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It's all in my head.

How a mindset shift changed my life...and how I think about death

Photo of Ivellisse Morales
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I grew up with God-fearing Catholics. We are born with original sin because Eve fell into temptation and took a bite out of that apple. God is watching our every move. He doesn't trust us, yet he loves us. But you have to earn his love. The only way to make Him happy is to abide by the 10 commandments, confess before communion every Sunday, and to pray every morning and every night. At least that's what I was taught to believe.

As a teenager, I rejected the God my family believes in. Ever-curious, I was hurt by the fact that my questions weren't welcomed. If God created Earth then who created God?

My family never entertained my questions. They would always just say - algún día, ya verás. One day, you'll find out. God was going to teach me a lesson...

My lesson came in the form of a book by positive psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman called Learned Optimism. Through his clinical research, he discovered that anyone can be optimistic. It's both a choice and a learned habit. It's all in how you explain things to yourself. An optimistic person who fails a test would say: I'll do better next time. A pessimistic person who fails a test would say: I suck. Pessimistic people can learn to explain ups-and-downs with a more positive and confident outlook. They can learn to be optimistic. Pessimism negatively impacts our immune system, our mental stability, our self-esteem, our relationships, and our happiness.

Dr. Seligman also discovered a correlation: Moms who are pessimistic tend to have children who are pessimistic. That moment was an epiphany that changed how I viewed myself, my world, and my spiritual role in it. I started educating myself about positive psychology, meditation, yoga, and creating my own happiness. 

In my research, I once read a book on Hinduism and came across a fascinating concept that I've thought to myself, but never really shared with anyone: our living life is hell on Earth. In Hinduism, they believe in moksha or nirvana. Our true home isn't here on this planet as a human being. Our true home is in heaven. Your karma can either be holding you back or propelling you forward. As long as you're on Earth - reincarnated as a creature, a human being, a plant, other organism, you're still not in Heaven...You're not at your true home.  

This concept puts me at ease; it almost revitalizes me. The idea that this place we called Earth isn't our final destination, that it's just a stop on our journey, makes me look at what's inevitably next more positively. 

Learning about how other groups of people interpret, approach, celebrate, and talk about death is eye-opening and mind-expanding. Exposing myself to different perspectives feels like I'm collecting puzzle pieces to create my own definition of death, one piece at a time.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

I believe that exposure and education are key tools in changing our mindset as it relates to death and dying. We are curious creatures. We ask questions and seek answers. We want knowledge. Then why do we run away from this topic, at least in America as this doesn't hold true in other cultures? Information needs to be shared, even if it requires rose-colored glasses. It's better than darkness.

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Photo of Joanna Spoth

Thanks, Ivi! I love how your post ties dying & living together so beautifully. Thinking about the end - and what may or may not happen afterward - is a powerful way to live more purposefully. <3

Photo of Ivellisse Morales

Thank you, Joanna! Very well said :)

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