Die on Purpose

chair in the desert

I think it’s really helpful to forget you exist, and often.

It sounds impossible, but it can be done.

Here’s an exercise I do sometimes to achieve that perspective:

Wherever I am, whatever location I am in, I picture the situation exactly as it would be if I wasn’t there. I just watch it like it’s a movie, and the people still in the scene are the actors. Or maybe there’s nobody around at all, it’s just an empty corner of the world sharing a moment with itself. Whatever the scene, it feels like I’m watching it remotely from some far-off theater. It’s all still happening, but I’m not there.

I absorb myself in the details of how it looks and sounds. The characters’ tones of voice, their gestures, the room around them, the background noise. I can let it be whatever it is without any apprehension, because I’m not there, so I have no means — or reason — to stop it or control it, or to wish it was different.

And something amazing happens: all of my concerns and interests just disappear. I watch the moment unfold however it pleases. No part of me is invested in the moment, it just becomes whatever it wills to be, and it doesn’t matter what happens. The effect is exhilarating and liberating. It seems to be quite a miracle that there is even something happening at all. And it’s always, always beautiful.

Think of it as dying on purpose.

Imagine you just died, right now. All of your responsibilities, relationships, plans and worries would vanish like they were never even real, and the world would go on perfectly fine without your input, just like it did before you existed. It’s nothing personal, just the plain truth.

Your hopes and worries never mattered anyway. They only appeared to be so critical because while you were alive you had the insidious (but normal) human habit of seeing things only insofar as they relate to you and your interests.

Really, try this. Imagine you’ve died but you can still watch what happens. You can even wander around the house or the neighborhood like that. Suddenly, the spectacle of what happens is all that’s important, and how it might affect you has nothing to do with it whatsoever, because there is no you.

If you can achieve that mindset of being utterly absent — and it’s not difficult — you will experience no self-consciousness, no worries, no angst, no fear. Just stuff happening. Interesting stuff. Poetic and absurd and compelling all at the same time.

The sensation of “not being there” is one of utter clarity. It will feel as if you’ve dropped a weight you never knew you were carrying.

Once you get a feel for that state, you will realize how much of your everyday thoughts are not about what actually happens, but about what’s in it for you or not in it for you. Those thoughts are the source of all self-consciousness, fear, longing and existential pain.

There is no sufferer, so there is no suffering. Curiously, beauty survives.

You will find that what happens around you is always beautiful and painless if you can watch it without evaluating it against your personal interests. And that’s easy to do when you’re not there.

So die, often.

R

Photo by David Cain

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This will never happen again cover


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{ 86 Comments }

Yasmin April 12, 2010 at 12:59 am

This post is sort of poetic in a way. Completely removing yourself from a situation altogether removes any “emotional” stuff that comes with being in any situation at any given time… It sort of reminds me of the concept of living in the “now” except you’ve taken it a step further…. Focusing on what is occurring at this very moment (without involving our past or present perspectives) but also removing yourself from the situation that is occurring and looking at it as an outsider (an objective perspective). The couple of times I’ve been able to remove myself from a situation, things absolutely start to look “beautiful” because I just let them be without trying to analyze them or change them. I wish I could do this more often but its very difficult to step away from a situation and let things be. I really like this post. Thank you for sharing it!

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David April 12, 2010 at 2:44 am

Yes, well said. As humans, we’re clingy by nature. We have a habit of interpreting everything as symbols of “good for me,” “bad for me,” or “makes not difference to me.” Once we assess what each person or event symbolizes, we can’t see it from a different perspective. This is why we dismiss the good qualities of people who we’ve decided we don’t like, and why we downplay the weaknesses of something we do like.

Thanks for your comment, you really nailed it.

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David April 12, 2010 at 1:44 am

Is there any good way to get into that mindset? I love this idea.

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David April 12, 2010 at 2:50 am

The exercise above works when you are in a relatively open and stable mood. Trying it frequently will familiarize you with the sense of not living from your ego, though it is difficult to carry that same sensation while you are actively thinking and judging, which we all must do from time to time.

There is another method that can return you to that state of absence (or emptiness) quite reliably. I’m currently experimenting with it and I’ll write about it when I’ve explored it some more. It’s actually even simpler than this and the potential is incredible.

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Jasmine Spann July 30, 2012 at 12:24 am

Here wondering if you wrote this method yet.

I tried this and it’s beautiful and freeing. I want the new method as well if possible.

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vicnes April 12, 2010 at 2:21 am

as much as beautiful as it sound…”because I’m not there, so I have no means — or reason — to stop it or control it, or to wish it was different “,it makes me a lesser human being actually.
if I see a child injured and I walk away or ‘die’ it only makes a lesser human.if some great injustice happening and all I want to do is witness and don’t act to stop it,it makes me a lesser human being.what you are saying is to reduce our pain and that’s brilliant but what are we for on this earth if we can’t reduce the suffering and pain of others?
detachment is easy but if all of us detach our responsibilities as a mankind
I’m not a GOD (i wish to be) but I want to be a human first..I won’t stop evaluating an incident against my personal interests.

