way to exist"..So hard to break out of this inner prison we've/they've built into ourselves. More power to you, your articles are very interesting to read, relevant and just good soul food. Keep them coming!