Death and Rebirth
In 1999, about three weeks before my 28th birthday, I died.
That may sound odd, in light of the fact that I certainly seem to be alive at the time of writing this some 21 years later.
In the summer of my 28th year, 1999, I started to have some strange experiences. The boundaries between my internal world and the external world seemed to start dissolving. The sky was like a mirror, I would watch dogs taking their owners for walks, the sight of pigeons pecking the pavement would make me weep, I would pick up books, pick a page at random and start reading backwards and find deep meaning apparently revealed there. I was writing strange words and symbols and diagrams. The whole world seemed to be laden with deep, hidden meaning constantly revealing itself. If I had gone to a doctor or mental health professional, I would possibly have been diagnosed with schizophrenia or psychosis of some kind.
This experience came to a climax on the 9th September, 1999. I was watching TV with my housemates when this guy came on the TV from the Exodus Collective, (a sound system from Luton) , and something in me was triggered. It was like an explosion going off in my psyche.
In my vision, I had died. I could see what was happening in the room around me, but there was another reality overlaying that one, and in that reality, I had died. I was overwhelmed with grief for all the things, all the people, my whole life, the whole world that I had to leave behind. That night, I experienced a series of intense visions, including a life review in which I could feel the affect that my words and actions had had on other people, some of whom I barely remembered meeting. It was a deeply humbling experience.
In the morning, I was apparently fine, back to normal, and I was able to carry on with my life and go back to work as before. But my life did change drastically after that experience. You might say "shit got real". I took refuge with a Buddhist teacher and began a meditation practise. I changed my diet. I moved to the country and grew vegetables, working with my hands, living closer to the land. Looking back, I realise now that I went through a process of grounding myself, getting myself better connected with the natural world, and with myself.
I know now, that the age of 28 is when we experience something that astrologers call Saturn Return. I am not an astrologer, but apparently the planet Saturn is on a 14 year orbit and when it comes back around to the position it was in when you were born it can cause major upheaval and shifts in your life. For many people, Saturn Return can involve some kind of a death or major life change. Rock Stars famously have a tendency to die at the age of 27, 28. Some people might get married or have a baby, perhaps have a change of career or move house.
I am glad to say that I have not had any experiences quite like that since, but I have certainly experienced other forms of death and rebirth in my life. Romantic relationships beginning, falling in love, my son being born, being a parent, building a home, being a family, planting seeds, new jobs, projects, ventures, relatives and friends dying, relationships ending, separation, friendships falling away, losing a home, work changing, setting up camp, striking camp, moving through different phases of life, endings, beginning again, losing it all again, beginning again.
In this life, nothing is fixed. Everything is in a constant flow and flux. The only constant is change. Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter. Everything that is born, shall die. There is great sadness and there is great joy. Every death is the birth of a new way of being. Every birth is the death of an old way of being. As we live our lives, we may observe cycles of time on a micro scale and on the macro scale. Sometimes, when we look back perhaps we can see that we had to die to ourselves to be reborn as ourselves.
Often this process demands great humility of us. It requires that we grieve what is lost, which can become like a celebration, offering praise and gratitude for what we had. Perhaps we realise the value of what we took for granted. Perhaps we see that our old way of being no longer served us. Such times can be challenging and difficult as the fabric of our reality seems to disintegrate around us. They have to be entered into fully. You cannot skirt around them. You cannot get anyone else to do it for you. You've got to go there yourself. No one wants to suffer, but it seems that life requires that we go through experiences of growth and decay, birth and death, and that these can be seen as perfectly natural and somehow essential to our growth and development. With humility can come wisdom.
When we do have the courage to die, to be with death, we come out the other side more alive. Life is death. Death is birth. Birth is life. We are all going to die. We can practise dying while we're still alive.
I salute all of you, you who are brave enough to have come on this journey of being human.
Keep it real.