With all that has happened in the world in the last three months, most of us have been quietly riding an emotional rollercoaster of highs and lows, here’s How To Cope With Our Greatest Fear, Death.
Some are irritated and angry at the situation forced upon them. Some feel hate for the government’s response to the situation. Some are worried and lay awake at night unable to stop the torrent of thoughts racing through their minds. Some have fallen into sadness and depression in response to the overwhelming immensity of the problem we all face.
All of these different emotional responses are rooted in one small four-letter word that begins with the letter “F”……. now, now…. The word I’m referring to is FEAR!
The notion of not knowing what the future holds lays the foundation for all emotional responses people are feeling at the present moment. We are afraid we won’t have enough money to pay our bills. We are afraid we will lose our savings. We are afraid we will lose our homes. We are afraid we will lose our jobs. We are afraid we will lose a loved one to the virus. We are afraid we will get sick and die.
It is the fear of the unknown that rattles us to our core. A seemingly invisible attacker, a microscopic invader, a virus, a sneeze or cough that has the power to cause our ultimate fear to come true….DEATH! It’s the age-old dilemma “Everyone wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die!”
But as with everything in existence, there is a force that balances the scale. A yin to the yang. A night to the day. The remedy to the feelings of fear that are currently deranging our energetic makeup….. is Wisdom and understanding.
You come home from work and go to the closet to hang up your coat. As you open the door to the closet, out of the corner of your eye you notice a snake coiled on the floor at the back of the closet. With a shriek, you slam the closet door closed and ram your back up against the door to make sure it doesn’t somehow escape. You stand there frozen in fear for several minutes as your mind reels over possible solutions to this impossible to comprehend situation. After what seems to be a lifetime of minutes pass you notice a baseball bat propped up in the corner just within reach. You somehow summon the courage to grab the bat and ready yourself for battle. Before you open the door to the closet you turn on the light in the hallway to give yourself the advantage over your opponent. With one last deep breath, you cock the bat over your shoulder, and fling the closet door open. With the bat overhead, you zero in on your target.
But wait,… new information has entered the equation.
With the hallway light now illuminating the situation, you can now see that the deadly snake you were about to end, was nothing more than the garden hose your son had hidden, instead of taking it to the backyard like he was asked. In effect, the light in the hallway was able to literally shine the light of wisdom and understanding of the situation. With this new understanding of the situation, the pounding fear you were feeling was instantly replaced with the peace that only wisdom can provide.
With the Covid-19 virus circling the globe right now, it is bringing our own deepest fear into focus… our own mortality.
The one unknown that we can never know. The subject that most people choose to never think about. Now, the current facts state that the vast majority of people infected with the virus will have only mild symptoms that will not require medical intervention. However, as with all things in life, there are no guarantees. Once again the dreaded unknown creeps back in the equation. This might just be a good time to address the giant ignorant orange elephant in the room (ya, I said it!) What I mean is, what do we actually believe happens when we die.
I know this may feel like a massive philosophical topic to take on with all that is going on right now. But it may just be the remedy too much of which ails you mentally and emotionally. I look at it this way, you basically have three options in this situation.
1. You ignore the root of your fears and continue to live in denial, thereby perpetuating and exacerbating the mental and emotional damage you do to yourself on a daily basis.
2. You focus on mitigating the symptoms, through distractions like work, Netflix and exercise or numbing agents such as alcohol and weed. This option also perpetuates the problem while creating new, possibly destructive coping mechanisms.
3. You examine, in detail what you actually believe and why.
I have spent a great deal of time in mediation on the subject of my own understanding of death. I have exhaustively examined the different possibilities and probabilities I deem relevant. All that time in contemplation has brought me to a place of mental and emotional peace. Most importantly it has extinguished the fear I had on the subject of what happens when “I” end. For each person, this journey will have different twists, turns and destinations. For some, their religious beliefs will be tested and examined. For others like myself, it is our philosophical beliefs that will be put to the test. What I can tell you, is the more you examine a subject in detail, the less it scares you. As I said before, understanding is the remedy to the dis-ease of fear. The more you understand about your own beliefs, the more you understand about your thought and decision-making process and eventually the more you understand about yourself.
Every answer poses a new question leading in a new direction of contemplation. Amazingly, the farther you travel down the rabbit hole, the more you will begin to realize and “accept“ that there are certain things we can never know. That acceptance of the unknown is the light in which wisdom shines on the scary darkness we fear. It is that light that reveals our fears to be a story and concept of our own creation, and therefore we possess the power and ability to re-write and change how we see them and how they affect us.
“Fear is the inability to accept the presence of the unknown.”
“Wisdom is the ability to accept the fact that there are things we can never know.”
Find a quiet place to sit. You don’t have to sit in full or even half lotus. Just sit on a cushion, chair or couch. Lift from the crown of your head and straighten your back, bringing some structure to your body. This will help to bring some structure to your thoughts. Place your hand on your lower stomach and close your eyes.
Now, take a deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. Spend a few moments allowing your breath to calm your heart and mind down so you can begin your contemplative meditation.
Once you feel like you are a bit calmer, ask yourself, “What do You think happens when you die?”
At first, you may just draw a blank (which is totally a Zen moment, so “You’re Welcome!”) After that, your own personal story of belief will kick in. As if you were a teacher speaking to a super keen student sitting in the front row of class, explain to yourself in as much detail as possible what you believe happens when you die.
Once you have explained your position in exhaustive detail, switch positions and become an eager-beaver student. Ask yourself every question you can possibly think of to examine the concept deeper. Do your best to answer every question to the best of your ability as a teacher.
Continue this back and forth self-dialogue until you are have completely exhausted all questions. Once you run out of questions sit for a few moments and return to your breath.
Now ask yourself, “How do you feel about death?”
Sit with the question and see what emotion is generated in that moment? Depending on the emotion you feel in that moment, now ask yourself, “Why do you think you feel that way?”
Once again answer as exhaustively as you can. When finished, once again sit with the answer and see what emotion is generated at that moment?
Finally, come back to your breath once again for a few moments to bring yourself out of your mind and back into your body. Thank yourself for having the courage to take on this challenge, and then open your eyes.
You can repeat this mediation as many times as you like. Over time I can assure you, you will find yourself living in a world where death no longer generates fear. The newfound wisdom and understanding will generate peace in your heart and mind and create your own personal heaven on earth.
…give it a try!