Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Afraid of Dying?

A month before my dad passed away I began waking up in the middle of the night with a sickening feeling of dread. Strong physical feelings of a fear of dying. I've never been afraid of death in my life. Experiences, many experiences, that I have had made me confident that there is a life after death. I know there is something magical going on beyond this physical world. So what happened?

Then in March my dad's wonderful life came to an end. (My mom had passed away a few years earlier.) Suddenly, I felt like a boat at sea whose anchor had been cut. I was adrift and I was scared of death. Why? Why now? Why after all these years of believing, knowing that there is something more after death, I couldn't feel it. Intellectually I still knew all the reasons for believing, but I couldn't feel it in my body. What happened?

Two things got me through the following months. One was a meditation practice that I had started not long before. That seemed to quiet my mind and bring a bit of peace. The other was to remind myself of all the things that happened to me over the years, that made me sense (or know) that there is something going on in the universe that goes way beyond what we see or feel or touch or count or measure. The material universe is not all there is.

As months passed I still experienced this fear now and then. The dread is mostly gone, but I still have this new "concern" that I never had before. It's always in the background of my life. Try as I might, the realization that at 63 years old death is getting closer than I like to think. I'm going to die...sometime. Actually, all of us are. We are all on death row, we just don't know the time and place.  But time is running out, and will eventually.

The truth is, no matter what we experience in our lives, we can never be 100% certain that there is a life after death. Someday you will too will go through what Christian mystics call the "dark night of the soul."

 So, what do we do? I don't care about trying to prove it one way or the other. That is more for intellectual entertainment. I want to know how to live with the uncertainty. How do we deal with the fear? It takes the fun out of life. Life is winding down. Our bodies are not getting stronger. Every year new parts break down.

Then one answer came to me today, and that is why I am writing this blog. Why am I afraid? It's simple but profound and it is the answer to most of our other problems in life.

The answer: Accept what is. Do not resist what life gives you. Embrace your mortality, humanity, your need to exit the stage of life and make room for others. We must accept and even embrace what is the reality of our being here.

The minute this thought came to me all fear melted away. Gone. Done. Do you want to loose the fear of death, without having to depend on religious belief? Accept it, embrace it, look forward to it. You are going to die. Okay, bring it on. I will live the most meaningful life I can until then... and then let's see what happens.

I know many people will read this and think it is too simple. Or that you have heard this all before. Me too. But, it needs reminding. It is the answer to all our fears. It is the most profound skill you can ever acquire! If you can accept your death, then, hey, you can accept anything!

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