Fear of death

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Fear of death

Postby Ayu » Tue Dec 31, 2013 6:51 pm

Somebody asked me, how I did overcome the fear of death. I'd like to share this question, because I'm sure it's a common problem and there are probably many good answers awaiting to come out.

Did you have fear of death and how did you overcome it?

In my case it was a development over several decades.
I suffered much about this fear as I grew from child to young woman. Becoming older helped a long way through it. I thought about it much, analysed, wrote diary... I found out it was because of fear of life. The younger I was the less I could imagine how to manage all these demands and challenges my life would call for. And this was frightening...
The strongest fear happened always while falling asleep. Just in that moment when my mind was sailing away, a sudden thought came like a shock into my mind: "I have to die. Whenever it will be, THEN the moment will be NOW!" This thought/feeling always woke me with a start. And I felt lost. My precious self, my only treasure, would be dissolved and be gone.

Although i was a practicioner of meditation for many years, it first time became really better by buddhistic practice. The change was slowly and subtle.
Helpful were three methods:
- the vajrasattva meditation accumulating 100000 long 100-syllables Mantras. This washed everything out and my mind became more peaceful.
- the demon-feeding meditation, using the book by Tsultrim Allione
https://ebookstore.sony.com/ebook/tsult ... 0000098527
- imaginations about dying & being reborn & dying & being reborn & dying & being reborn... I didn't like so much to begin such an meditation, but once started it was not so brutal. Nothing bad happened, it was save. :smile:

About 4 years of these buddhistic practices cured me from the fear of death.

Anybody else with further expieriences or advices?
Because, if our mothers, who have been kind to us
From beginningless time, are suffering,
What can we do with (just) our own happiness?
From 10th of 37 Bodhisattva Practices
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Re: Fear of death

Postby Ayu » Tue Dec 31, 2013 7:19 pm

Another method to work with fears is to face "normal" fears like climbing a tower, taking the elevator, adopting a spider as a pet in your house...and so on.
Whatever frightens, if one looks at it and deals with it in small steps, it is helpful. The method is not to avoid the things you dislike but to seek for contact with it.
For example, when i slowly started to climb towers, the fear of spiders vanished simultaniously.
Because, if our mothers, who have been kind to us
From beginningless time, are suffering,
What can we do with (just) our own happiness?
From 10th of 37 Bodhisattva Practices
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Re: Fear of death

Postby Ayu » Tue Dec 31, 2013 8:36 pm

:smile: I found some further information:

http://m.wikihow.com/Overcome-Fear-of-Death
Because, if our mothers, who have been kind to us
From beginningless time, are suffering,
What can we do with (just) our own happiness?
From 10th of 37 Bodhisattva Practices
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Re: Fear of death

Postby LastLegend » Tue Dec 31, 2013 8:45 pm

I think fear of leaving what I leave behind-loved ones. Attachment in short. It manifests in worries for my health. I don't want to die before I become enlightened in this lifetime. :smile:
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Re: Fear of death

Postby Punya » Tue Dec 31, 2013 10:53 pm

Thank you for sharing Ayu.

It's sad that many western societies have become so sanitised and alienated from death. While it was quite confronting, I felt I benefited from visiting major Hindu cremation sites in Varanasi and Kathmandu in 2012. Hindus have a very different way of dealing with the death. One guide was told us how after a family cremation they routinely sift through the ashes to collect relics which would then be taken to a holy river location in the future.

I also recently took up the opportunity to study the Bardo Thodol (Tibetan Book of the Dead) with one of my teachers. We also viewed the film, which you can watch on youtube. We discussed death processes and what to expect, including the bardo of the in-between, and he related experiences he has had counselling terminal terminal patients. While I have reservations about some of the translation and his writing is pretty academic Robert Thurman's book is quite good and is written to accommodate non-buddhists.

When one of my children was younger he asked me about death and I explained about the buddhist belief in reincarnation. It seemed to really help him. In terms of what continues on after to death I think it's good to focus on cultivating bodhicitta. In our new body we may not be conscious of past lives but if we do our best to purify our subtle mind now we can send it forth (so to speak) to benefit others in future lives,
Unless the inner forces of negative emotions are conquered
Strife with outer enemies will never end.
~Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche
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Re: Fear of death

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed Jan 01, 2014 3:25 am

For some of people, fear of death isn't just a nagging thing, but something more akin to a severe, constant panic attack. I've gotten this a couple times as I've aged, usually when I have some sort of long-term (even if non-serious) health problem.

