“Pale Rider”

In Johnny Cash’s epic song “When the Man Comes Around”, he orates this snippet from the biblical poem, Revelations:

And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts, and I looked and behold: a pale horse. And his name, that sat on him, was Death. And Hell followed with him.

In my early 40s, I had the premonition that I would die before I turned 50. Well, 50 is two weeks from today. So it could still happen. This premonition has served to help me examine my mortality and my perspectives on death. It’s been a reminder to be bold, to pursue adventures, to tell the people I love that I love them. In short, I became at peace (mostly) with the thought of my potential demise.

But I missed the point of the premonition. My westernized brain took it literally. As with many things from the spiritual realm, it was a metaphor, a symbol of something more.

After my awakening in 2014 and the ensuing events of life, I had arrived at the comforting illusion of completion of growth; a finished state to live the rest of my days out — however many that may be. The past 40 days have revealed the premonition was true. And the illusion of permanence was blatantly untrue.

It is difficult to describe the different kind of death that I’m experiencing. But let’s call it the Death of Dependency. For my entire time on this earth, I have sought outside of myself validation and confirmation of my worth. This was especially true about my masculinity; for which I sought validation from both men and women. I wanted to be seen by others as accomplished, tough, desirable, thoughtful, smart. After my awakening, I still wanted all of these — along wanting validation of my spirituality and wisdom. I would often use my sovereignty as a bargaining chip: “I will give you a piece of me which I expect you to validate. And you give me a piece of you which I will validate so that everything will be equal.”

So this thing called Dependency had to die. And for the past 40 days, it has.

The archetype I’d crafted to be admired had to die; and with the death of dependency also came the death of expectations, plans, assumptions, roles, narratives. It killed arrogance — especially the arrogance that I can control time and love. And the arrogance that I can craft a story in which I am loved without being hurt or disappointed.

This kind of death is an ego-death (not death of the ego). Meaning, our mind constructs archetypes that it thinks it needs in order to feel safe, secure and accepted. When the Truth comes along, the mind protects this archetype or identity and reacts as if it is literal, physical death. All of this is dreadfully painful unto itself and manifests as anxiety, grief, fear, co-dependency.

At the root of ego-death is fear of loss. As such, fear of death produces all kinds of dishonesty — ranging from delusional stories intended to comfort and/or control to negotiating to unhealthy self-soothing.

Death is necessary for growth. That is true in evolution. It is true in relationships. It is true in spiritual maturity and emotional resilience.

But it still sucks.

I can say, however, that there is life on the other side of it. It is a resurrection of sorts — but not a resurrection into our old lives and old meanings.

My first glimmer of life-after-death is when I held my grandson for the first time a short while ago. My mind had manufactured a story that becoming a grandfather meant that I was now officially old — and therefore less desirable and more obsolete. As I held him, I felt a space open up in my heart that I didn’t know was there. The story my mind had been telling was not true. In his birth, I felt the stirring of re-birth in me.

If that was a lie, what other lies had Dependency been telling me?

I needed someone outside of me to validate my masculinity and worth. That was a lie.

I needed to tell false stories to make others feel safe and secure. That was a lie.

My plans, my expectations, my ways of doing things were as powerful as God’s plans, expectations and ways of doing things. That was a lie.

Having anxiety, feeling negative feelings, expressing feelings were all things to control lest I be seen as weak. That was a lie.

Everything my mind told me about death turned out not to be true. And, in fact, the opposite was true: Love arrives as death.

As of this writing, I’m not through this valley of death yet. There is still more grief to feel, more listening, more humility and compassion to learn. Hard days remain. Many more tears will be shed. I feel strengthened by acceptance of what is, by perseverance, by sovereign boundaries. I can see a mountain on the other side; a mountain called Integration. Where wholeness of being is the law. Where radical acceptance is practiced and radical truth is told.

If you are willing to walk your own valley of death, I will meet you there at this mountain.

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