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fear:Inside the movie theater, I prided myself on not being afraid of anything, or not much at least. Talking dolls in horror movies were one big exception. For some reason it scared the crap out of me when a plastic doll’s head would turn, its mouth would open, and it would speak. Freaked me out. Once I got inside my cocoon, I had to be honest that I was, and had always been, afraid of a lot of things. We all are. In fact, fear is not only the first emotion we ever feel as a baby, but the basis of all judgments, beliefs, and opinions we form during the first half of the Human Game. According to the Holy Bible, fear was also the first reaction Adam and Eve had after they ate the apple from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil…. “And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And Adam said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid.”1 If I tried to list out all the things I have been afraid of, it might take a whole book in itself. But there are a few fears I want to look at more carefully that you might have also experienced from time to time, so maybe you can relate. * * Some fears are quite obvious, and everyone cops to them. “I’m afraid to walk through Central Park at night.” There’s no shame being afraid of that, is there? It just makes good sense, right? Well, not actually…. Others are more subtle, perhaps, as well as more pervasive; and there are a few that remain unspoken but almost everyone seems to share. Not many people would come right out and say, for example, they are afraid of life itself, believing the world is a dangerous place to live. But that is the case with the vast majority; and they teach that to their children. Just think for a minute what people go through to protect themselves from what’s “out there” – both physical protection and mental or emotional protection. Home security, for example, is a multi-billion dollar business.2 I have always found it strange someone could think a few small pieces of metal on a door or window – called a “lock” – could protect them from anyone who really wants to rob them, as if a serious burglar would arrive at the house, find the door locked, and say, “Oops, door’s locked. Can’t rob this house tonight.” Of course, a lock also ignores the fact that if your Infinite I wants you to be robbed – if that’s the experience it has decided to create for you at the moment – you’re going to get robbed regardless of a few pieces of metal. The same applies to surrounding your house or car or loved one with “white light,” which is also based on fear. Besides, if you do get robbed, perhaps your Infinite I is simply helping you get rid of some of the attachments that keep you from becoming a butterfly.
On the other hand, it isn’t the lock that keeps a burglar away from your house; it’s your Infinite I who is not creating the experience of your being robbed. I don’t care how much a burglar wants to rob your house, or what kind of high-tech tools he has to penetrate your security, he’s not getting in if that’s not what your Infinite I wants. He won’t even be able to get through an unlocked door. You will soon begin to understand this and have enough experiences under your belt to start demonstrating your trust in your Infinite I by ceasing to lock anything – home, car, briefcase, locker, whatever; and it’s important, once you’ve let go of some of these lesser fears, to behave differently in your daily life, acting on your new understanding and letting go of old habits along with the fears. Seat belt laws, helmet laws, laws that require children to ride in the back seat strapped into a plastic shell, are all based on fear and our attempts to legislate against it. As a child myself, I always rode in the front seat without any restraints, like all other children my age; it’s amazing my generation ever made it into our twenties! In the two car accidents I had – one at age sixteen, the other age fifty-seven – if I had been wearing a seat belt I would have died in both cases, needing to be able to move about in the car as it rolled and crushed the roof down onto the frame. Yes, I might be the exception, or at least that’s how the general public could look at it. But the truth is that a seat belt is neither going to protect you or save you if your time as a Player for your Infinite I is over. I’m not saying it’s “wrong” to wear a seat belt; just recognize and admit that it’s based on fear – either the fear of a dangerous world or the fear of getting a ticket from a cop – and don’t try to justify it as “logical” or “necessary.” * * Then there are the mental and emotional protections we put up against fear. Better not commit to something or someone because it might not work. Don’t give your heart completely because you never know when you’ll be hurt. Keep some money in reserve in case something bad happens. As I said, I could go on and on, and I won’t. You know what you’re afraid of now, and you’re going to find out all the other fears you’re not aware of as you continue your transformation in the cocoon. But there are two fears in particular I want to address. One you’re probably aware of – the fear of death. The other you might not recognize – the fear of non-existence. There was a famous saying that became popular for a while, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” I assume it was supposed to convince people to think about each day as a new start, a new beginning, and free them from their past. Not a “bad” thought, and it might work for some people, especially if they use it to let go of all past judgments, beliefs, opinions, and fears. But we both know that’s not what normally happens, even though the saying on its surface might be true. Then came “Live today as if it were your last;” or, as Mahatma Gandhi is reported to have said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow.” Also not too “bad;” “better” in fact. Most people, thinking today were their last, might put aside all their “should’s”, “must’s”, and “have to’s,” and live their excitement, doing what brings them joy. That, in fact, is how we could live every moment regardless of when we think we will die.