I got lots of advice on here and elsewhere, and the things that worked best for me were:

Vipayshana focused on the fear - this is really the "best "triage" approach for me, if the fear is really strong, simply stopping and sitting wiht it, examining it will reduce the physical feeling of panic, etc.

Any practice (liked dream yoga) that involves "practicing" for death.

A meditation I got from a video someone here sent me (thanks a lot, you know who you are!) that basically involves reflection on what you would do if you were dying, thinking about it in terms of different intervals of time before death arrives.

I also really got a lot out of Mind Beyond Death by Dzogchen Ponlop, and similar resources regarding the Tibetan Book of The Dead.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Fear of death

Postby reddust » Wed Jan 01, 2014 5:43 am

Ayu wrote:Somebody asked me, how I did overcome the fear of death. I'd like to share this question, because I'm sure it's a common problem and there are probably many good answers awaiting to come out.

Did you have fear of death and how did you overcome it?


I saw my Dad die of cancer, I was five and it took him two years to die a very slow painful death. The last time I saw him he was plugged into a machine to help him breathe. The machine scared the heck out of me. After he died, when he was laid out in his casket my Mom took me to his side, he weighed 98lbs at 6'3. His nose looked so big I grabbed it thinking this isn't my Dad, he is gone. I didn't wonder where he went, I just knew he was gone and he wasn't that body. Odd I've never had thoughts of fear regarding my death or anyone else through out my 50ish years if existence. When my time comes, I've thought about how I would like to die.

I went through a retreat where I felt as if I was dying. The young women sitting next to me also went through a similar experience. I felt like I was dying, she thought she was dying. It was a great retreat and it was awful too. After the retreat I had no more night terrors or irrational fears, except I still am afraid of my dark closets, but I can deal with that fear and go to sleep. It's just a silly little fear.
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Re: Fear of death

Postby Ayu » Wed Jan 01, 2014 12:06 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:...
A meditation I got from a video someone here sent me (thanks a lot, you know who you are!) that basically involves reflection on what you would do if you were dying, thinking about it in terms of different intervals of time before death arrives.

This sounds very helpful in my ears. Could you please find this video and share it here? Or send it as PM, so I can give it to this certain person?
Because, if our mothers, who have been kind to us
From beginningless time, are suffering,
What can we do with (just) our own happiness?
From 10th of 37 Bodhisattva Practices
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Re: Fear of death

Postby Ayu » Wed Jan 01, 2014 12:13 pm

reddust wrote:
Ayu wrote:Somebody asked me, how I did overcome the fear of death. I'd like to share this question, because I'm sure it's a common problem and there are probably many good answers awaiting to come out.

Did you have fear of death and how did you overcome it?


I saw my Dad die of cancer, I was five and it took him two years to die a very slow painful death. The last time I saw him he was plugged into a machine to help him breathe. The machine scared the heck out of me. After he died, when he was laid out in his casket my Mom took me to his side, he weighed 98lbs at 6'3. His nose looked so big I grabbed it thinking this isn't my Dad, he is gone. I didn't wonder where he went, I just knew he was gone and he wasn't that body. Odd I've never had thoughts of fear regarding my death or anyone else through out my 50ish years if existence. When my time comes, I've thought about how I would like to die.

I went through a retreat where I felt as if I was dying. The young women sitting next to me also went through a similar experience. I felt like I was dying, she thought she was dying. It was a great retreat and it was awful too. After the retreat I had no more night terrors or irrational fears, except I still am afraid of my dark closets, but I can deal with that fear and go to sleep. It's just a silly little fear.

Possibly it was very wise from your Mom to let you take a thorough look on your dead father. I think, the reality is more clear and less frightening than phantasies are.
I know a person, his father died when he was seven years old. Nobody talked with him about it and he was not allowed to see his sick father and not allowed even to join the funeral. This made my friend sick, because he could never say good-bye to him.
Because, if our mothers, who have been kind to us
From beginningless time, are suffering,
What can we do with (just) our own happiness?
From 10th of 37 Bodhisattva Practices
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Re: Fear of death

Postby reddust » Wed Jan 01, 2014 5:46 pm

Ayu wrote:
reddust wrote:
Ayu wrote:Somebody asked me, how I did overcome the fear of death. I'd like to share this question, because I'm sure it's a common problem and there are probably many good answers awaiting to come out.

Did you have fear of death and how did you overcome it?


I saw my Dad die of cancer, I was five and it took him two years to die a very slow painful death. The last time I saw him he was plugged into a machine to help him breathe. The machine scared the heck out of me. After he died, when he was laid out in his casket my Mom took me to his side, he weighed 98lbs at 6'3. His nose looked so big I grabbed it thinking this isn't my Dad, he is gone. I didn't wonder where he went, I just knew he was gone and he wasn't that body. Odd I've never had thoughts of fear regarding my death or anyone else through out my 50ish years if existence. When my time comes, I've thought about how I would like to die.