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David April 12, 2010 at 3:00 am

Hi vicnes.

Obviously a crisis situation is not a good time to experiment with consciousness exercises. Hopefully most of your moments are not filled with injured children.

Reducing our own attachment and suffering is the best thing we can do to relieve the suffering of others. Humans are most capable of compassion when they are not preoccupied with momentary attachments.

Detachment from our preoccupations does not mean we abandon our responsibilities. In fact, it frees us to act from compassion rather than do what our fears and aversions command us to do.

This exercise is actually just a small taste of the possibilities behind cultivating nonattachment. You can learn to act while you are unattached, and not just observe. Actually, your actions will seem to happen on their own while you look on. But that’s a future post.

Even that you are not God is a point that could be debated. As I hinted at in my previous response, there is so much more that can be done with this. This exercise is only an way peeking through the blinders for a moment here and there.

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helen March 26, 2013 at 9:34 am

I’m no expert, but I believe in paths such as Buddhism where non-attachment is taught, compassion is also taught. This is what they mean by the ‘middle way’ – non-attachment+compassion = a loving but not so ego-fuelled approach.

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Sibyl - alternaview April 12, 2010 at 5:05 am

David: This was a very interesting and thought provoking post. I really liked it. I totally agree that if we can find a way to separate ourselves from our problems, issues, challenges etc. and just observe them and watch them come and go, it really can be liberating. It helps us not assume that our problems define who we are or that their presence has to determine our experience. Very interesting post.

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David April 12, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Thanks Sibyl. Our problems do seem like who we are, because they’re always there. Sometimes we don’t know what was a problem until it’s gone, like when some background noise (a fan or something) stops and suddenly it sounds sooo silent.

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Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) April 12, 2010 at 7:54 am

~ beautiful~

ego dissipation
.-= Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor)´s last blog ..Student Thought for the Day~ Explore your inner artist =-.

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David April 12, 2010 at 2:46 pm

That’s really what it is. When we are no longer there, our ego must be gone too. What’s so cool is that you can still look down and see your body, but it’s no more yours than anything else in the scene.

It also appears to have no head…

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Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) April 12, 2010 at 4:07 pm

hahahahahahaha

~ exactly; it get’s out of the way so the heart can see
.-= Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor)´s last blog ..Item #7~ Cardboard magazine holders =-.

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Josh Lipovetsky April 12, 2010 at 8:10 am

David, This post is profound. It’s basically the way to solve all suffering. Another great technique for practicing presence, is to imagine that you are always standing still, in one place. Imagine that the universe is moving, as you move your feet, but you are standing still in the same spot. It feels incredible, and you feel completely present.

Thanks!
Josh Lipovetsky.
.-= Josh Lipovetsky´s last blog ..Surrogates – The Real Impact of Technology =-.

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David April 12, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Hi Josh. Yes, this simple little exercise is a quick way to disengage from the ego, and when there is no ego there is no suffering, because it is always the ego that suffers.

The technique you mention is a good one. I am currently trying to make it my habitual way of looking at the world. I usually remember to do it when I walk through doors.

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Denysia August 12, 2011 at 7:23 am

Wow, this is the first time I hear someone talk about this. When I was little I had this constant knowing or feeling that when I move, the world moves, and I’m alwais standing still. I grew out of it eventualy. But now it’s almost scary to hear you guys say it :) It realy is an amazing feeling.

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Pablo April 12, 2010 at 9:42 am

Good Afternoon,
I´m trying to contact you through the application form on your site but it does not work. Would you be so kind of sending me an e-mail addres to contact you?
Thanks so much
Regards

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David April 12, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Yes, the contact form sends emails to david (at) raptitude.com

I’ll try to see what is wrong with the contact form.

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Vincent Nguyen April 12, 2010 at 11:23 am

Hi David how have you been?

Slowly recovering from a serious car accident, but now I get to read my favourite blogs.
:-)

The timing of this post is impeccable after two months of not reading your blog and then this post about “death”…although hypothetical is still quite poignant after my near death experience.
It was very surreal while reading this post David. Gave me chills and goosebumps.
It is true when people say “life or experiences” flash in their minds during near death experiences.
However, there was a moment of pure blissful silence when everything in my mind had visual flash cards of my life experiences and also included my future aspirations as well.
Not sure if you follow my train of thought while describing that particular feeling and experience.
On the other hand, I also witnessed an amazing and beautiful experience of seeing my wife giving birth to our little baby girl Mikayla. Such a warm and exquisite feeling.

So you can say I have gone a full circle of experiencing both ends of the life continuum.

It is great to read your thoughts again David.

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David April 12, 2010 at 2:59 pm

Vincent! I’ve been very good.

I’m so glad to hear you’re okay. The experience you describe is incredible. It’s clear you are finding the meaning in all of it.

I wish you a smooth recovery. It’s so good to hear from you.

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Andrew April 12, 2010 at 2:10 pm

Bravo, David. You’ve really nailed down something beautiful here.

