It’s been 10 years since I jumped off the train, and my life hasn’t been the same since. It’s been so.much.better.
Ten years ago, I had just moved from Dallas to back to Austin to a new job. I was very wound up about some choices that someone close to me had made, choices that were terrible, with dire consequences, in my opinion.
My friend with whom I was staying followed a spiritual teacher called Prasad. I went with her that day to one of his satsangs.
I wasn’t sure what to think of him — a long-haired American dude with a Hindu name, dressed in white, sitting on a carpeted platform with flowers, answering questions as if he was a guru.
He looked like a hippie putting on airs to me. I was silent during the satsang, observing.
But Prasad said something about “jumping off the train,” meant in the sense of shifting into a more authentic way of being. “Jumping off the train” was a nice metaphor. It stuck in my mind.
That night, which was the night before I was to start my new job, I laid awake, mind whirling with anxiety and anger about what this person had done and what I believed the consequences would be.
I could not fall asleep. The clock slowly crept past midnight into the wee hours as I lay awake, monkey mind going a hundred miles per hour.
I knew how important the first day at a new job is. I wanted to make a good impression, not be bleary-eyed and tired.
That part of me was really annoyed that I was letting this worry get to me so much. That part was self-centered. That part remembered “jumping off the train” and decided I had nothing to lose by trying it.
I imagined myself on the top of a train speeding through the darkness. The train was my train of thoughts and emotions. Monkey mind on speed.
Crouching atop the train like an action hero, I could feel the cold air and the wind generated by the train’s speed.
I began to think about jumping off. What would happen to me if I did? Could I die?
Yes, definitely I could die from jumping off the train!
I did it anyway. I flung myself off the train, somersaulting into the air.
And what happened was this: Nothing happened. Literally. Nothing happened.
I found myself experiencing dark, silent stillness. I didn’t land. I didn’t die. And in that nothing was a blessed, blessed relief. Peace. Peace of mind. At last.
I slept like a baby the rest of the night and felt rested my first day on the new job.
I later recognized that jumping off the train was an experience of ego death. What died was my self-important belief that I had to worry and suffer because someone I loved made what I thought was a dire mistake.
I began to accept the situation and recognize for the first time in my life that worry doesn’t do a thing for anyone, especially the worrier. I found ways to love that person without losing sleep, without taking their choices personally, without suffering but with compassion. For both of us.
I have since noticed that when one experiences ego death, humility accompanies it. Humility and humus come from the same root in Latin. It is grounding to experience humility, and it brings grace.
Ego death. Believe me, we spend a lot of energy fearing and avoiding it. And when it happens, grace follows.
How else can I be wrong and find grace?