I went through a retreat where I felt as if I was dying. The young women sitting next to me also went through a similar experience. I felt like I was dying, she thought she was dying. It was a great retreat and it was awful too. After the retreat I had no more night terrors or irrational fears, except I still am afraid of my dark closets, but I can deal with that fear and go to sleep. It's just a silly little fear.

Possibly it was very wise from your Mom to let you take a thorough look on your dead father. I think, the reality is more clear and less frightening than phantasies are.
I know a person, his father died when he was seven years old. Nobody talked with him about it and he was not allowed to see his sick father and not allowed even to join the funeral. This made my friend sick, because he could never say good-bye to him.


Ayu
This was in the 1960s, we didn't watch TV, very few movies, no video games. So there was no manufactured fears from other people inserted into our lives.

We weren't religious, nor do I remember my Mom putting anyone down, she minded her business pretty much, so we grew up without prejudice or being racist. Mom didn't talk much, except about her latest interest and hated being asked questions. Death was not something to be shy of, nor was anything in life. But we didn't talk about my Dad's death, my Mom never talked about anything outside of what she was interested in, she was not a curious person regarding what people felt and thought. In my family kids were to be seen and not heard. I figured life and death out on my own, Mom never hide anything from us kids nor did she explain anything. Seeing death early may scare some kids, and for kids like me we figure out quickly everything dies, especially growing up on a farm. I grew up in a cold, cruel, amazingly divinely indifferent beautiful world. :heart:
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Re: Fear of death

Postby Door » Wed Jan 01, 2014 7:45 pm

Anybody else with further expieriences or advices?


If you are a properly practicing Buddhist following the precepts and meditating intensely then you are creating mountains of good karma that will lead you to very happy lives in the future. There is nothing scary about death, you are getting a promotion :)
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Re: Fear of death

Postby Ayu » Thu Jan 02, 2014 12:34 pm

As we address this topic of fear of death here, I can see that I'm not totally free of any fear about it. It's an uncomfortable topic. I'd like to avoid it.
This reminds me of the first chapters of the lamrim, where the Buddha recommends us to contemplate about death. Not only every day but "every moment", it is said...
Judging from the fact that it is so unpleasent to think of death and one likes to forget about these meditations again and again, it is intelligible why the Buddha insisted so strongly on this matter.
And to do so, to meditate on it and to get used to the fact and to losen the grip of anxiety is making a big step towards freedom.
Because, if our mothers, who have been kind to us
From beginningless time, are suffering,
What can we do with (just) our own happiness?
From 10th of 37 Bodhisattva Practices
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Re: Fear of death

Postby AJungianIdeal » Fri Jan 03, 2014 5:01 am

I've been trying to deal with it for 3 months continuously now. I know, being only 22, that I have theorectically quite a while to go yet. But as a fan of history and violent games, geography and science; I feel surrounded by it. I fear reading the news now because of how violent this world can be to the innocent.
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Re: Fear of death

Postby Madeliaette » Sun Jan 26, 2014 7:35 pm

I don't think i have ever felt a serious fear of death. I used to fear that i would not do this or that before growing old, but never worried about death itself and as soon as I believed in multiple lives, I eased on the fear of not doing this or that 'this time thru'.

I have found that doing a study course and contemplation/meditation on karma & past lives has cured any fear that might have come as I get older. If you come to a point where you have a firm belief and understanding in karma/past lives, then death is just dropping one body when it is no longer able to hold you and looking for the next - much the same as we throw off dirty old worn out clothes and put fresh ones on. Very few of us weep and mourn when we pull off our smelly socks or remove a t-shirt with a hole in as we 'expect' fresh smelling socks and a brand new tee to put on the next day. If we get to the point we 'expect' another body of some form to replace the ones we are currently wearing out, it makes no sense to get scared or sad when a body expires.

