disarm death practice disarm death practice disarm death practice
There are a variety of ways to overcome your fears, one of which is by slowly exposing yourself to the fear. When it comes to death and dying that might seem nearly impossible to do. You can’t confront death the same way you can confront heights, spiders, or the dark. Death is a fear that feels untouchable because it’s always looming. There’s a constant reminder in the back of our minds that death is inevitable, so how can we avoid it?
When you befriend your fear of death the goal isn’t to eliminate the fear. Death will still exist but you’ll be the one in control. Facing your fear means taking away its power over you. The goal of this practice is to create a new concept of “death” and what it means to you. Since you can’t confront death in the same way as other fears, you’ll humanize death and find ways to prepare for its inevitability.
The first goal of this practice is to detach death from fear and understand its reality. Start with the word “death”. What comes to your mind when you think of or say, “death”? Do you think of yourself dying, darkness, and nothingness? Or do you picture the various ways you could die? And do you imagine graveyards and decaying corpses? These are some of the most common thoughts humans associate with death. Although these aren’t wrong, they are consumed with negativity and fear. Instead, you can reinvent the meaning of “death”.
The next step is to humanize death by finding a neutral, or even positive, way to connect with it. One way to do this is by choosing a new word for death. Death fulfills the circle of life and allows for growth and rebirth. It doesn’t have a malicious intention; it’s simply carrying out its purpose to bring balance. So instead of focusing on the sad and scary aspects of death you can think about its role in nature. You can call death “completion”, “fulfillment”, or “attainment”. Consider choosing a word that makes you see the purpose in death, not just the fear.
Another way to humanize death is to notice and label death in your everyday life. Perhaps when your houseplant dies or the seasons change you can see how nature constantly integrates death. Nature dies every year in order to make room for the new crops and plants to grow. But nature doesn’t fear death, it needs death in order to survive. Since death is just the completion of a cycle there are many instances of death in your own life. When you graduate school, get a job, have kids, or retire your old way of life “dies”. You can’t go back to how your life was, so in essence your past self has died.
So the next time you think of “death”, you can think about its connection to balance, nature, and your life. You can still fear death -no one wants to imagine the final moments of their life. But until that time comes you don’t have to fear the word or concept of “death”. It’s all around us and occurs in your own life more than you know.
The second goal of this practice asks you to start preparing for your own death, now. No matter how old you are or what kind of health you have, no one can be certain about tomorrow. The best way to make sure you die on your terms is to know what they are and write them down. Of course there are formal ways of creating a will, but this practice asks you to consider the process of dying -not just what happens after you’re gone.
What happens if you get into a freak accident? Do you know what sort of life saving measures you want? Or how extensive and intensive your care should be? If you know these answers, have you told anyone? You can’t assume that your family or partner would know exactly what you want. Would they know if you should be buried or cremated? What type of funeral or memorial service you’d want -or none at all? It’s important to start thinking about the answers to these questions because you don’t want to leave your loved ones behind to guess and worry over what you would’ve wanted.
When you start to contemplate your end of life care and what follows, you’re taking the power back. You can make decisions so your family and friends don’t have to. Even if it feels too formal to create a will, start by just writing out your wishes. How do you want to be remembered? What do you want your legacy to be? You can’t avoid death, but you can try to disarm your fear of it. That way it doesn’t control you or your future. Instead you can recognize death for its purpose in the circle of life and choose to keeping living life to the fullest!
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