Fear is a powerful force, nowhere more so than when it comes to death and dying. By comparison, the solutions for solving other fears seem useless. You cannot test your fear; you cannot feel it and move on anyway. There is little reason to trust other people who seem to have no such fear. They have no more valid experience of dying than any other person who is alive.
It is reported that near-death experiences leave survivors without any fear of death, because they have seen the other side and found it unfearful. But near-death experiences, although highly publicized, are rare, even among patients who have died on the table in the emergency room, generally from a heart attack, and been resuscitated. You can take hope from their anecdotal stories—and millions do—but the information remains second-hand.
Fear of death is unique in the hold it has over us, and we spend our lives hiding or suppressing it. The prospect of not existing seems too overwhelming to face. But in one respect, despite its uniqueness, the fear of death can be faced and dismantled. There is a cure that is available to anyone. It consists of exposing death as an illusion.
This is the last solution people seek, in all probability, because death looks so real, and the sight of a corpse is frightening and disturbing to most of us. Instead of bringing our fear of death to light, we feel too emotional to begin. But overcoming your emotions puts the cart before the horse. Our fear and revulsion didn’t arise by themselves; they are the coating, as it were, that surrounds the core of illusion, an after-effect rather than the cause.
We can trace the cause backwards by dissecting the illusion in stages, beginning with the top layer and working toward the source of the fear that gave rise to everything else, as follows:
As you can see, fear of death is a layered belief system; it isn’t a simple belief. To overcome this fear each layer must be dismantled, which means exposing the belief as false and processing the emotions tangled up in the belief. Taken one step at a time, the process of dismantling isn’t difficult. The difficulty arises when we try to attack fear of death all at once. That tactic is doomed, given how many false ideas are woven together inside our fear.
Let me show how the dismantling process works by briefly confronting each layer of fear.
But clearly mental activity isn’t the mind, just as the miles on a speedometer isn’t a car. The car and the mind both move, but they don’t have to in order to exist. Silent mind can easily be experienced. There is a silent gap between any two thoughts or sensations.
The experience of silent mind, sleep, and simply tuning out for a moment isn’t fearful in the slightest. These experiences are not even close to non-existence. In fact, non-existence cannot be experienced, since by definition you have to exist to have any experience.
Once you realize that non-existence cannot be experienced, with or without a physical body, there is nothing to fear. However vividly you imagine a fire-breathing dragon, it can’t arouse true fear. An elaborate fiction can be built around dragons, but entering their imaginative domain is a choice, and ultimately we know the choice is pure imagination. The same holds true when we choose to enter the domain where death is the ultimate fear. Once you pierce the mask of illusion, you can choose to exit the domain where this fear exists, and then you are free.
Reprinted from SF Gate with permission
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