I recently lost my father - September 2013 - after having spent the past 3.5 years caring for him in his increasingly aging and wearing out body. First his bowels went on him - then his mobility - then he was diagnosed with dementia. On his 90th birthday, he was not feeling well - so spent the day in bed and had the dr as well as a half dozen or so friends pop in to visit. The next day he was feeling worse, pain - so he went into hospital with bowel complications. It was 4 days after his birthday when the dr phoned and told me his bowels had burst and he had just days to live. I went in on the 6th day after his birthday and prepared to sit with him until the end. My son and a friend came with me - then left shortly after. My son (22YO) was in shock and very upset to see his grandfather with oxygen tubes and his mouth open, eyes sunken, unconscious. I was calm, even though dad was much worse than the previous day - when he had opened his eyes, smiled, and tried to speak if anyone spoke to him or touched him. An hour or so later, the nurse asked if i would like the Chaplain to come and pray for him and I agreed - as he was a Christian. Dad passed away as she said the prayers - going towards his God and belief in joining Mom in heaven. (I think he will soon be reborn as a frog or bird in our garden, myself, but....) Understanding that Dad shed his broken down body for a new one means there is no reason to be unhappy, because what was Dad will be back as something new - in a new body. So i guess this also brings up the Buddhist teaching of non-attachment, which i have also worked with - and why I cope so well with death (which is a good thing - because an elderly friend of Dad's who I have been popping round to visit/cheer up has just been diagnosed with lung cancer) and why i have no fear of it - and do not think I will suffer from fear of death.
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Re: Fear of death

Postby Ayu » Sun Jan 26, 2014 10:37 pm

So you are fortunate.
I guess fear or no-fear of death has a deeper source than mere thoughts.
:smile:
Because, if our mothers, who have been kind to us
From beginningless time, are suffering,
What can we do with (just) our own happiness?
From 10th of 37 Bodhisattva Practices
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Re: Fear of death

Postby Roland » Mon Jan 27, 2014 4:59 am

I spend a lot of time either thinking about death or "studying death". One thing in this life is absolutely certain; I'm going to die and I have no idea when or how. Sometimes, going about my normal daily activities, I will think about all the possible ways I could die. They really are infinite. It brings a certain clarity to existence. The underlying, primal, fight or flight physical fear of death, I try transform into a fuel to do what needs to be done... to not waste time on trivial things.

I really think it is better how India approaches death. Puts it directly in your face, right in the open. You can walk by a skull on the street and people barely notice, and people seem generally more at peace. Whereas in western society, there is a mass ignoring and denial of death. That's a good book on the subject from a western psychology point of view The Denial of Death. I recently finished this book and will be revisiting it. Its basically discussing how almost everything humans do is essentially motivated by an underlying fear or denial of death, like striving for success in order to become immortal in a sense, to transcend death. I imagine this is at the core of materialism as well, holding on to objects or creating them, attaching to things or ideas, to put your mark on the world, grasping them as if they can embody oneself into what seems like permanent objects if only because they may last longer than one's own squishy flesh body. It goes deep into the childhood psychology of death... really puts me in a "raw" state or like... vulnerable... hard to describe. Its sort of gross, actually.

Sometimes, in my life, I trick myself into thinking I no longer fear death. But inevitably, at least once a year or so, I will have a brutal, horrendous, crushing, life threatening health issue that will put me almost to death, or what seems like close to death, or at the very least, death is a better option because the pain is unbearable. Then, when I'm on the edge, I clearly see I'm terrified of death, or at least what happens leading up to death, at a fundamental, primal level. Intellectually, I can convince myself all I want I'm not afraid, and I'm not, at an intellectual level. I see its just a separation from these aggregates. But when I'm faced with an actual encounter of a near death experience, then I know what the reality is, and if I've made any progress in practice. I wonder, how many people say they don't fear death, but have never been close to it? How many people say they aren't afraid of death but have never almost died, or haven't in a long, long time? I really wonder about this... who has convinced themselves, but have never had that idea tested?

The book "Wake Up to Your Life" by Ken Mccleod has very good, practical, step by step meditations on death, impermanence, aging, etc, which come from the Kagyu or another tradition, if I remember correctly.

I think the point is to transfer that intellectual non fear of death into a deeper, emotional non-fear of death, and then even deeper until the non-fear becomes a physical knowing, when it becomes a part of how you experience the world, when the primal, fight-or-flight reaction is sort of "pushed out" and dissipates, when the threat of death no longer triggers a fear response.

Then, I think I might be getting somewhere....

:|
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Re: Fear of death

Postby Jesse » Mon Jan 27, 2014 7:16 pm

Fear of death is inevitable if you are honest with yourself and admit you have no idea what happens. Truly there are two ways of dealing with it, buy into some form of belief system that makes it less scary a thing, or deal with the fear directly.
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Re: Fear of death

Postby Ayu » Mon Feb 03, 2014 9:39 am

You're both very right, Jesse and Roland. Thanks for these postings.
Because, if our mothers, who have been kind to us
From beginningless time, are suffering,
What can we do with (just) our own happiness?
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