Life and death is a continuous and non-stop cyclical process. Everyday we experience a microcosm of this process as we shift from waking to sleeping and dreaming. When we sleep we disappear. We don’t fear going to sleep because we have done it many times and assume we will wake-up. The difference with death is that we don’t remember past lives and so there is uncertainty about waking-up from death.
Death is a part of life, but not the end of life. When we live in fear of death we detract from life. Fearing anything in the future diminishes what can be lived in the present. Even the moments leading up to death can be beautiful and full of love. As the spirit drifts away from the body there can be a great sense of relief.
When we’re born we cry and everyone else laughs. When we die, everyone cries and we laugh.
In life there is a strong desire for security. That desire comes out of a fear of the future, but the more you crave security the more insecure you become. Security can never be found in the world. A wealthy person can suddenly loose their wealth. Anyone can die at any time no matter what precautions they take. Sometimes the healthy doctor dies unexpectedly before the sick patient.
Fear of dying is an emotion driven by a craving for continuity that comes from the ego. Craving continuity is to focus on the future, yet everything in life, including this body, is temporary. All you have in life is absolutely certain to change and disappear.
On the one hand everyone knows death will come yet people have a subconscious denial of this obvious truth because there is a sense of an immortal nature. Perhaps it is the soul within us that is subconsciously aware of our immortality, but the mind connects that sense of immortality with the physical body and personality we identify with. This is the ego identification, a false interpretation of who the think we are.
The ego in you craves continuity out of identification with, and an attachment to, our body, personality and possessions. The ego expands by identifying our possessions as part of “me“. All that we see as “mine”, is part of “me“. We even see certain people as “mine“, our spouse, children, parents and even friends. As long as ego is expanding it doesn’t cause us pain.
An expanding ego can feel good, this is why people love to shop and buy more things that become “mine”. When we lose something we consider “mine”, whether an object, a person, a status, or a job, the ego causes us pain. People often hang-on to things they know are not good for them out of the fear of losing something identified as “mine”.
The more mature, the more evolved, a person is, the more their intellect guides their decision-making while a less mature mind is run more by the ego and the emotions the ego generates. Our intellect might tell us a particular job, city, or relationship is not good for us, but the ego will generate fear to keep us from making a change. This is the craving for continuity even for things we don’t like.
Since life is in a constant state of change and the ego is craving security through non-change, a conflict and fear is running in the background of the mind. This is like building a house against the edge of the ocean and then getting upset every time the water level changes.
Death is feared because it represents the biggest discontinuity of life. The unknown is feared by the ego because of the risk that it could mean annihilation. To the ego, safety is in keeping the status quo.
You are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience.
You are a spiritual being immersed in a human experience.
Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955)
The reality is that besides the physical body, we have a subtle body, and upon death of the physical body the subtle body detaches and goes to another dimension taking the mind along. We go to a place of peace and joy corresponding to our degree of awareness. In a restful place we contemplate the life we led and how well or how poorly we acted here. Personal growth only takes place in the physical life so eventually we return for another human experience.
We could look at this like going to school. We take a summer vacation but then we must return for the next semester. We keep going until we have developed our full potential and graduate. On the one hand we can look at life as something to get through so we can enjoy an enlightened life. On the other hand, every moment is life, every moment is perfect, and we can have an attitude of wonder and contentment as we move through this amazing life with all of its astonishing diversity.
To escape the ignorance of life one must seek throughout life to unfold their inner dimension. To do this, we must repeatedly quiet the mind in deep meditation and experience the consciousness that underlies the mind. When we quiet the mind to stillness and again return to the field of activity, we gradually infuse consciousness in our awareness.
The experience is one of great relief and peace, a feeling of absolute comfort. Having this daily experience in meditation lets the awareness of consciousness remain with us more and more outside of meditation. We begin to identify as consciousness, which is non-changing, instead of with a body which is always changing.
Amazingly, this develops the fastest when we don’t use effort. Meditation is the deepest when we don’t try to remain aware or control anything. The mind can only settle down and fully transcend thoughts and emotions when we stop applying effort. For the quickest growth we need to learn a skill to allow this natural process of deep effortless meditation to happen regularly.
Expanding and stabilizing awareness needs 2 steps that are both accomplished in deep meditation: First, we need to experience the silence of the consciousness underlying the activity of the mind on a daily basis.
Secondly, we need to purify the stress and accumulated impressions stored in the mind that cause most of our thoughts and emotions. Over time the mind becomes much quieter and we don’t have as many emotional reactions. Spontaneously we’re more aware, peaceful and joyful. Then, any attachment to continuity and craving for security in the world leaves you, along with any fear of death.