Oh boy. I realize it is saying a lot to title a post “I think I might know what it is like to die.”
But for those of you who have been following along here for awhile, you likely understand how important it is for me to share this!
After all, I have a (ahem) mortal fear of death!
The other night I was watching this Netflix special called American Meme featuring a rather eclectic assortment of personalities – everyone from Paris Hilton to an intriguing individual named Josh Ostrovosky who apparently prefers to be called The Fat Jewish.
To say these folks have some, well, unusual ways of spending a day would be an understatement. It was really a fascinating documentary!
But no moment was less expected than when Paris Hilton opened up for just a micro-moment to share her thoughts about death and dying. What I learned from this is we both have the same biggest fear (yep, dying).
But what we fear about death and dying is slightly different. Paris is afraid death is going to be boring. My fear is similar, I guess – I am afraid I won’t like it and it will go on forever. I am also afraid that, just like in life, I won’t fit in. I won’t be able to find my people – my tribe – my flock.
Speaking of flock, I am also afraid my animals and I won’t be able to be together. If that is the case, I’d prefer not to go to the “people place” when I die. I want to go where they go.
But not to get too far off topic….the other morning after watching this documentary and discovering an uber-famous celebrity and I share the same exact fear, I was doing my morning meditation as usual.
And, as usual these days at least, I was meditating on how to survive the split from my longtime love of the past 15 years.
Suddenly I felt like my feelings of grief got so big and strong I couldn’t hold them. They were going to flatten me like a pancake if I tried. Something inside me said, “you need to let go.”
And I did.
When I let go, I started to float (not literally of course, but on the inside). I remembered a visualization from my studies with Dr. Brian Weiss’s meditations where he would guide us to start at the top of the head and relax and release. I started to do that visualization and felt my head, then my neck, then my shoulders, arms, torso, legs, feet….all let go and began to float.
I was weightless. I was no longer fighting anyone or anything inside or outside me. I was allowing myself to be carried into the unknown.
I would say I was giving up, but it didn’t really feel like that. It felt more like just saying “yes, okay, fine, I’ll go.” And I went. I floated into this unknown space where I agreed to leave behind everything and everyone I knew and recognized because it needed to happen. Sooner or later, struggling or peaceful-like, it was going to happen.
And it wasn’t awful! It was….quiet. I felt….calm. The biggest surprise was how connected I felt. But this connection wasn’t in a physical way – like the way I usually connect through my body and its senses – seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, tasting, touching, and knowing in these tangible ways that a connection has been established.
The connection just….was. And it wasn’t just connection to people, or animals, or plants, or the elements, or my internal organs or any of that. It was just….connection. Nothing was preferred or avoided. This wasn’t necessary.
In case this is all getting just a little (or a lot) too esoteric, I also have to say I was surprised I was having this experience in the middle of an otherwise very ordinary morning meditation and not in one of those dramatic and flashy “near-death” experiences so many other people describe.
I’ve often envied those folks because they seem to near-universally come back so much happier than when they left. And when they come back, their fear of death has gone missing. I have always felt envious – like, how hard would it be to give me just the teensiest tiniest little near-death experience too so I could lose my fear of death and dying? I mean, is that so much to ask?
But mine didn’t come with lights and a backdrop and a camera crew. It wasn’t on an operating table or in the midst of a 10-car pileup, all tangled up in rust and metal. I’m still not one-hundred-percent sure it really was a near-death or, perhaps more accurately, near-to-death or approaching-death experience.
Except that I feel more peaceful, more accepting, in this area of my life. As I watch my parents and my pets and my friends and myself age, I feel slightly less terrified at my own presence amidst it all, as observer, loved one, passive or active participant. I feel a little calmer in a way that permits contemplation of the potential up-side of death (like, it could even be BETTER than life for all I know!).
The coolest part is that I now find I can go back to that experience and access it again if the fear of dying or death (or both) begins to come up again. I can go back and remember that feeling of letting go, of being held, weightless, and of releasing into something that is different yet not scary, where I am me and yet not me.
And I have this feeling I have only just scratched the surface of all this small, quiet, unassuming little meditation has come to share with me.
Today’s Takeaway: Have you ever had any kind of near-death or near-to-death or approaching-death or dying experience? If so, was it reassuring? If not, do you feel like having this type of experience might be beneficial to you? I’d love to hear your stories!