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David April 12, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Thanks Andrew. There is much more to this topic, but this will give a good intro to anyone who tries it on.

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Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) April 12, 2010 at 4:08 pm

gee Andrew~ the imagery with what you say >_<
.-= Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor)´s last blog ..Item #7~ Cardboard magazine holders =-.

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Joy April 12, 2010 at 2:11 pm

David,
The biggest barrier in my life is fear. Fear exists when I believe *I* matter. To diminish that fear, I remove myself from a day–turn off my phone, open the hatches on the boat to let air flow through, string up my hammock or sit in the v-berth so I may see the sky, and just exist in the moment/s. Pure bliss. Peace. As it is. Nothing else. I used to want to capture those moments with words or photos, but they truly just “are”.
When my children or close friends ask me about a particular challenge in their life, they are usually afraid of failure. My question is always will you die “if”? I mean will your Spirit die a bit if you don’t at least try, or if you do, or will your physical body die? If the answer is I won’t suffer…then at least *try*….
And if you do die..what then? What if you no longer exist as you know yourself to be…is that pure freedom to then be who are are meant to be in whatever form that is to be for you? Isn’t that to be celebrated? In life I’ve been recreated several times, I am no longer who I was last year, or many years ago…shouldn’t I celebrate each “death” because I am more of myself, or should I fear such a change?

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David April 12, 2010 at 3:05 pm

That’s a great perspective Joy. We are always becoming a new person. Always dying and being reborn. Life can’t help but change, so fearing change is pretty much deciding to suffer. Fielding change as it occurs, without attachment… now that’s the life skill of all life skills.

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Quinn April 12, 2010 at 4:34 pm

I really feel that you have hit upon something here. It is not the first time it has been hit upon, but you do it in a way that speaks true. Removing the I from a situation is where companion and appropriate action begin. It allows us to be alive rather than live our lives, while the difference may seem subtle the impact in our lives can be huge. if we live our lives we are working on an agenda, if we are alive we are acting in the moment as it dictates.
.-= Quinn´s last blog ..The journey to here part 1: making the rock =-.

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David April 12, 2010 at 5:53 pm

It allows us to be alive rather than live our lives

Yes, that’s it exactly. That is a major distinction.

The difference is identification. We normally interpret our bodies and minds as “us,” when really they are only two of the things we are aware of. By deduction, “I” must be awareness itself. I had heard that a hundred times before I understood it.

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Murali April 12, 2010 at 10:04 pm

Another great post. Now I am curious about your “other” method. How long does the perspective last? Does it get easier the more you do it?

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David April 12, 2010 at 11:32 pm

It is still in the experimentation phase :)

I want to write a series of articles about it but before I do that I want to learn as much as I can about it.

For now I’ll say it can be assumed at any virtually any time, and how long it lasts depends on your mental habits — how conditioned you are to thinking of yourself in the third person. It does get easier the more you do it.

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Lisa April 12, 2010 at 10:32 pm

I think this is one of the many reasons I enjoy traveling so much. It’s really easy to get into that mindset when I’m in a new place because I don’t live there, I probably won’t be back for a long time, and especially if the culture is very different I feel even more separate, like I’m observing some other world that I don’t exist in. Totally freeing

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David April 12, 2010 at 11:35 pm

I’ve noticed that about travel too. Familiar sights trigger old assumptions. New sights keep you paying attention more than judging and categorizing.

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Chelsea April 12, 2010 at 11:24 pm

I used to think about a little bit of a similar concept, and it matured as I grew up. As a kid I used to wonder what it was like before I was born, what I felt (which was nothing, because I didn’t exist, but how do you explain that to a little kid trying to understand what seemed like a mind blowing subject?) and it turned into “what would this situation, this event be like if I weren’t born? How would these people be acting?” and it left my mind because I didn’t find it important to think about anymore as an adult, but your post added a whole new level. I’m curious and excited to try this out, to see how I feel mentally standing back and taking myself out of the picture, and hopefully realizing how beautiful things are if I just let them -be-. And to Lisa’s comment, I often feel the same way when traveling, maybe it’s the whole tourist mentality where one just observes and soaks in everything around them. Maybe we’d all enjoy things more if we became mental tourists in our own lives

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David April 12, 2010 at 11:42 pm

I’ve been away from home for six months now, and I’m eager to see what my home country looks like to me when I get home. I will have that tourist feeling, I’m sure.

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Simon April 13, 2010 at 4:34 am

White Island?

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David April 13, 2010 at 4:50 am

Farewell Spit! Really unbelievable place.

I’ll post more pictures of it on David Goes Kiwi soon.

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Andrew O April 13, 2010 at 3:49 pm

It’s so funny how this exercise works, because you relegate yourself to a detached observer. Initially, separate from all of that phenomena “out there”. But then eventually you realize that you are more “there” than you were before! Intimately connected to everything around you, in a different way. A great exercise for identifying the subtlety of the ego. Great post!

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David April 13, 2010 at 4:23 pm

Yes, exactly! It gives you the contrast you need to see what the ego is doing when you’re not looking.

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ReThink April 14, 2010 at 6:42 pm

Hi David.

