On fearing Death

Dear Quarter Lives,

I feel it is time I spoke about death. I believe if we are to really confront our lives and and contemplate why we make the choices we make, we will find that it is all for or against death. You see, there is this constant anxiety to achieve, to create, to find love, to have sex, to make money, to build a home, see the world. make friends, make children, to do all of it — all before we die. So why all the worry about achieving, missing out, why are we so bothered about leaving our mark on this planet, why do we need to prove we were once alive?

Surely, if you believe something so strongly and feel it so deeply, you feel no urgency to prove it because you are already so sure of it. It is only those things we are most insecure about, those things that we need so desperately to be true, those are things we try so hard to prove and those too are the things that have no proof except through our faith in them. So doesn’t it make you wonder why we are so desperate to prove our aliveness? The only answer that ever comes back to me is this: Because the alternative might mean we are actually dead. But what does it matter if we are dead or alive? If we’re not afraid of either, then it shouldn’t matter, then the difference between them becomes nothing more than a name. And that got me thinking that maybe the fear we are battling is not with death itself but rather with our own expectation of death. In confronting our expectations of death, we must confront our mind and it is our mind that scares us the most, not because of the monsters it creates, but because of the potential it exhibits by creating those monsters. We are afraid of a power we have no manual for. It is our mind that allows us to experience life the way we do. It is also our mind that allows us to experience death the way we do.

But who controls this mind? Is it us, circumstance, god, or an alien perhaps? I believe we are afraid of the realisation that we control our own minds, that in fact how we see the world is our responsibility, that we are alone the tyrant and the saviour of our minds and in turn our worlds. And that means that we are alone in our particular experience of the world. We might be alone in death, but death is later, and at least for now, we convince ourselves we are not alone and in turn we work hard to prove our coexistence with others on this planet. We fall in love, have children, make families, make companies, build cities full of people. Yet the truth of the matter is that we are always alone.

It is why to truly embrace life, one must come to terms with solitude. It is the only way to switch the mind from a state of fear to one of love. Remember it is not death that we can change, so let us not expend energy on that which we cannot control; it is the state of our minds that we can alter and transform. It is perhaps one of the very few things we can choose in this experience of Life and Death — the choice between love and fear — that is the only choice we really have. We are merely vessels through which life passes, and then death, and then life, and death again and so on.

We are conductors of energy so let the energy you conduct be that of love so that the energy you transmit be of love too. You cannot conduct fear and hope to transmit love. So let us align ourselves with love, but to do so, we must engage our fears. So let us talk about our anxieties of the future, of the constant approaching of death. Let us not fear fearing our own fears, for they will only grow angrier when ignored, just as you would if you were ignored. Fear can become jealous too from all that you give attention to, just as you would if no one gave you attention. So let us attend to our fears, for they are the only way to find peace. Our fears are our guiding lights, they point us towards all that we need to address in order to come into alignment with ourselves. So let’s talk about death. I am shit scared of death, but I never realised just how much. My anxiety would reach crazy levels to the point I would just disconnect from life. My system was so afraid of this experience of life (which is basically an experience of approaching death) that it dissociated and would unplug and disengage completely. It is a strange experience when you realise only in retrospect that you were having panic attacks, that you were so disconnected that you hadn’t realised it. I was incapable of being present because the present was constantly moving, it was constantly over, it was constantly dying. And so it was easier to exist in a static tense; one that I controlled; one that existed only in my mind; one that no one could take away from me; one where only I could decide when it was over whenever I was ready to let go of it.

When I eventually felt ready to begin to face my fear of dying, I began to venture out into the real world again and step out of the reality of my mind. It’s only when I began to engage with life again that I realised just how afraid I was of dying, of disappearing, of not knowing if I’ll survive or where I’ll end up, of being alone, of being lost. All my life I had thought I was afraid to engage with the real world and I had built all these walls telling myself it was because of my childhood, my ill health, my parents, my body, my voice, my…, my…etc. Only when I began to unravel all those things that I finally realised they were all just context wrapped around the original core fear — death.

The strange thing to me was that I never thought I was afraid to die. I actually thought I wanted to die, because I was so afraid of life. But life is after all the experience of approaching death. So you cannot be afraid of death without being afraid of life, and you cannot love life without falling in love with death first. I was so afraid but I couldn’t feel it because my body was trying to protect me from it. It was trying to manage it to the point it was unbearable for my body that it decided to attack and sacrifice itself just to make the fear go away. And once you realise something like that, you can’t unrealise it, and all of a sudden I felt all this fear rushing in. All this fear I hadn’t allowed myself to feel at all, because that would mean I would feel afraid and it was too overwhelming so I shut it out and refused to feel anything at all. I didn’t allow myself to feel love. I didn’t allow myself to feel sadness or anger or joy or fear. I was just numb for most of my life. I can only though feel how much I was not here, now that I am here. There are only things you can see when you step outside your box. And so I think it’s important we talk about fear, and about death, and about fearing death, because it is a very powerful fear, one that hides very well under the shadows of other fears, one that can stop us from feeling at all. And what are we if we cannot feel. The only way to truly come to life is to love. And to feel love, we must allow ourselves to feel. And to do so, we must feel fear first. 

We can deny the fact and go on existing trying so hard to run away from death but we can never outrun it. One day we will have to face it. So wouldn’t you rather be prepared? Wouldn’t you rather get to know what you are facing rather than be taken completely by surprise? Wouldn’t you rather learn to practice surrendering a little every day so that when the Big Surrender comes you can ease into it instead of painfully resist it?

In confronting our fears of death, we are not only confronting our mortality but rather the expectation of our immortality. It is only our definitions of life and death that we need to discard, for Life and Death exist outside the boundaries of language. They are undefinable. They are unknown, and will always be so. It is the not knowing that we need to make peace with when we make peace with death. It is the fact that we will never truly know if we are alive or dead that we must rest with. In confronting our fears of death, we must confront the reality that we are limited. We are limited in our knowledge, we are limited in our abilities to perceive, we are limited in life span. But we too are infinite in nature, and that too can be difficult to sit with. How can we be limited but endless? It is that contradiction that we must accept. And it is this duality that defines everything really that we must finally accept and relax into. We will never know — that is really what we must make peace with.

I believe the fear of these uncertainties are the reason we are experiencing such collective dysfunction and chaos in the world. We are not settled because our minds are not settled. We are in distress and we are in denial we are suffering. I believe all this chaos in the world is inviting us to sit down with it, to confront it, to heal it. And all you need to actually do to confront the destruction and death in your society is to confront the destruction and death within yourself. To confront does not mean to fight but to look at, to see, to embrace. It is just like when you confront someone, all you are doing is looking them straight in the eyes. It is no different with death. You must look Death in the eyes. Look deeply. Stay there, stay with it, and rest your gaze. At first you will see nothing. Later you will recognize the darkness. And some time after that, you will realise that you haven’t opened your eyes yet, that this whole time you were so afraid of your own expectation of death, that you hadn’t even opened your eyes. You’ve been living in the darkness of your own mind this whole time. So allow your eyes to gently open. It is your own resistance that has left you sitting in the dark. You just forgot that you decided to close your eyes a long time ago. Open up. Allow the light to shine through, and know that even the scariest of monsters do not survive the light for long.

Always for peace,

S.A.

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