Shedding the False Self

When I first heard about ‘death’ as a child, it was described as ‘going to sleep and never waking up’.  I remember being both terrified and unconvinced.  The thought of there being no ‘I’ didn’t make sense at all.  How could ‘I’ not exist, the 8-year-old me wondered?  I reassured myself that, surely, someone would discover a ‘cure’ for this thing called ‘death’ long before my time arrived. 

Little did I realise that Life itself, in its own time, and in its own way, would offer up a healing elixir, a soothing balm, which would provide all the assurances I needed.  And that it would come to me, after decades of striving and searching for answers, when I finally learned to ‘let go’.

The question of whether there is life after death is the question that sits silently, awaiting its answer, within many a human soul.  It’s like the ultimate missing piece of a giant quantum jigsaw puzzle.

While many spiritual traditions speak of ‘eternal life’ or ‘reincarnation’, it still takes a lot to be persuaded.  Faith will take us so far, but for something to resonate within us as Truth, we need to feel it deep within.

One of the ways we can access our own deeper Truth is through Qi Gong, the ancient art and science of “energy cultivation”. 

Far from being a religion or doctrine, Qi Gong requires nothing more than the awareness that we are not just our physical bodies. And that, as science has proven, we are primarily made up of ‘energy’ and part of an infinite energy field.

When I think back to my 8 year-old-self, clearly, the physical body that I have today bears no resemblance to the body I had then.  I am also a completely different person emotionally, mentally, and in terms of my conscious awareness. 

However, there is a part of me that has not changed – the “witness” or “overseer” of my life remains the same.  In Qi Gong, we call this our “Shen”. 

Everyone can access the formless, energetic part of themselves directly, whether through Qi Gong, meditation, or other mindfulness practices. 

By cultivating our Shen, we start to identify more with the timeless, indestructible, energetic part of ourselves, rather than over-identifying with our physical bodies.

By being the “observer” of our thoughts and feelings, instead of defining ourselves by them, we can rise above our problems and concerns. 

As many spiritual teachers have said, we have to be willing to let go of everything that ‘we are not’ in order to find our true selves.  In other words, we have to be willing to shed the ‘false self’.  

These days, many of us play out our lives pretending to be happy, or making sure we’re so busy that we never have to look within, when, deep down, we know something is ‘off’, we feel an emptiness inside.

The more we feed the lies of the false self, the more our precious life-force energy leaks out from us like water from a bucket full of holes.  It takes a heavy toll not only on our physical body, but on our emotional, mental and spiritual bodies as well.  We become tired, frustrated, anxious, depressed. 

However, our whole life can change when we recognise ourselves as part of an energy field full of unfathomable intelligence and complexity.  We learn that it is pointless trying to control life and figure everything out in our head.  We find that our real power is in being ‘present’ and simply surrendering to the mystery of the “all that is”.  

We can experience ourselves as part of this infinite energy field while watching a sunrise or sunset, or gazing at the stars, or catch a glimpse of eternity when we look into the eyes of a loved one.

If we take this perspective into our lives as a whole, it becomes possible to ‘die while we are alive’, to release all of the limited personal constructs we have formed about who we think we are, and be in the world in a much lighter, more expanded way. 

By doing so, we can transcend not only the fear of death itself, but even the fear we have about different parts of our life coming to an end, such as the death of a relationship, a business, a job, or a dream we have outgrown.

It isn’t easy to relinquish the false self.  It means daring to go against the grain of society. We have to be prepared to give up the known for the unknown. This requires courage, an unwavering trust in life itself, and the steadfast conviction to not betray our own souls.

As we lay the past versions of ourselves to rest, with forgiveness, gratitude and love, we are propelled ever-forward on our spiritual path towards the true security we seek.

Like a snake shedding its skin, letting go of what no longer serves us creates space for more life-force energy to flow in, so that an even better version of the “I” that never dies can emerge and flourish.

  • This article was published in the October/November 2019 issue of Connect Magazine, North Queensland.