I think that you need to be told that you are wrong for once, almost every post on this site has been encouraging you to continue thinking in your own way, which is exactly what this article is suggesting not to do. I am not saying this in a negative way, which I think you will be able to see if you are able to die while reading this comment. I am telling you to be wrong and to be happy with being wrong and not have your person be offended when someone’s opinion goes against what you believe to be “right”. Personally i think that you are stupid for removing yourself from the situation when is so much more rewarding to connect with everything within your realm of reality. You will still see the beauty that you seem to love so much and you will more than likely feel pain. This is what other people and places have felt while you have been living your own happy life. This is my opinion and I anticipate reading your reaction to what I have to say on your article.

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Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) April 14, 2010 at 7:12 pm

RT~ who gets to decide who is to “tell” others they are “right” or “wrong”?

Commentors disagree with David constantly~ I have never seen him try to tell someone they are wrong, or that his version of reality is the “right one”. He simply gives his opinions on things and on feedback IMO.

Methinks using a personal put down such as “stupid” is an example of rudeness and distancing through judgment; How was this statement an opportunity to connect? To show other commentors what you mean by connect?

I certainly didn’t see any beauty in your comment. Consider yourself told.

And, presuming your annoyed that another has commented on a post addressed to David~ that’s what email is for; a blog is by definition for discussion amongst commentors.

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ReThink April 15, 2010 at 9:43 am

Well, methinks that in order for me to “consider myself told” you would have had to say something with a little more insightful than “blogs are a place for discussion” and that “people disagree with David”. IMO, I think that you should have stuck with the first question that you asked but, but instead of directing it at me, direct it at the world in general and more importantly at yourself. If you really read what your own post was saying, then you would realize that not only are you getting mad at me, but you should be getting mad at yourself for attacking my opinion, this is a blog after all is it not? Presuming that I would be upset by your commenting on my post is stupid, and you can take that word however you want. If you had really read my comment then you would see that I am not doing this for myself but for the spreading of ideas. Do not judge so quickly unless you are ready to be judged as well.

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Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) April 15, 2010 at 3:00 pm

RT~ No one is mad and attacking you in my reply; I stated my opinion of David and asked you questions.

Peace~

Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor) April 15, 2010 at 3:00 pm

RT~ No one is mad and attacking you in my reply; I stated my opinion of David, your comments about David and asked you questions.

Peace~
.-= Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor)´s last blog ..Student Thought for the Day~ Explore your inner artist =-.

David April 14, 2010 at 7:12 pm

I think that’s good advice for the most part. But believe me, I get called wrong almost every day. I regularly get called an idiot, a sap, a pandering fool, a faggot and a hack in comments, emails and discussions on other blogs. Comes with the territory, I’m afraid you didn’t invent it.

And it does make me think. When criticism hurts, I take heed because I know that there might be some truth in it.

This is my blog, and like everyone, I am only capable of writing what I think at any particular time. All I have is opinions, and that’s all you have too.

If you are interested in what I think, I think that whenever somebody starts out with “I think you need…” they are only describing something they need.

If you read between the lines in this post, you’ll see that you are not removing yourself from the situation. You are removing something else.

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ReThink April 15, 2010 at 9:52 am

I will be the first one to tell you that my comment is directed at myself just as much as it is directed at you. It is directed at the concept of one’s own world view being so easily accepted. I think that both you and the mentor missed the major point in my opinion comment, which i clearly stated was only an opinion. I am not hurt or beat down by you disagreeing with me, I disagree agree with myself far too much to think that I should be taken as the “truth”. The purpose of my comment was try to get you, and anyone else who read it, to stop thinking of yourself as the judge. Just like you said in the article, to remove yourself from the situations and just see what the words really mean. I am not making posts as some ego that is trying to make others feel less enlightened, I am writing as an idea that is trying to provoke more ideas.

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David April 15, 2010 at 3:30 pm

Here’s a tip for idea-spreading: When you call people stupid and wrong, they tend not to be receptive to anything you have to say. You come off as pointlessly aggressive. Dale Carnegie wrote a great book about how to get people to listen and understand you, I recommend it.

Andrew O April 16, 2010 at 12:32 pm

ReThink – Don’t think that we’re all a bunch of sheep here. I’ve been following David for about a year or so and I know that he speaks to the commonality of human experience. That’s hit me on a really deep level and I have a lot of gratitude for the content here on the blog. In response to your assertion that he’s some type of “judge”, I can say after some personal experience with this mental technique/meditation exercise that it had the effect of removing that judgmental attitude. When I take the time to step back and observe, I notice how I have the tendency to be negative or judgmental. Give it a try, if it doesn’t work for you, that’s it. It works for me and I’m grateful that there are people like David who is skillful enough to put the pen to paper and spread the news.

Trisha Dodson April 16, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Wow! I never, ever thought about doing this before. I will definitely try when I am in a more stable mood. Thank you!

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David April 16, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Hi Trisha. A stable mood is essential. A bad mood means the mind is too identified with its thoughts to take a step back.

