To die infinite

There is a Chinese proverb that “roughly translated” which states “man is born infinite and dies finite”.

To me, this laments our life-long and systematic selecting of direction, ever more specialised, ever more specific; a closing-down throughout the journey of our lives. The ever-demanding call of the expert. The increasing focus on a certain discipline. As an Expert, we become a constrained in a structure of definition – an arbitrary construct that is defined by language not being.

The mindful journey brings us back to are in the moment – not our roles, not our knowledge, not how we and/or others define us. We are not so constrained. We are only so should we choose.

Of course, it is a comfortable choice. It is a choice that those around us most easily recognise. But it does not have to be so.

In mindful meditation, we can seek to reconnect, to again touch the infinite of our birth. To once again face that potential, rather than the closed “expert” more defined by title and achievement than being and presence.


We have conditioned ourselves to progress. Existence is not enough. Our success, in some ways, ultimately become a prison – and our “career path” (for want of a better phrase) is in many ways the construction process.  We are building the wall each day. Ken Robinson in a Ted talk suggests that the only real objective within our education system is to create “Professors”, with its heavily weighted bias to scientific method, fact and knowledge. And it is there that we start to define the labels that become our constraints – abstracts of language which in turn come to define. For example, we are sentient beings that can plumb, we are not plumbers, but we are more than that, and we are certainly more than the actual plumbing –  but language builds a box which our brain happily then accepts as fact.

With our labels we create divisions – we separate ourselves from others – we cease to connect with what we share and focus on what stands between us. We train our brains early to pigeon-hole (self and others), we are sporty, we are bookish, we are artistic. We start to lay the foundations of our prisons early in life. As parents or teachers, we help; we offer the bricks ,and often mix the mortar.


The meditative calling is to release these false definitions. 

Neuroscience acknowledges the “use it or lose it” model in our brain – for a baby everything creates a neural pathway until at 2 years our brains are essentially rammed to capacity, thereafter we start to prune. In a sort on neurological survival of the fittest the stuff that doesn’t get used slips away, and the bits we use get stronger. This is of course an imperative – if we are to stand a chance of ever functioning effectively. But is every discarded experience or awareness truly not needed or unnecessary?

As we learn so we forget. We let go of that which appears to be without use.

The mindful journey turns to face all that we are. It invites us to recognise all that we are, or could be. Not to limit ourselves to a function or a skill. That is not to say we should not develop or learn, that we should not become “expert”, but that we should understand that is not everything, and that beyond our  specific skills, we are equal. Skills are but one element of our being.

If I were the most talented computer programmer in my class, would I cease to have relevance in a power-cut? No, of course not.

I say we should recognise that we are everything – at one time the plumber, one time the parent, one time the child, one time the accountant….. it goes on. We have the capacity to be whatever we need to be whenever we need to be.


So what would it mean to die infinite. It is certainly no formula; no instruction.

It is foremost something for our meditations, something to develop when we sharpen our self-awareness. We can look for how many ways do we constrain ourselves, in our view of ourselves, or with others – I am A so therefore I am not B, I could never be C; She is C so not “one of us”.

Take down the barriers – they are only words – and those words carry emotions, or memories, rules and judgements – nothing that we need. What would we look like without those boundaries, or constrained with the tunnel walls of profession, nationhood or specie.

You can still be an accountant or salesperson. But that is not you. It is but one element. Turn once more and embrace the richness of opportunity with which you were born.

We are infinite. We are born infinite – at this point we have no choice. We die finite that is our choice. It is time to acknowledge our potential. And it is time to recognise that potential in everyone.


© the mindful horse