And then there is the Native American saying, “Today is a good day to die.” Can you say that to yourself right now? Are you living your life so if you died today, you would have no regrets, no sorrow, no remorse? Could you meet death today and welcome it with open arms? You will find yourself living exactly that way when you get a little further into your cocoon and start to let go of all the fears you are carrying. But I’m starting to sound like some other new-age philosophers, suggesting we need to let go of our fear of death; and that’s not really what I’m trying to say at all. I’m saying we need to stop resisting death and begin to meet it eye to eye, embrace it, bring it into our conscious awareness on a daily basis, and make it our constant companion. I’m suggesting we need to stop judging death as “wrong” or “bad” and life as “right” or “good,” to stop living in duality when it comes to life and death. It turns out that a lot of minds greater than mine have expressed this very thought. For example, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart… “As death, when we come to consider it closely, is the true goal of our existence, I have formed during the last few years such close relations with this best and truest friend of mankind, that his image is not only no longer terrifying to me, but is indeed very soothing and consoling! And I thank my God for graciously granting me the opportunity of learning that death is the key which unlocks the door to our true happiness.”3 …and Michel de Montaigne… “Death has us by the scruff of the neck at every moment…. To begin depriving death of it’s greatest advantage over us, let us adopt a way clean contrary to that common one; let us deprive death of it’s strangeness, let us frequent it, let us get used to it; let us have nothing more often in mind than death. We do not know where death awaits us: so let us wait for it everywhere. To practice death is to practice freedom. A man who has learned how to die has unlearned how to be a slave.”4 …and Sogyal Rinpoche… “Perhaps the deepest reason why we are afraid of death is because we do not know who we are. We believe in a personal, unique, and separate identity – but if we dare to examine it, we find that this identity depends entirely on an endless collection of things to prop it up: our name, our ‘biography,’ our partners, family, home, job, friends, credit cards… It is on their fragile and transient support that we rely for our security. So when they are all taken away, will we have any idea of who we really are? Without our familiar props, we are faced with just ourselves, a person we do not know, an unnerving stranger with whom we have been living all the time but we never really wanted to meet. Isn’t that why we have tried to fill every moment of time with noise and activity, however boring or trivial, to ensure that we are never left in silence with this stranger on our own?… When you start preparing for death you soon realize that you must look into your life – now – and come to face the truth of your self. Death is like a mirror in which the true meaning of life is reflected.”5 …and the Dalai Lama… “Awareness of death is the very bedrock of the entire path. Until you have developed this awareness, all other practices are obstructed.” …and Socrates… “To fear death, my friends, is only to think ourselves wise, without being wise: for it is to think that we know what we do not know. For anything that men can tell, death may be the greatest good that can happen to them: but they fear it as if they knew quite well
that it was the greatest of evils. And what is this but that shameful ignorance of thinking that we know what we do not know?” Even Jed McKenna has a few nice things to say about death as well…. “We have taken death out of life and that allows us to live unconsciously. Death never left, of course, we’ve just turned away from it, pretended it wasn’t there. If we wish to awaken – and that’s a mighty big if – then we must welcome death back into our lives. Death is our personal Zen Master, our source of power, our path to lucidity, but we have to stop running from it in a blind panic. We need only stop and turn around and there it is, inches away, staring at us with unblinking gaze, finger poised, every second of our lives…. “What I am now lives in constant death-awareness, it is suffused throughout my dreamstate being the way fear and death-denial used to be. Death is always before my eyes. I never hide it or deny it or push it away. Death is the diamond heart of my dreamstate being. It is the defining feature that shows me the value of everything I see… Death gives definition to life. Death-awareness is life-awareness. Death denial is life denial…. I love the fact of my death. It has made my life possible. There could have been no awakening without it. It’s how I know the value of things. It’s how I know what beauty is. It’s why I am gratitude-based instead of fear-based. It’s also how I know [a Human] Child from [a Human] Adult, asleep from awake. It’s how I can look at someone and know if death walks before them or behind…. This isn’t about death in the abstract, it’s about death in the most personal, intimate sense; your death. Death is the meaning in