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Phil April 16, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Hi David,

I was a bit aprehensive about reading this post based on the word “die” in the title, not something I want to do any time soon. But I read it and wow what a really cool idea! It has helped me with a problem that has plagued be for ages – “what will other people think of me?”. When you’re not there that question doesn’t even come up.

Brilliant – Thanks so much.

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David April 16, 2010 at 5:20 pm

“Die” is an intimidating word, isn’t it? But you did click!

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Vincent P. May 1, 2010 at 9:44 pm

Once I happened to have a similar experience, but in a reversed way. I imagined myself being alone in the universe, so since there are no other people around, there are no more worries, because there are more need to please someone else. It was incredibly relaxing.

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David May 3, 2010 at 2:25 am

That’s a really interesting thing to think about: how would your behavior change if there was nobody else on the planet? I would probably shower less.

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Angela Astin August 13, 2010 at 9:23 am

David! You are so right. Some years ago I happened upon this myself. (The thought was actually inspired by a Steely Dan lyric) I imagined the snowy mountaintops of the Far East. I thought of the peace and beauty and how it was happening right that moment far away without me present. It totally calmed me down and took me away from all that internal chatter. Doing this makes me remember how large the world is and how silly and insignificant all my “mental gymnastics” are. Thanks for the post! Reminds me to do this more often!

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Nate St. Pierre August 19, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Good grief, David. I haven’t read your site in a while, then I come back and get my mind blown.

Jackass.

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Max Andrew Dubinsky December 30, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Amazing and wonderful and all of it.

Dive deep brother.

MAD

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David January 7, 2011 at 7:07 pm

Thanks Max. I’m liking your blog too. It’s a standout.

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Tess The Bold Life April 17, 2011 at 7:00 am

Hi David,
This is so powerful. In fact it may be the best thing I’ve read in 2011.

Y0u will realize how much of your everyday thoughts are not about what actually happens, but about what’s in it for you or not in it for you. Those thoughts are the source of all self-consciousness, fear, longing and existential pain.

This is exactly what I needed to be reminded of today. Thanks.

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David April 17, 2011 at 8:13 am

Hey thanks Tess. Good to hear from you!

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Marc June 3, 2011 at 11:11 am

If I die, my worries, hopes and beliefs will continue to echo and resonate in people I am close to, as well as in everything I have ever interacted with in different forms. There is no way to observe a scene passively and there is no way to view a scene objectively. If you are removing yourself from the scene in your mind, you are deluding yourself. Not that there isn’t any relaxation or whatever that can be had from this, but do not confuse the thought with reality.
Try this: as you begin to imagine you don’t exist, observe yourself stepping into this frame of mind so that your mental image includes you and your frame of mind as the observer in the scene. Now in your mind, you and your thought of non-existence are a part of the scene, properly fitting in with the rest as you begin to relax. In reality, this mental image is in fact just a part of the scene itself. No matter how far back you pull the frame of reference of your awareness, it is still just a part of the scene in whole.
That said, use the experience to see that your thoughts, i.e. your hopes, dreams, fears, etc., are of the same nature as the scene. There is no need to feel guilty about them, discount them, or attempt to temporarily dissolve them in order to be attuned to reality and have inner peace, in fact you’ve been that way all along.

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Jessi Tidwell June 29, 2011 at 8:21 pm

David,

I tried this exercise here at my house. It took me a minute to take myself out of my own thoughts and just see the world around me, but I finally did it. Unfortunately, the result was a gut wrenching fear. I have no idea why, but I was completely terrified. I walked around my house and just almost cried. It wasn’t long before I gave up on the exercise and started reminding myself that I was alive, not dead. The sensation was not what I expected.

I love the idea behind this though, and I will try this again when I’m not alone at my house.

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Trish Lawrence August 11, 2011 at 12:47 pm

Very interesting David and in line with the current thoughts on Mindfulness and also the book I am currently reading:
“Out of the Darkness” by Steve Taylor.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Out-Darkness-Transformation-Steve-Taylor/dp/1848502540/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1313084790&sr=1-1
Trish

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angelina November 5, 2011 at 4:48 pm

Die often. Yes.. Die daily… Yes. It seems absurd when we remember that the very thing we hope for can best be found through losing it. We reach for life…we cling or resist and yet life can be known intimately and immediately once all expectation is surrendered…once the weight of “me” and “mine” are no longer contracting on the surface of self.
Thank your for the reminder. I am pleased to have found your site and will look forward to browsing further.

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Philip December 26, 2011 at 9:38 am

Intersting…I think!
A theme taken from the old movie. “It’s A Wondeful Life”…
Unfortunately, a selfish, trite view of life….caught up in “how important,wonderful I am” syndrome. Sorry, if this offends you and others, but…..
Simply, one’s life has a magnificant impact on others… good or bad.Words, encourage, hurt, blah,blah…
Perhaps it’s my age, cynicism has crept in after years of seeing,hearing and experiencing all the blather about “one’s self, me, who am I? why am I here?,etc..”
Trite as it may be.. death is a part of living…. hopefully, living well.. peacefully within..
If faced with death from an incurable disease, options are few. Pull the plug, get it over with, saving stress & strain on others.. and.. removing the “doomed” from the present…
As George Bailey discoverd in “It’s A Wonderful Life”…he preferred to remain in the cast of humanity… flaws included… and for as long as possible!

