Die Before You Die

Die Before You Die

“The secret of life is to die before you die and find that there is no death.”

~ Eckhart Tolle

That is one hell of a powerful quote don’t you think?

But what in the hell does it mean? How can you die before you die?

And how can dying paradoxically be the secret of life?

Well it’s only in the second “die” that Tolle refers to physical death. The first “die” actually refers to the death of our identification with our mind.

Throughout our lives since we are very young we form a self-identity. This is who we think we are which is partly based on our experiences and partly formed by our social environment – that is how people see us and interact with us.

We have a nexus of “evidence” – images, memories, impressions, beliefs – that make up the mental profile we have of ourselves. A cumulative life-history that gives us a sense of self.

It’s a long list full of “I am this, I know that, I have this, I love this, and I wish that”.

I think you get the idea.

We attach these things to our own self. That is to say we identify ourselves with them. In other words, we identify ourselves with external things or partial and fleeting perceptions we have about our world and how we feel about it.

We don’t do this intentionally or with purpose. It is a “default program” of the mind to make associations between things, identify fixed points of reference and make sense of reality by categorizing things and experiences.

There is no fault as such in this. The problem comes when that program completely runs your life unconsciously. This means that you are not conscious of the fact that you can be different or more than that image or identity you have of yourself.

You run the risk of attaching yourself to a false identity. This is what some spiritual traditions call the illusion of mind and of the self. You become completely entrapped in that reality like there is nothing more outside of it.

The essence of the problem is that because you identify yourself with certain beliefs, ideas or external things you strongly believe that if you lose them you will lose who you are (this is why we react badly when we feel that one of those things – like our beliefs – are being challenged or threatened). Or else that in order to be more complete you need to get more of those things like possessions, social status, recognition, knowledge, special abilities, relationships and what have you.

The truth is that none of these will actually bring completion. When you get them you realize that you’re still not there and you search for more down a bottomless pit. It brings eternal dissatisfaction which no self-gratification can relinquish.

Death, according to Tolle, is the “stripping away” of all that is not you. It is the stripping away of those beliefs encoded by society, those fears, those assumptions, those half-baked truths that become your internal reality after many years. Death is when that bubble bursts and you see yourself as you truly are. You understand that you are much more than you “thought”.

This brings us back to the quote. To die before you die is a way of saying that you strip off those illusions before you physically die and realize that there is no death, for you are more than your physical embodiment and those limited perceptions you identify yourself with.

To die before you die is realizing that you are not what you possess or achieved or your inclinations and dispositions. It’s understanding that your being is much more than your having or your doing.

It’s peeping into your naked true and authentic self and being more alive than you can ever be.

I get paid to teach people to strip.

I like to call it “The Full Monty”.
Original huh?



  1. Sal-OM, Good day to you. Wow. I didn’t get to finish your article but I will, as I was moved to share a little first, becasue the beginning seems great so far. I am really thankful and feel it was a gift that I was introduced to the idea of die befrore I die. My friends in conversation brought it up when talking about life and struggles. They remembered reading of the concept and tried to explain but struggled and than brought out the book and I read it out loud to the 4 of us (Mom, Infant Son, Father and I). It resonated with me pretty instantly and I was able to remember enough of what this spiritual exercise was about and how to, and that evening I decided to give it a go. I have been in trauma recovery for 20 years (first started remembering), and deeply for the past 3 with professionals and lately my progress has been clear to me though I was starting to ask myself questions I had not before and recognized behaviors in myself I was not comfortable in continuing but struggling to change, but I was also felt stuck, like I needed alittle more and than I could move past, but what? This exercise I needed at this time, place and for this person, it really was a gift. I have a strong and creative imagination I like to believe so imaging myself dead and having faced thoughts of not wanting to live I figured “bring it”, Surprise, witnessing my funeral and those who loved me present and we are all grieving was beautiful in a way I find hard to articulate at this time. I finally connected with what I had to give up.. Not just the things that, I was happy to and ready to, and the suffering I felt was present but also those things that I was not ready to give up, love, joy, friendships, attachments to this body and that grieved me deeply, truly and fully. It started a process that has been going on since, I am still processing and it feels like it is done so out of actual forgiveness, love and acceptance. I don’t feel scared, frozen and a weight has lifted. I still live with PTSD but it doesn’t define me as much as it shaped me. It’s still going on in me and I am thankful for so many things I won’t get into and don’t have to let go of. I am surprised to say the least, but mostly happy, for the first time in 8 years I am able to admit to myself I am happy, excited and optimistic my healing and success is guaranteed. and I have been working hard, willingly. Will there be hard days, I’m counting on it, bring it, I got this. I’m surprised, but I know I was ready, and just needed the right tool to help the healing bloom. I’m not sure if others can experience such as I did, but I hope so, as I’ve been processing much of this, and this helped to give a fresh perspective on it. Yay!. ATTG

  2. True very nice

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