The truth is not, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself”. The truth is, “Fear is nothing to fear”!
This takes us to the ultimate truth – there is nothing to fear!
However, this does not imply that we should not fear.
Fear is a messenger in the same way that pain is a messenger inviting us to investigate and find out what is wrong.
Fear appears when we overlook what is true, real, substantial, essential, permanent about ourselves and the world.
Fear is our healthy resistance to what we do not want – discomfort, harm, pain, suffering, sickness and death.
Yet these are inevitable in our human experience. These are experiences that we have all had countless times (except for death), that we have survived and learned from and will continue to survive and learn from until we die. We need not fear them, yet we do need to resist and avoid them, and fear is the shape our resistance takes.
Now we arrive at the one experience we have never experienced, yet which we all dread – death. Our existential fear of death is our resistance to our death. Why resist it when it is inevitable? This is not to suggest that we not do everything to avoid and resist unhealthy, dangerous situations by taking care and acting in ways that make us safe. But, why resist death?
Our resistance to death leads to imagining crazy things like, “There is a right time and a right way to die, and a wrong time and a wrong way to die”. In reality, death appears at all times in all ways. For many it has been and will be the COVID-19 virus. For many, 20,000 or so this year alone, it has been the flu. For 3.1 million children each year according to UNCIEF (1.03 million this year alone) it is undernourishment.
We can learn, gradually or all at once, to live our life with no resistance to death – our own and our loved ones’. Imagine what it would be like to live our life that way – without resisting the fact that one day we will die while never knowing when or how; and not resisting the pain of loss, which is made of the love for our loved ones. As death is inevitable, we can come to relish the fact that we were born and are still here and relish every moment we have left. This is what we arrive at when we welcome our fear of death, discover that fear is nothing to fear, and that in reality there is nothing to fear.
While this implies that we need not be afraid, it does not suggest that we should no longer experience fear. Again, fear, like pain, is a messenger that invites us to explore what is wrong and exposes our resistance to something. There are many things we should resist in the interest of health and safety – like resisting being in close proximity to others during this pandemic.
We know that the body will die, and we believe that when the body dies we die because we believe that all we are is the body. We assume it is a fact that the body is the source of awareness – the awareness with which we are aware of all experience and our selves. In reality, it is a presumption, not a fact. No one has ever seen awareness coming out of the brain, or sensations coming out of the body. It is a fact of our experience that we are aware and that we sense and perceive; but it is a theory that the body is the source of these.
This theory, presumed to be a fact, comes from the undeniable correlation between the brain and experience. Affect the brain and we affect experience. Kill the body and there is no more experience for this person. (There is no experience for any person in deep sleep, yet we do not say the Self has disappeared/died). However, this is no different that affecting our computers and monitors and affecting the information that is experienced, and then concluding that the monitor and computer are the source or cause of the information. Could it be that the body is like the laptop, a local, “personal” means through which we access the bandwidth of universal, impersonal information that is available to all computers; and just as that bandwidth of information remains when the laptop dies, so Being, Awareness, “I” remains?
The fact that all of us as “persons” long for eternal life and most of us believe in life after death or reincarnation may be a clue in our minds and feelings that we are not simply the body, that the body is not the source of awareness, and that when the body dies we, awareness do not disappear any more than the bandwidth of information disappears when a laptop, computer, tablet, or smart phone dies.
Awareness is the source of all experience. This is easy to test. Remove awareness from any experience and where is there any experience? Our experience of what thought labels the body, mind and world is our experience of feeling, sensing, thinking, imagining, and perceiving. Remove awareness and where is the experience of feeling, sensing, thinking, imagining, and perceiving? Experience tell us that awareness is the source of all experience, which thought then labels body, mind, and world.
Nothing in experience indicates that the body is the source of awareness. This is a universally shared idea presumed to be a fact. It is not our actual, immediate, intimate experience. That the earth is flat and that the sun revolves around the earth were also universally shared ideas taken to be facts (still done so by some). Our conviction that something is true does not make it so, although it makes it appear real just as our dreams do until we awake.
No one has ever, or could ever experience the appearance or disappearance of awareness – our Self. Thought imagines that awareness appears and disappears. However, when we do not refer to thought, but stick to our actual, lived, intimate, immediate experience, we recognize that we have never and could never experience the appearance and disappearance of awareness itself. What would have to be present to claim to experience the appearance and disappearance of awareness? Why, awareness, of course!
Thought imagines that everything must have a cause, and this is true except for the “original cause”. If matter “caused” awareness, what caused matter? If the big bang caused matter, what caused the big bang? Staying true to our actual, immediate, intimate experience we know that awareness simply is and has no cause; it just is. We have never experienced its appearance, and we have never experienced it’s disappearance. It is only thought that imagines awareness appears and disappears, not our actual experience. We can think of this as causeless cause. If we want to think religiously we can ask, “What caused God?”
In short, we have no evidence in our actual experience that when the body dies we, the Self, awareness dies. Even if we do cease to exist when we die, what is there to fear? From that model, we did not exist prior to conception, and that was not a problem, or frightening. Why would ceasing to exist then be frightening? We come back to the realization that death is nothing to fear, either because there is no death, or because ceasing to exist is not any more problematic than not existing before conception.
To summarize, the reality is that we have nothing to fear, and fear is nothing to fear. Yet fear is a healthy response in the same way that pain is. It gets our attention so we can investigate and heal what is wrong when possible. When it comes to our emotional distress, what is wrong is that we are overlooking our true nature – that which is aware of our experience. When we explore the nature of this awareness that we are from our immediate, intimate experience, we notice it is ever-present, having been present from our very first experience, being present reading these words, and will be present at our last experience. We notice that it is not an object with form and location. In other words it is eternal and infinite. We notice that no experience can diminish or enhance it, that is, it is changeless. Nothing can harm it. It needs nothing while knowing everything. It is free from all experience while intimate with all experience. Thus, to characterize awareness, it is safe, at peace, secure and self-fulfilled. This is, in reality our true nature.
When we overlook our true Self, awareness, we believe and feel that we are limited, vulnerable, lacking, separate, needy people and seek to find peace, happiness, security, comfort and fulfillment from things outside of ourselves like relationships, objects, situations, activities, substances, accomplishments, status, etc. No wonder fear appears! Remember, fear is a messenger. When we believe and feel that security, peace and happiness are missing, wee need to look for these, but we need to look in the right direction. No one is interested in temporary security, happiness and fulfillment we already experience this. What we long for is abiding, permanent peace, security, comfort, happiness, fulfilment.=. To seek what is permanent from that which is temporary is, well, you fill in the blank.
Welcome fear and look for freedom from fear, first by accepting and embracing it, and then by investigating its source.
There is nothing to fear in reality, which does not mean, “Do not fear”. It means, “Investigate to find out what is true”.