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molly January 23, 2012 at 8:06 pm

Hi David-

“Found” you here via Joy’s lovely interview and I *love* what I’ve read so far. This post particularly coming at a good time for me, in search of an ever expanding “new” perspective. It goes hand in hand (though said in more succinct terms) with a book I am currently invested in reading: A Year To Live by Stephen Levine. Have you read this book? If not, I think you may enjoy it.
Peace and thank you for sharing this perspective. :) Molly

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Ingrid March 8, 2012 at 5:28 am

I’ve just recently been interested in the idea that both my body and mind will move on like an eco system of body and consciousness. How would it feel like when I in a thousand years am a sofa, a pot plant and a tree, at the same time? As consciousness is one of the hardest things to understand even for physics, it also makes the thought of dying feel safe to me. When I die I will detatch from all my feelings, and I will BE a feeling instead, a state of consciousness a state of process. It’s almost as so I can’t wait to open the birthday present of death until it’s time.

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Edward June 11, 2012 at 9:20 am

David, how about “Time Travel on purpose?” Your technique prompts me to share this. You’re the first I’ve ever shared this with and wonder if any of your readers have anything akin. I’m 54 and since the age of 5 have enjoyed what is really a time/spacial twist on “dying”. I remember as a kid balancing on a kerbside, closing my eyes whilst still walking and telling myself that when I open my eyes I’ll be somewhere else. On that first occasion I absorbed (in the style you described above) everything around me, from the other kids in the schoolyard to the glorious feeling of my last day at school before the summer break and the sun on my skinny arms. I closed my eyes then to “photograph” it as a memory and to capture as many of those sensations as I could and told myself that when I reopened my eyes again that scene will have completely changed to another time in my future. Today I willfully recall those childhood “closed eyes” times by focusing on those distant remembrances as I pretend to walk, with eyes closed, along that kerbside of so long ago. On opening my eyes again there is unfailingly a shock, an avalanche of sensation prompted by what I presently see. All the intervening years have evaporated and I’ve stepped out of my “time machine” into the present day. Between those periods of closing and opening eyes as though it were a singular motion may be as many as 20 years. It’s as disconcerting as it is awe-inspiring incidently, as in another 20 years I’ll be looking out of the eyes of a 74 year old. It is in effect making real the saying of life in the blink of an eye. The positive value is that it returns an urgency to one’s life and a chance to re-evaluate the place and circumstance that you presently occupy and most satisfyingly, that the liitle kid and the adult are only separated by time in this realm of sensation.

Actually I think it might be a worthless endeavor for anyone to follow since you personally can’t get back to your own kid self to start this linear journey. Could it be adapted to start today? I suppose you could look around right now, “die” a little, (la petite mort lol), absorb, close your eyes and in one week, do it all again somewhere very different in space/time. When you open your eyes the intervening time will have gone and your present will perhaps feel more immediate than ever before.

This blog is a gem that I tripped across on my quest to console myself after being mugged by the beautiful mind of Christopher Hitchins. I’ve bookmarked and must now dash off…time waits for no one. Edward

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john June 14, 2012 at 12:54 am

I agree with rethink, I don’t think he is saying you are wrong or stupid.
Everybody is wrong every day about something, I think he is saying be just as happy about being wrong as being right, big deal.
I like to think about if I was the only person on earth, not just the only person but the only person who has ever been on earth. I t makes me appreciate what I have here and now and makes me appreciate what my ancestors have done for me. It makes me realize its all good and nothing that can happen to me in this age with all the support of society is going to get me down. It just helps me to think that way and now thanks to you I have another tool to use.
I think your post is great, I can see how dying is going to improve my understanding of my day to day life. Thanks for your insight

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Carmell June 25, 2012 at 1:00 am

I was just sent the link to your blog today and read this one. I then read through many of the comments and your responses, David. I am delighted by your work!

I just returned from traveling through Europe for the first time, just with myself, no itinerary, speaking no languages fluently. As I read your post, it described how I often felt–completely aware and fully present in the moment. Yet not aware of myself most of the time because nothing I did, nowhere I was, depended upon me or was changed by me in any way. I was observing in the most deeply joyful experiential way. Taking it all in!

When difficult things happened such as an atm eating my bankcard my first week there (with a month left to travel) and the waiter at the restaurant threatening to call the police, I was conscious of taking action to solve the problems, but was unaffected by them in any negative way. I was surprised by how unconcerned I was at what I and most people would normally consider a major problem and dampener to the trip. Not at all. In fact, some incredible synchronicities took place during this incident and directly after, causing me to smile uncontrollably to myself.

