One of the most vivid memories of my childhood is when I woke up from sleep in a panic crying and asking my mom if she was going to die. I remember being very afraid because I dreamt of my parents dying and thought that they were going to leave me.
In the past few years, I made effort to face this inherent fear that most of us share – the fear of death. Our uneasiness with mortality is always humming in the background of our consciousness. However, the more I read and thought about it, the less fearful I am of it. Accounts of people with near-death experiences almost always describe death as a surreal, detached and painless process.
We are afraid of death in the form of the final death of our bodies at the end of our earthbound life as well as in its other forms - partings, endings, separations, losses, transformations and changes. We all experience small deaths everyday.
One of the reasons why we freak out when we think of death is because we think we will become nothing. We are afraid to cease to exist after what we have invested in our lives. We don’t want to be separated from our loved ones and everything we have grown fond of. The fear stems from the perception that we are isolated beings disconnected from nature.
The father of modern chemistry, French scientist Lavoisier, looked deeply in the nature of things and declared that nothing is born and nothing can die : ‘Rien ne se crée, rien ne se perd.’
Life and death are two sides of one coin. They complement and complete each other. Everything dies and gets reborn into something else. Nothing is wasted in this vast cycle of birth and death. According to the law of conservation of energy, energy can neither be created nor destroyed. It can only be transformed from one state to another.
When we fully understand this, we can release our crazy compulsion to hang on to who we think we are and what we think we need in order to survive. We become more flexible and detach easily from things. We learn to appreciate how fresh ideas spring out of the dark fertility of death. We start to enjoy what is in the present, grieve what is lost with passion and our faith in the infinite mystery of life deepens.
Renaissance philosopher Michel de Montaigne advised people to practice ‘death’. He wrote, “To begin depriving death of its greatest advantage over us, let us deprive death of its strangeness, let us frequent it, let us get used to it; let us have nothing more often in mind than death. To practice death is to practice freedom”. We free ourselves from the prison of our own making by confronting the exact thing we resist and fear the most.
It is the ultimate bravery to practice dying as it means living as close to reality as possible every moment. The spiritual warrior stands naked before the truth. What is the point in hiding anymore when death is around the corner?
Take a few minutes now to look at your life and the way things are always beginning and ending. Find a quiet place, sit down and close your eyes, and meditate on the fluid nature of your body, of time and of life itself. Here is a simple meditation you can use to practice dying.
Bring your focus to something that is ending or dying or changing in your life right now. Breathe gently as you notice the feelings that arise – excitement, sadness, agitation, anger, or grief. Just breathe into the feelings and stay open to whatever that comes into your awareness. Remember the times when you resisted change and how things turned out in the end. It might not have been exactly as you expected it but you emerged wiser, stronger and very much alive! Allow yourself to break open to the promise of rebirth. Pray for the courage to welcome this new change with openness and wisdom. When you are ready, open your eyes and look at life with grace, hope and a sense of lightness.
May you have the wisdom to transform death from a source of fear to an opportunity to reveal the true richness of your life, dear friends.
By Chim Li Yen.
The above article was first published on http://www.thevioletflame.com.my/