Many of us sincerely think mortality is no biggie. We got this death thing down pat. It's all good, just a change of clothes. Right?
Well, right - but do you really believe that? Like, really really in your deepest heart of hearts?
I sincerely doubt it.
Thinking Ourselves to Death
Death, like all profound notions, often gets insanely intellectualized. We hear the wisdom about how prevalent afterlife stories are, how real the afterlife is, about all the sages who remind us of our eternal nature, and it sounds so delicious the mind globs on and insists this is #truth.
But unless we know something through experience, it's only a thought. Thoughts don't permeate through every cell of our being - wisdom does. That deep, soulful knowingness that is undeniable.
Now, if you've been there, if you've visited death, and were lucky enough to be conscious of the experience, you've got tangible evidence. That's a knowingness. Those folks have this incredible sparkle when they recount their near-death experiences (NDE). They often have a reverence for the process, but fear gets erased. You can feel their sincerity.
But those who have not yet had the blessing of a body that stops - if only for an instant - may not yet have the true knowingness, yet they may talk the talk very, very well.
Fear Isn't Always Obvious
Fear is tricky. Incestuous. Deviously snide. We think ourselves into denial all the bloody time. Mortality is the biggest culprit, because otherwise it becomes a shadow that we literally cannot outrun. So we convince ourselves - yeah, I'm totally good with death. No fear here.
Until a car comes spiraling toward you. Until your doctor says the word, "Cancer." Until your mother dies in front of your eyes, taking her last breath and floating away. . .
If you don't shed a tear from pure joy when death whispers hello, it's not a full experience of YES. I am fearless.
You know that relationship model folks are talking about these days? That if you don't feel a HELL YES regarding your beloved, it's actually a No? The same is true for your relationship with death. When you are undeniably facing this divine dance, if there's anything in you resisting the process, it's not a hell yes. There's a disconnect, a what if, a. . .fear. And guess what? That means you're normal.
The Omnipotent Body-Mind
It's crucial to remember that we are complex beings, and our minds are not the only layers of consciousness. The body has a mind too, in essence, and it's focused on one core concept - survival. And it's epically good at it. That's why even an enlightened monk is going to run like hell if an angry rabid tiger is hot on his heels. In moments of intense danger, the body mind is boss, and he/she doesn't give a shit about your spiritual wisdom.
Outside of those Big Moments, when the body mind is quiet - that's where the truth lies in our relationship with death. For almost all of us, the truth is, we're still afraid.
As well we should be.
No Matter What, Death is the Ultimate Mystery
Even if you've been there before, what awaits when you cross over could be totally different. Death is exactly like life in that it gives us what our soul needs for growth, not what we want to experience. One person's NDE could be full of light and lovey reunions with relatives and pets and lots of happy-dappy love. Another person's experience could be filled with darkness, fear, and incredible emotional pain. Our karma, our current unfolding - that's what dictates what lies beyond.
So even if you know it's not The End, you don't know what lies ahead. And that's crazy exciting. And more than a little unnerving.
A little bit of death-fear is healthy. It's real. It shows awareness and respect. But for most of us, the fear is deeeeeeppppp. So deep we spend a lot of time denying it.
How to Know if You Fear Death
How do you know you're more afraid of death than you thought?
Look at how you live. Are your relationships deeply intimate? Do you love yourself unconditionally? Do you have any addictive or compulsive behaviors? Chances are, beneath the surface of these issues lies a quaky feeling around mortality. There are always exceptions, but even the most spiritually aware among us are deathly afraid of you-know-what.
Understanding death means releasing the fear of it. And living without that unconscious fear means there's infinitely more space for joy, connectedness, intimacy, success - whatever your heart desires.
Whoever you are, I know one thing - you deserve that freedom.