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  • Clare Hogan

An Approach to Relieving Anxiety Surrounding Dying and Death

The fear of death is inseparable from the fear of loss, and also of being lost and feeling abandoned. A step by step investigation into the nature of these fears can be highly effective because of its immediacy and sole reliance on personal experience. It invites and facilitates a shift in perception which can be felt.

What is it we believe will be lost when we die?

Along with people, property, future experience, we fear that we will lose what and who we imagine ourselves to be. We associate our identity with our bodies and therefore with the process of ageing, sickness, and death, thereby suffering the same destiny. This is what most of us believe because it is the prevailing outlook in western culture. The first step is to identify what it is we fear will be lost, and to explore the attachment to the body in terms of identity and sense of ‘self’. The belief that the physical world generates who we are causes extreme anxiety, because we feel to be at the mercy of deterioration and entropy.

“The fear of death is an egoic response to the belief that objects, events, perceptions, and relationships define us, and yet we are perfectly happy to fall asleep each night and often feel huge relief at the prospect of being free from it all. The ‘distance’ between birth and death is the same as between waking and sleeping – there isn’t any. Thought cannot conceive this idea and it is futile to try to; we must be informed by experience, and we do not experience time when asleep.”

We desire and look forward to sleep because it offers a sense of welcome relief from the performance that the world demands of us, and we of ourselves in terms of thoughts, feelings, sensations, and reactions. We long to return to the reality of our true Self (whether we have that vocabulary or not – it’s an instinctive desire). When we fall asleep everything gradually dissolves, and it’s a welcome sensation. We de-focus and willingly let go of all that we think we have and know. While asleep, there is no time, no body, no things – only dreams of things which are mental constructs. This is a dress rehearsal for the dying process that occurs every 24 hours with which we can actively participate or not. Even in deep sleep, something is always there, always remains in silent, peaceful awareness. We all know this at some level, otherwise we would be terrified of falling asleep because that would be total annihilation. What is it that is constant, immortal, and always available to us? Conscious awareness, which is unaffected by life situations and events and offers the peace and sense of safety and protection that all living creatures seek. It’s there for the noticing.

“There is a purpose to death which has nothing to do with the body, and there is no need to wait for the body to die to wake up and abide in the peaceful knowing of conscious awareness; it’s just that most of us do wait. The purpose of death is to realign with that purposeless purity of being. And if we can carry that awareness into our daily lives and activities, we can become an expression of it.”

We don’t possess conscious awareness, it possesses us. There is one field of infinite consciousness out of which everything emerges. The second step is the move towards this reversal in thinking and perceiving, and sleep is so helpful here because it is everyone’s direct experience. In sleep our thoughts, senses, and perceptions expand outwards into the broader levels of consciousness of which we are a part, and which cannot die. It is like a whirlpool in a river; it gathers into a ‘form’ then disperses back into the flow. It’s all water in varying degrees of intensity. Dream activity takes place in the mind. Mind activity takes place in consciousness. We wake from a dream and realise that it was only a dream. When we die, we will wake up from this one also.

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