Leafy wrote:A few years ago, I saw something horrible and terrifying happen to a member of my family, and as a result became painfully aware that I am not and will never be safe, and that horrible things can happen to anybody at any time. Sort of an unpleasant, throw-you-into-the-deep-end crash course in impermanence...
Since then, I have been almost constantly consumed with fear of horrible things happening. Psychologists try to treat this by convincing you that bad things won't happen to you, which really doesn't help once you've seen first-hand that horrible things can happen to anyone. I have noticed that Buddhism seems to teach the opposite of what psychologists try to do -- psychologists try to rebuild the wall of denial that makes you feel safe, whereas Buddhists seem to work at tearing down the wall and fully accepting impermanence. Since years of therapy have done nothing to help me (I think that wall is too smashed to fix), I am ready to try the other approach. (My doctor knows and is OK with this).
...so how do you face and accept impermanence without ending up completely terrified? It's not death/non-existence that I'm afraid of... it's those other, worse-than-death things that can strike out-of-the-blue and leave someone suffering so much they wish they were dead... how do Buddhists handle being constantly aware that this could happen to any of us at any time, and yet *not* be constantly terrified?
I wish to tell a story if I may. When I was a young man growing up, I did not believe in rebirh, life after death, or any such thing. I truly believed that after physical death, 'that's it' and you are gone forever. I'm not exaggerating when I say, this thought used to keep me awake at night worrying. It just horrified me that I could cease to exist, totally. I could not drive the despair out of my mind. (Naturally, I wasn't thinking about this 24/7, but it would cross my mind regularly enough to be a problem).
I wrestled with it on and off for years, until one day i thought, 'how have others dealt with this problem?' And I reflected on every single person who had lived before me, and how they had all
, without exception, ended up dying. They
all died...so it would not make sense if I did not also
go one day. It just wouldn't be 'fair'... I can't explain why, but I just suddenly accepted it: 'Well, that's just life, then. There's nothing I can do about it. Might as well stop worrying, then, and just enjoy however much time I have left.'
Now I'm not pretending that was particularly wise; it was more a survival strategy.
Rethinking my relationship with life and reality, so that I could live more peacefully. So I now gently remind you,
do you think there is any
way that we can not all be subject to some risk in this life? Risk of accident, or injury? All
embodied beings live with that risk daily, without exception. Would it be fair if you did not?
I mean, check your windshield after a country drive...imagine how tough life is for insects! We've got it easy, by comparison to those poor guys...
I am gently reminding you of what you already know deep inside: find some acceptance.
Life has risks. And yes, we just can't eliminate risk totally. Stay safe, and do the best you can, but try to be (a little) at peace with life as it is. At least, start practising! A bit of acceptance is better than none at all. Take it in stages.
Ok, so your rational mind is trying to be accepting, but the fear is still there. Where? Instead of running away from it, seek it out.
Close your eyes. Find it in your body...is it in the solar plexus, or between your ears, or somewhere else? Wherever you feel it, become aware of the sensation...and recognize that it is just a feeling, it comes and goes - it is not you.
Have you noticed that bad (and good, for that matter) feelings come, but also depart? None
of them last forever. Next time you are beset by one, be aware of this truth. And more to the point - observe
I might also recommend some relaxing, breathing meditation to 'breathe away the stress'. It certainly helps me to...