Thank you for this wonderful exercise! I can feel it already :)

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mer August 21, 2012 at 10:40 pm

Hello, i really liked this. I was thinking it is a difficult exercise though, i tried it for a few minutes the first time and i actually felt kind of sad… in my room, with all my things, imagining i was dead and no longer there. It was depressing! Because i could not get unattached with the thought of me being there in the past and being there no longer in the present and therefore leaving all of my things behind, and people, etc. Silly me, i must master this!
Guess i’ll keep on trying!
Cheers!

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Alex September 7, 2012 at 2:30 am

Very interesting, but, I don’t think it works or would work unless you’re a self-absorbed, egotistical, selfish person.

Personally, and I’m sure a lot of people feel the same way, if I could “die on purpose”, I would still worry and care about everything that’s happening.

In the example of the family, you’re saying you wouldn’t feel their happiness or sadness? So you’re standing there, watching, you’re son achieved something great and is very happy, according to your idea, since it wouldn’t affect your life anymore, it would be indifferent to you. I would take a wild guess and say you don’t have a wife and kids you love more than anything in this world.

Another example, a negative one, could be you watching someone get killed while you sit there observing, and since you’re dead, you couldn’t care less. It doesn’t make any sense. We watch the news everyday, and we feel for the bad things that happen to people we don’t know, it doesn’t affect our lives at all, but the emotions are there.

You talk about disengaging from the ego, but this is the most egocentric experiment I’ve ever heard of.

Not to mention that this experiment wouldn’t work anywhere with people around.

Scenario one – You “die” in your home, then your child comes to you and is hungry, so you stand there and don’t reply because you’re dead? Did you think this idea, stolen from all meditation practices, makes any sense? And you meditate, you can tell people not to disturb you, but playing dead is what kids do for a laugh.

Scenario two – You in the street, and you “die”, comes some thugs, kick you silly ideas ass, and you stand there “observing” and not being able to change a thing, not worrying, because you’re dead, ooops, you really are now ;-)

My reply to you is half serious, half joking, but, mate, nice try, but your idea is nothing new, it’s been thought of by millions of people before you, and everybody knows it’s dumb.

Good luck and dude, go get laid or something.

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Alex September 7, 2012 at 2:41 am

Very interesting, but, I don’t think it works or would work unless you’re a self-absorbed, egotistical, selfish person.

Personally, and I’m sure a lot of people feel the same way, if I could “die on purpose”, I would still worry and care about everything that’s happening.

In a family scenario example, are you saying you wouldn’t feel their happiness or sadness? So you’re standing there, watching, your son achieved something great and is very happy, according to your idea, since it wouldn’t affect your life anymore, it would be indifferent to you. I would take a wild guess and say you don’t have a wife and kids you love more than anything in this world.

Another example, a negative one, could be you watching someone get killed while you sit there observing, and since you’re dead, you couldn’t care less. It doesn’t make any sense. We watch the news everyday, and we feel for the bad things that happen to people we don’t know, it doesn’t affect our lives at all, but the emotions are there.

You talk about disengaging from the ego, but this is the most egocentric experiment I’ve ever heard of.

Not to mention that this experiment wouldn’t work anywhere with people around.

Scenario one – You “die” in your home, then your child comes to you and is hungry, so you stand there and don’t reply because you’re “dead”? Did you think this idea, stolen from all the existing meditation practices, makes any sense? And when you meditate, you can tell people not to disturb you, but playing dead is what kids do for a laugh.

Scenario two – You’re in the street, and you “die”, some thugs come your way, kick your silly ideas ass, and you stand there “observing” and not being able to change a thing, not worrying, because you’re “dead”, ooops, you really are now ;-)

My reply to you is half serious, half joking, but, mate, nice try, but your idea is nothing new, it’s been thought of by millions of people before you, and everybody knows it’s dumb.

Good luck and dude, go get laid or something.

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Rick Sam October 7, 2012 at 6:08 am

Really a nice idea and i like your blog and since this year i have learned a lot and i agree with one of the comments , every year i’m different , i grow more mature and right now , the past Rick and I are very different ,
Well yes Die on a Purpose , when i die , i want everyone to remember me for something like Mother Teresa was for kindness and hospitality .
I wanna help the world on many things like Scientific and humanity and i will strive for it .

Oh and Happiness is being content with yourself :D what you have.

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Mary Dorgan October 13, 2012 at 7:52 am

Stepping into the mystic where all art resides! Thank you for sharing. Love, love, love.

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Audrey Byrd October 16, 2012 at 9:37 pm

Live! Just live! Live as if its the last thing you do!
Death will come of its own accord in its own time.
Your destiny has already been prepared for you, by your own heart and hands together with a heart and hands much larger than yours.
We are blessed.

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Dave X Robb February 15, 2013 at 2:44 pm

I like that this is a simple exercise that really gets at overcoming our self-cherishing, the cause of all suffering. There are a lot of ways to try and do that, but this seems like a particularly good one. Thanks!