the dream; the dreamstate shadow of no-self. Death is the boogeyman. You can’t kill him or hide from him or get away from him, you can only turn toward him or away from him. If you turn toward him, befriend him, fully embrace him, not superficially, but as your own essential truth, then death is the demon you can ride into every battle.”6 Well said! But please don’t misunderstand me. If I’m scuba diving at one-hundred feet and my air supply suddenly stops, I will probably not just sit there and do nothing and let death do with me as it wants. I may; it would depend on the circumstances. But most likely I will try to get to the surface, try to survive, try to find air somehow – not out of the fear of death, but more from instinct than anything else. In fact, while I’m making my way up and thinking I would like to be able to breathe again, I’ll be appreciating the beautiful opportunity of dying in a place I love more than anywhere else on Earth – in the ocean with the fish and whales and dolphins. I had such an experience. When I first lost control of my car, doing 75 mph down the Interstate on cruise control, and it swerved and started to roll over, my first thought was, “Is this how I’m going to die?” I remember asking the question with no emotion and no resistance and no panic; and the answer came back immediately, “No.” So I continued to completely relax, not resisting, not trying to stop the rolling, not trying to brace myself against anything, just totally going with the flow and the motion, letting my body move freely wherever the car wanted to take it. In fact, my non-resistance to what was happening is without question the physical reason I was not killed as the roof caved in during the first roll. Would I have reacted any differently if the answer had come back, “Yes, this is the way you’re going to die.” I doubt it. In that case, what’s the point of resisting?
Judgments, beliefs, opinions, and the fear of death. I stumbled on a great example I think ties all this together in a nice neat package…. We begin with the fear of death, and therefore fear of anything that can cause that death. Skin cancer can cause death, so we fear skin cancer. We’re told, and buy into the judgment that exposure to the sun is “bad,” because it causes skin cancer. We believe we have to protect ourselves from the sun and its harmful rays, and we form the opinion that we should never go out into the sun without sunscreen or we’ll get skin cancer and die. Now let’s look at the truth. Skin cancer was fairly rare until the 1950’s, the same time that Coppertone began marketing its patented sunscreen and created the now-famous Coppertone Girl. Let me say that again… the incidence of skin cancer began rising steadily in the 1950’s7, which is (coincidentally?) when Coppertone began marketing its sunscreen.8 Then, as more and more people used sunscreen between 1950 and 2010, skin cancer became “the most common form of cancer in the United States;”9 and “each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon;”10 while “since the 1970’s, our country has witnessed a 3000% increase in the sales of sunscreen products.”11 Don’t we have to ask, “Does sunscreen actually prevent skin cancer, or cause it?” Isn’t it strange that the more people use sunscreen to prevent skin cancer, the more skin cancer we get? We resisted death, we resisted the sun, and we resisted the skin cancer; and we did all this on a massive scale. As a result of this resistance, we took measures to try to prevent what we feared. The result, of course, was more skin cancer and more death; and we’re back to “What you resist persists.” That’s how it works inside the movie theater, and it’s a good example of what you need to do in your cocoon – work this equation backwards, starting with your opinions and the actions you take based on them, digging deeper to find the beliefs that are under the opinions, finding the judgments and resistance that led to those beliefs, and not stopping until you can clearly state the fear that began it all. Then you do your spiritual autolysis, asking yourself: Is that fear really true? In this case, you are probably well aware of your opinion not to go out in the sun without sunscreen. It should not be very difficult to quickly realize you hold a belief that you have to protect yourself from the sun and its harmful rays. From there you should be able to find the judgment that exposure to the sun is “bad,” because it causes skin cancer. And then it’s just a short jump to the fear of skin cancer and death. “All emotions are attachments and the energy source of all attachments is fear.”12 I want to repeat at this point that the choice is always yours. You can decide you like these fears, that these fears are “right” and justified, and you don’t see any point in getting rid of them. I’m not trying to convince you of anything. My only job as the scout is to point out that the choice is between continuing to live in fear, or living free as a butterfly. * * How do you deal with the fear of death? You make death your friend, your partner in life, your daily companion. You welcome it, accept it, embrace it, appreciate it. You understand it, look forward to it, and above all stop judging and resisting it….
