When I was 15 years old I had a curious dream that shaped much of my life.
In this dream, I was a little worm inside a giant balloon full of other worms. One day the balloon deflated and in the process I saw all of my worm family die except for another worm who managed to escape the balloon with me. The moment we left our balloon, we found ourselves in a bigger balloon shaped world. Time passed and I noticed we were both changing, morphing into these unusual looking creatures with arms, legs, a body and a head.
We lived for what felt like a lifetime in this world. All our needs were met and it felt warm, nice, quiet and comfortable inside. Then one day, all of a sudden, I felt this immense pressure pushing me out of this world. I tried to hold on to my friend unsuccessfully, I saw a tunnel of light and as I looked back, my friend was crying and demanding that I don’t die, that he didn’t want to be alone. At the end of the tunnel I saw a new reality – a reality I live in today.
After that dream I came to conclude that this life I’m experiencing right now is but my third physical embodiment so far in this ‘lifetime’. I also came to conclude that who I considered myself to be back then had already existed physically in two other worlds before this one that looked entirely different.
Suddenly within me awoke an interest in exploring what we consider to be ‘death’.
Avoidance of Death
Death is an uncomfortable topic for most people. That is perhaps because we are the only creatures on earth that are fully aware of our own mortality. The terrifying thought we all share is that once we die we believe that we will stop existing.
We go through life trying to distance ourselves as much as possible from this thought. As our materialistic world view grows proportionately with our individualized egoic senses of self, science begins to demystify and reduce our existence into a bunch of chemicals, blood and bone sourced solely from happenstance.
Whatever we avoid, whatever we don’t face in life enhances our unconscious fears, serving to feed our shadow selves, amplifying our fears ten-fold. Such is the case with death.
Fear of death has its role in our biological survival. But when we allow this fear to take hold over our whole lives – to put our body’s existence before our soul’s needs – then we have a serious imbalance. This is precisely what is happening in our culture today. We’ve grown obsessed with prolonging our physical youth at ridiculous costs while in other parts of the world people are dying of malnutrition.
We’ve even gone as far as abusing our medical advancements. When we get old or fall seriously ill, we are kept artificially alive with machines, feeding tubes and medications all to postpone what we know is certain. We are sacrificing quality of life for quantity of life out of fear of the uncertain.
In my personal journeying into the self and my experiences with death, I have faced, embraced and learned a few valuable lessons which I feel you will benefit from. Here are some of them:
1. The moment you were born, you already died.
Let me explain that.
The moment you are born, there is an unbroken line between you and your grave. In fact, you are really lying in your grave every bit as much as you are sitting where you are. Life and death arise mutually, the beginning and the end of a spectrum exist at the same time. It’s no coincidence that in our society there are two main taboo’s which are in fact just one: Sex and Death. Sex is the process through which we come into existence, and death is the way we leave it.
The problem is that we perceive reality from the third dimension, almost like a straight line; our birth seems like a separate event from our death. At a quantum level, all time occurs simultaneously and if we could perceive four-dimensional space we’d be able to see our own death.
Life is a build up toward the climax we have labeled “death”.
2. Death essentially makes you alive.
It may sound like a paradox, but only through death can we be truly “alive” beings – which makes life all the more exciting. If you knew that you were going to live forever, life would be extremely dull and uninteresting.
If we knew everything was safe and nothing could ever happen to us … what motivation would we have to do anything?
It is the ephemeral nature of life, the impermanence of it that gives us perspective. Death makes love and vulnerability so joyful, or pursuing a risky path of heart so worthwhile.
Whenever something in life is disturbing you, ask yourself: How many people in the past have been ridiculed, upset, wounded, and worried about something? Where are they now? Where are their enemies?
3. Death makes you grateful.
We are all lone wolves deep down whether we know it or not. Life and death are solitary journey’s full of visitors that we encounter along our paths. We often take for granted the moments when our paths collide with others.
An example of this can be witnessed in an experiment. Whenever you’re experiencing a moment with a loved one; a friend, family members or beloved, take a step back. Become aware of the impermanence of life and observe that moment with all its mundane details, as if you were experiencing the moment from the future once that person’s not in your life anymore.
This future perspective of the present moment is one of the most beautiful ways of experiencing gratitude for others.
4. Death is a perspective.
Death is at the root of most fears. Even public speaking could be considered a primitive fear of being rejected and outcasted by the tribe to fend for yourself, or making yourself vulnerable in an open space to the audience we perceive as ‘predators’. But why are we so afraid of death?
What we know as “death” is only our external perception of it – just like in my dream when my friend in the womb experienced my birth into this world as my death in the womb world.
Most of us are afraid of death because we’ve associated it with physical pain, or we are afraid of the uncertainty of an afterlife. If you dedicate yourself to enough self-exploration you come to realize that it is not you who dies, but what you think you are, i.e. your body, your feelings, your thoughts, your brain’s perception of reality, your history and memories. But when we die, our souls, or our deep and pure unchanging consciousness, returns to its original source (I recommend the book Biocentricism for the science behind this).
5. Death and rebirth.
Philosophers, religious figures and thinkers have dedicated their entire lives to speculating what happens after death, and whether there’s an afterlife or not. However, very few people have actually inquired as to where we came from before birth. We invest much more energy in solving what makes us afraid than to what has already happened.
The truth is that if we understand energy, we realize that nothing can ever be destroyed; it is constantly changing shape, transforming and flowing. Life is a forgetfulness of this original source that is ever-present within us, and in death we are reminded of that source once more.
6. “Let the dead bury the dead.”
I remember reading that phrase by Jesus and it struck me; most people are so concerned with life after death but they never stop to question whether they are even alive to begin with.
We assume that we’re alive because we breathe, we eat and move. But that is simply existing, it is not really feeling wholly, completely alive. Your personality can be in this world, but your soul still never touches it.
Many people fear death because they’ve never really felt fully alive. They’ve never felt full of ecstasy and joy, experienced life beyond temporary happiness, or moments of complete harmonious unity and bliss with existence. These people spend their lives constantly preparing for such exhilarating and timeless moments like this – but their very act of avoiding death never allows the moment to arise completely.
These moments never arrive because we’re too afraid to take risks, to be vulnerable, to be authentic and face the uncertain. We’re too afraid to be alive. It’s only once we’ve tasted real aliveness – even for a single moment – that death diminishes its hold on us.
If life is the polarity of death, your fear of life will be proportionate to your fear of death.
7. Death is the mirror of your life.
Death works like a mirror; whatever you have dedicated your life towards, whatever you have given importance to in life, will be reflected in your moment of death.
If you have spent your life pursuing materialistic wealth, egotistical respect and a life of physical pleasures, then death will be very painful for you. You’ll have to give all that up.
If you’ve spent your life pursuing your passions for art, music and finding your personal meaning, then you’ve tasted life beyond its physical external qualities which death can’t take away.
And if you’ve truly tasted something beyond your individual sense of self, if you’ve become in tune with your soul, then death is not fearsome at all. You know that death is an external illusion; it is the background that is the contrast to life’s foreground.