In Soul Food by Jack Cornfield and Christina Feldman, there is a story by Forrest Carter about his Cherokee grandparents, which is a cautionary tale for our times. Granma, he writes, says we have two minds: the body mind and the spirit mind. The body mind deals with practical matters to do with keeping the body alive-figuring out how to eat, finding a place to live, reproducing and raising children, etc. The spirit mind has nothing to do with these things; it is to do with the inner essence of life and understanding who you are.
If you use the body-living mind to have greedy and selfish thoughts; if you are always figuring out how to take advantage of others, then your spirit mind shrinks to no bigger than a hickory nut. When the body dies the body-living mind dies with it. If you have spent your life in selfish-minded pursuits, all that is left is a spirit mind the size of a nut. Then you are reborn with a hickory-nut sized spirit mind that has little or no understanding of anything. This might then shrink to the size of a pea and could disappear altogether, leaving you with no spirit at all. That's how you become a dead person.
Granma says you can easily spot dead people walking around. They never see beauty in anything. When they look at another person they see nothing but bad; they despise the feminine; in a forest they see only lumber and profit.
The spirit mind is like a muscle. The more you use it, the bigger it grows. The only way to make it grow is to use it to understand. But you cannot understand until your body-living mind quits being greedy and selfish. Love and understanding and being natural, says Granma are the same thing. But you cannot love without understanding (I would add acceptance to that). Too many people pretend to love something when they don't understand it, which, to paraphrase Granma, is ass-backwards.
If the spirit mind is nurtured it can get so big and powerful that it will eventually know everything about you, including all your past incarnations; and it will take you to a place where there is no death at all.
Here is what Einstein had to say on the same subject: "A human being is part of the whole, called by us the ‘Universe', a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest-a kind of optical delusion in his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal decisions and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living, creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."
And, finally, Lao Tzu: "It is one of the most beautiful compensations of life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself."