I am terrified of dying… How to deal with it?

Q: Hi, thank you for your content. It is very helpful! It recently came to me that I may die soon. And I am terrified… I am terrified that I will lose everything — memory, vision, and people who I love.. I’m terrified of dying because I will stop existing… How to deal with it?

A: [Jitindriya] Dear Friend, as Jayasara replied to your email a couple of days ago, I will just say a few words in response to your question here [in this comments thread], in the hope that it might help a little.

It’s not easy to advise in such a way, but just to say that it is ‘normal’ to initially feel some shock and fear when the reality of death comes knocking, especially if one hasn’t really contemplated this truth very much in one’s life. Although it is the reality from the day we are born – that this body will surely die – still, we don’t usually really ‘grok’ this until a diagnosis comes our way or we have some close brush with death. This is an awakening moment however – for some, the true beginning of a spiritual awakening. It is ego-belief that gives rise to fear… the sense of self that comes from assuming and thinking this body is ‘me’ and ‘mine’, rather than just an aspect of ‘nature’. In the Buddhist spiritual path, we contemplate the reality of this body-mind from the inside out, to understand it’s nature – as an ever-changing process of interactivity with nature and the elements. We gradually learn to let-go of the mistaken attachment to the body-mind processes as ‘me’ and ‘mine’ – as we see that clinging and ‘owning’ just equals suffering… while letting-go brings peace and understanding. We can learn to take refuge and find stillness in innermost awareness and wisdom, that which knows the arising and ceasing of all phenomena and doesn’t grasp after it. Ultimately, the Master’s tell us, it is That which transcends all birth and death, and in fact, has never been bound up by any of it.

May you find all the support you need as you journey on in your spiritual awakening, and may the blessings of the Buddha-Dhamma lead you on with insight and peace. Much metta…