Everyone is Just Trying to Get Born Before They Die

In the past year I have my life has been greatly blessed by getting to know the inspired, skillful teachings of Stephen Levine. I highly recommend his A Gradual Awakening, Healing into Life and Death, and Who Dies?—An Investigation of Conscious Living and Conscious Dying, the latter two being extremely helpful and skillful treatments of life and death.

Right now, I am reading his spiritual autobiography, Turning Toward the Mystery. From the very beginning, Levine had a deep spiritual hunger, and yet like most of us, he struggled to find his way to a deep, meaningful understanding of the life—a path with heart.

Levine recounts his troubled youth, being a drug addict who lived and worked with the seminal figures of the Beat poetry and jazz scene in New York. He describes his life in the psychedelic sixties in San Francisco, and explains how his spiritual seeking eventually led him to spiritual teachers like Ram Dass, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, and the Dalai Lama.

I have found his story so moving, and so deeply helpful to understanding my own struggles that I can hardly put the book down. Almost every page has something that illuminates something I’ve been struggling to understand in my own life. His depth of compassion and his understanding of the human heart are so very healing.

As I slowly work through the book—it’s the kind of book that you makes you stop and ponder your own life—I will share some passages that stand out to me.

Here’s a passage that really struck me today:

“Healing is a clearing of the path ahead for what used to be called purification before Freud and those frightening images of hell projected from so many ancient holy books made us even more frightened and distrusting of ourselves.

Purification does not deal in heinous sin or colorful fetish, but simply in letting something more merciful than frightened judgment embrace whatever we fear is impure, whatever remains yet unloved.

Some refer to this process as “opening the lotus,” because the lotus must rise above often dark and fetid waters before it can bloom.

Indeed, in this process, I had to remind myself more than once not to think in terms of perfection, but instead of liberation. Watching how feelings of imperfection were drawn toward the “perfection” of the religious ideal (which gives rise to so much judgement and so many holy wars), rather than the liberation of the spirit from such conceptual encumbrances.

Everyone is just trying to get born before they die.”


About Steven Goodheart

"I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them." Spinoza

2 Responses to “Everyone is Just Trying to Get Born Before They Die”

  1. Another book I must read! I so appreciate the gentle message of letting go as the path of awakening. I’ve studied Buddhism and Christian mystic traditions for many years and they all come down to what the Course in Miracles calls the only two real emotions: Love or Fear. Fear is the ego. Love is the true self. Thanks, again for your Metta Refuge


  1. How long will it take to bring our Narcissus off the cross? « Metta Refuge - 2011/03/14

    […] Everyone is Just Trying to Get Born Before They Die […]

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