Death – 5 quotes from Phileena Heuertz’s book – Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life

by Mark Votava

51T7TEZCf2L1. Death is something we fear and shun

“Death. No one really likes to talk about it. Fewer people embrace it. Death is something we fear and shun. We avoid it at all costs. Our society offers remedy after remedy to help us look young, stay young and prolong life. Death is the last thing most of us want. We avoid it for ourselves and we don’t like talking about the death of others.”

2. The darkness of winter

“Along the road, new life was appearing in colors of green, red, yellow and violet. But the trees and flowers wouldn’t have bloomed without the darkness of winter. The darkness of winter is an invitation to death. In order for the trees to bear fruit in the spring, a part of them had to die the previous winter… By dying in season, the plants of spring and summer provide nourishment for the new life that will appear in the following spring. Death brings life.”

3. Courage, honesty and risk

“Decisions that stand in opposition to the status quo are not for the faint-hearted; they require courage, honesty and risk. These kinds of decisions release us into our destiny. Abundant life awaits each of us, but we must die to obtain it. The challenge is to understand which part of us must die and which part is dying to be raised to life. Until we have grown sufficiently in self-knowledge, it is difficult – if not impossible – to distinguish the false self from the true. I had to die not only to the status quo but to repressive attachments that shackled me in a posture of inferiority and subordination so that I could live and reflect the truth of who God made me to be. This meant dying to my old way of being so that I could live into the responsibility of proper self-assertiveness.”

4. To live and grow

“To live and grow into the fullness of who we are, we must move on no matter how painful and distressing it may seem at the moment. Death in varied forms is necessary.”

5. False-self security blanket

“We want the fruit, the new life, but we resist the dying. Death is the culmination of darkness. During a season of darkness, I wrestled with God, trying to hold on to that which needed to die – my preconceived notions of who God is and who I am. Much of what my identity had been based in was being shattered and I fought to hold onto the crumbling pieces – having no guarantee of who I’d be without my false-self security blanket. The burning away (purgation) of my false self was a horrible experience. At times, I didn’t understand what was happening to me. I was sad and disorientated, and all seemed dark. I was losing grasp on who I was. I questioned all of my life’s decisions, wondering which of them had been connected to my true self and which had been motivated by my false self. I was just trying to keep my head above water in the sea of darkness when everything about my identity seemed to be fading away.”

Why do we fear the process of death in our lives?


My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

“Our crowded, overly-consumed, hyper-active, digitally-addicted lifestyle is draining the life out of us. We are desperate to transcend the chaos and find a better way to live. We need a mystical imagination. Get ready to be transported into the depths of meaning as Votava breaks open the contemplative path and shows you how to live your life to the fullest.” Phileena Heuertz, author of Pilgrimage of a Soul: Contemplative Spirituality for the Active Life and founding partner, Gravity, a Center for Contemplative Activism

My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!

“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline…  without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.”  Shane Claiborne, author and activist