“The contemplation of death, of one’s own mortality, is a real and powerful meditation. Death-awareness is true zazen, it’s the universal spiritual practice, the only one anyone ever needs and the one everyone should perform, so yes, you’d want to do whatever you have to in order to bring this living awareness into your life. Develop the habit of thinking of death every time you look at a watch or clock, every time you sit down to a meal, every time you go to the bathroom. Take a walk alone every day and think about what it means to be alive, to walk, to see and hear, to breathe. It’s not an exercise, it’s not something you’re trying to make yourself believe like an affirmation. It’s something that’s real and central to your every thought and act. If you knew you were going to die tomorrow, what would you do today? And why the hell aren’t you doing it?”13 Basically we’re talking about letting go of our attachments to life itself, peeling off the layers of the ego that determine our identity and dictate our behaviors based on our fear of death. This is a big step you will take in the cocoon. But not the biggest. As you process your fear of death and begin to embrace it with excitement, you’re going to discover there is a more fundamental fear, a more basic fear, a more hidden and powerful fear on which the fear of death depends and from which it grows. It is the fear of non-existence. Like an iceberg, the fear of death is only the part sticking up above the water, with the fear of non-existence as the biggest part lurking below where you can’t see it; and like the Titanic, you’re going to hit this iceberg, guaranteed. How you handle the collision with your fear of non-existence will determine whether you survive your transformation into a butterfly or not. So I want to take a close look at this fear of non-existence. As we’ve discussed, when an Infinite I creates a new Player, it gives it free will. Maybe it didn’t have to, maybe there’s not some ultimatum from The Chief; but that’s actually the way the Human Game works best, if a Player has total free will to choose their reactions and responses to the experiences created by its Infinite I. This free will and the process of choosing reactions and responses require a certain level of self-consciousness in order for them to work. This self-consciousness is a personality construct – what we normally call an “ego.” As we react to our fears and form judgments, beliefs, and opinions, we add layer upon layer to this ego – each layer with its own false identity – and the sum total of these layers creates the overall identity, the personality construct we call “I.” Inside the movie theater, the ego has a very important role; and we begin to identify with the ego, begin to think it is who we are. So when we get inside the cocoon and begin to annihilate the ego, one layer at a time, we’re liable to encounter some resistance from the ego itself. In short, the ego will fight for its life, wanting us to believe we are something we are not – it – and that we cannot live without it. The fear that develops is all about who we are if we are not the ego; in other words, the fear of being nothing without it – the fear of non-existence. Since the beginning of recorded history until the present time, all religions, spiritual philosophies and belief systems (including the most recent New Age theories) have all had one thing in common: a solution for this fear of non-existence – the idea we are really an immortal soul which will continue to exist after our physical death.
But is that true? Does that stand the test of spiritual autolysis? Is there any proof, any evidence we are really anything more than a temporary self-consciousness that will cease to exist when we die? Is the idea of a soul, and the immortality of that soul, simply our solution to the fear of non-existence, leading to more judgments, beliefs, and opinions? Is it possible “being an immortal soul” is just another layer of ego we need to let go of? I see myself as a Player in a Game, much like Douglas Hall discovered in the movie The Thirteen Floor. I cannot honestly say it’s true “I” will survive the death of this body. Perhaps, like Douglas, I might find myself on another level, in another game; but that remains to be seen, and there’s nothing to suggest that here and now. I realize this is all theoretical at the moment, but it will become very real to you as you progress inside the cocoon and start peeling off layers of the ego; and I can guarantee you the fear of non-existence will come up in full force. If you continue with your transformation into a butterfly, you’re going to have to answer these questions for yourself.
FOOTNOTES 1. The Holy Bible, King James Version. Genesis, 3.9-10 – Back to reading 2. MultiChannel News Net Upstarts Break Into Home Security, June 17, 2007 – Back to reading 3. Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus. in a letter to his father, Leopold (c. 1787) – Back to reading 4. de Montaigne, Michel. essay entitled The Laws of Manu – Back to reading 5. Rinpoche, Sogyal. The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying – Back to reading 6. McKenna, Jed. The Enlightenment Trilogy – Back to reading 7. TropicalInfo.org – Incidence of skin cancer – Back to reading 8. Wikipedia – Sunscreen – Back to reading 9. Skin Cancer Foundation. Skin Cancer Facts – Back to reading 10. Ibid. – Back to reading 11. Sunscreen: A Recipe for Disaster – Back to reading 12. McKenna, Jed. Id. – Back to reading 13. Ibid. – Back to reading