Do you know what I think the 2 biggest fears we have are? Fear of dying and fear of living. I know, it sounds crazy, but those opposing concepts are both capable of creating a fear so big that it affects just about all of our lives. So I thought before we dive into any other aspects of fears this month we should start by talking about these two.
Let’s start by talking about the fear of dying. I know how I definitely don’t want to leave this life, it’s one of the death fears many people have, maybe you included: drowning. Death can be scary because it can be really painful, there are so many unknowns, and you have so little control over it. Many people use these reasons to support “end of life options.” However, part of the life we live is dealing with pain, failure, loss and changes on a regular basis, so it’s not that these are new to us when we’re facing death, it’s that we don’t feel we have the power to do anything about them, and sometimes we don’t. Before we faced death we had options because our bodies were healthier or there were more options for care, but the longer we live the more our bodies change and less we’re able to do about it. So while the fear of death is about not knowing what comes next, it’s also about not having the power to do much or anything about what we’re facing.
So what is the fear of living? The fear of living includes really big screw ups, drastic changes to your life situations and/or the basics of survival. We fear taking action and living our lives because we’re so scared to screw up and have to live with the judgments and reactions of the people in our lives as a result. We make “safe” decisions so that our life continues as status quo and we’re more likely to have a guarantee on life, even if it’s just an OK life. Fear with regards to survival can be about not surviving something catastrophic or surviving it.
The bottom line is that we have tons of reasons to give about why we choose not to live our lives to the fullest, and many of them have to do with things we fear. Whether the fear has a basis in reality or not is irrelevant because it affects us just as strongly either way. So what do we do? Wise elders over the years have shared that they fear death less when they fear life less. When they’ve chosen to live their lives to the fullest and are accepting of the mistakes they make while always trying to do right, they are able to approach their death with a greater measure of peace than those who did not.
“Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely.” Buddha