Jesus spoke about death as a prelude to resurrection, and he also spoke about the need to be born again. The connection between the two was summed up by Paul as “dying unto death.”
Christian doctrine has focused almost entirely on trusting in the resurrection of Jesus as a sign that every soul will be resurrected one day. But when he said, “You must be born from above,” Jesus put the emphasis on transformation in this lifetime, not some faraway future. Being born from above means a rebirth in spirit. Spiritual rebirth usually isn’t a single event, a blinding epiphany that causes one’s life to change from that moment forward. For most, spiritual rebirth is a process akin to the long process that causes people to mature psychologically. The spiritual process brings transformation steadily, one step at a time, yet the overall result is dramatic. One’s attachment to the ego and its belief in separation, including the ultimate separation of death, is being jettisoned.
Right now, you accept a fixed set of labels that define you. These include your name, age, family, occupation and social status. From Jesus’s perspective, however, none of these labels is the true you; they distract from the reality that you are spirit embodied in flesh. If you wanted to, you could redefine yourself every day. As the fixed self gives way to a dynamic, fluid self that is open to the unknown, freedom dawns. In that freedom, you go beyond death by discovering that you encompass life and death in a state of pure being.
Stay tuned for Part II: An exercise to eliminate your labels and redefine yourself.
Adapted from The Third Jesus, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2008).