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kerin gordon February 25, 2013 at 3:51 am

How do you even start this mindset. I consider myself a deep person as opposed to a shallow one….but I think I would have to be in an altered state for this one…like when you sit and look at the stars, 18, high as a kite and the idea that space goes to infinity blows your mind. once that high is gone, yeah nice moon. im gonna start small….tomarrow i will walk across a parking lot….and the next day it might be the walmart parking lot….i will be a better person….baby steps. im planning on cleaning my room tomarrow and going to donate to the human society second hand shop. this is kind of like dianetics by ron l. hubbard, take notes in the beginning, build confidence as you go along, although this will differ by me not taking the book and using it as a doorstop because that was the best use i could get out of that book.

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kerin gordon February 25, 2013 at 3:57 am

this is not found….i wanted do see it so bad

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kerin gordon February 25, 2013 at 3:57 am

this is not found….i wanted do see it so bad

April 12, 2010 at 4:08 pm
gee Andrew~ the imagery with what you say >_<
.-= Char (PSI Tutor:Mentor)´s last blog ..Item #7~ Cardboard magazine holders =-.

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Jesse March 25, 2013 at 9:06 pm

I enjoyed this post, and I have actually tried to do something like this from time to time to ground myself, by imagining I’m not there, and really fully listening to the world instead of my thoughts or the song stuck in my head or whatever inner noise and distractions keep me from fully experiencing reality.

Once I achieve this state, and thoughts inevitably start to come back, I sometimes try to keep it going and experience my inner world as if I’m not there. It’s much harder to do, and even hard to explain, but from that same perspective of the detached observer, it is somewhat possible and gives an interesting perspective; as if I’m not the one doing the thinking or taking action, but someone experiencing my point of view separate from my ego, sort of like the movie “Being John Malkovich”.

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Pedro Fonseca April 12, 2013 at 5:57 am

Hi David,

I know this is an old post, it even doesn’t make any sense for me post on it since it’s 3 years old. I found your blog earlier this week and I am very grateful for that. Many things and problems you write about are related to my life in such a precision I would have to consider you were spying on me. But turns out it’s easy to understand: I (or you, or whoever) am not special. The same problems have to be dealt with by everyone in slightly different ways.
My real input on this is actually that I am also deeply interested in the Buddhist philosophy as well. Although a “freshmen” student on the matter this text of yours is somewhat connected to Buddhism in the way of thinking. I would just like to know if you have read any Buddhist books or have had any contact with Buddhist philosophy. If you haven’t, I would definitely suggest it.
Sorry about my English writing, I’m not a native speaker. Haha.

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jon baca June 21, 2013 at 1:11 am

this is truly brilliant David. its such a poetic yet practical way to be fully present, and to essentially let go of ego. continuing your metaphor, our internal dialouge about whats going on in front of us is like the audio commentary on a dvd movie. how annoying would it be if we couldnt switch it off when we are trying to watch a great film for the first time! if we could just learn to shut off our own constant commentary of the world, we could finally just sit back and enjoy the show. brilliant!

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traveler August 28, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Look to the stars and contemplate the vastness of the cosmos, and your true insignifigance, it is quite liberating….

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Anya November 5, 2013 at 6:30 pm

I bookmarked this page, as it’s something I will keep in mind. You’re a brilliant writer, I’m sure you’ll appear on TV sometime soon.:)

-Anya

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Jenn December 14, 2013 at 1:15 pm

I found this to be a very interesting way of looking a just how unimportant our one little life really is. In one sense there’s a saying that says; we couldn’t even imagine what our lives do for others, just that one meeting, one word, one touch, but yet
The fact is exact as you out it, if we weren’t there or never even won

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Jayce December 19, 2013 at 11:29 pm

I am fascinated by the concept of seeing the world around me without seeing myself as a part of it. I’m going to try this in a lot of different situations as I think it will help me be less self conscious and more at ease as well as helping me be more aware of what is going on around me.

After reading David’s blog (is that the right reference?) and the many related comments, I was reminded about a short (and free) Kindle book I had downloaded a few months ago. “It’s Not All About Me” by Robin Dreeke. He discusses several techniques for being a better communicator. He identifies, “ego suspension” as one of the most effective of these. Many will probably recognize the “egotistic” tendency to immediately respond to anything someone says with a similar experience or story of our own without giving the other person a chance to talk more about their own experience. The concept is basically the same as David’s idea…….sometimes, we need to get out of our own way. I think practicing David’s “dying on purpose” will help me apply “ego suspension” when I talk with others.

This is a great website…..glad I found it …..looks like I’m a few years behind though.

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ReThink April 15, 2010 at 5:03 pm

I am not calling you stupid, I may being saying your idea is stupid asa concept but unless that is one of the major defining factors in what you believe makes up your inner person. I am not trying to argue that I am right because I can see perfectly well what you are saying; I was somewhat confrontational when I replied to your post and many people do not respond well to that, I already knew that fact. You are not introducing some new radical light into my life by saying something like that. I understand where you are coming from because I have reacted in the same way that you and the other person to reply both are now. I am trying to get people to see outside of their own light and I don’t know if you will be surprised by this but I actually am going look into that book. It seems like it might be able to help me broaden my own horizons, not all of which may seem completely pleasant to me.

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