What Am I Afraid Of?
When I was a kid, I went through a stretch of sleepless nights as a result of a sudden, inconsolable fear of death. I remember it well, the shift in consciousness from ‘immortal seeing’ to ‘mortal being’, and the subsequent pain as the world I had spent all my life constructing, crumbled (like my favourite cookies) before my very eyes.
The well of emptiness had revealed itself, and it was deep. VERY deep — everything fell in — my mum, dad, siblings, friends and family, even those I didn’t like; no one was safe here anymore, not even me.
That pain was very real. As though this new found knowledge had forced me to live through the simultaneous deaths of everyone around me, crushing me into the fetal position as the tears and screams of all those who came before me were exorcised from my body. That pain, that excruciating pain, was an ancient one…for sure.
Looking back, I wonder exactly what it was that I feared? What the essence of that experience was. One of my grandmothers had already died, so I understood death, but this was a whole different kettle of fish. What about when my parents go, who will take care of me? How will I survive?
What even am I?!
These were big questions for such a little person, some of which I’m not sure I ever even answered. In fact, that last one… the more I asked it, the further from an answer I seemed to get. Now, that’s a hard thing to accept in a world built on answers, and facts — especially now I occupy the body of fully grown human adult. When labels determine value and things are taken to be just as they appear, what power do I possess as an individual who proclaims to not even know who they are?! How will I survive?
Who is even asking this question?
OK, strap in, this is where it gets interesting.
Modern non-duality teachings point everything back to this one essential question:
Who am I?
Am I a man? Am I an age? A heterosexual? Am I a curly haired twenty-something with a whole host of fluctuating beliefs? On the one hand, yes, I am all these things (well, heterishsexual perhaps), and on the other, the one stretched out towards you right now, I am none.
I am no thing.
I am nothing.
I have fallen down the well and eaten the final crumb of the cookie that was my life from the hair of my bare and buxom chest.
And yet, I’m still here.
And so are my friends.
And so are my mum and dad, and siblings and other family members, and an incredible niece and nephew have joined the party now and there’s new friends too and old enemies remain patiently in the distant corners of my mind. Although saying that, they’re not so much enemies anymore, more teachers, lessons, just as I will have been to them.
So what was really happening during those sleepless nights of my childhood? Well, I think the ‘me’ that I had previously believed myself to be…died. Was murdered even, by its own thinking; an egoic suicide — one of which I do believe there have been many more of since. You see, the human mind is programmed to take things and make them smaller; to create manageable models of the world, self and other, in an attempt to create some kind of order to the chaos of unfolding existence. So when something comes along and challenges my preconceptions, everything that has been built on top of that is forced to fall away, and those can be very big parts of who I have believed myself to be. Yet somehow, through all of these horrific deaths and losses, something, some essential part of me, has survived. Some part which is unaffected by change, and doesn’t rely on belief for its survival.
This, my friends, is who I am.
It’s who you are.
Still with me?
Ok then, let’s put this to practical use. What should I do when that well next opens up, which it seems to more and more as we journey deeper into the discovery of our ever-evolving nature. Well, for starters, I choose not to fear the pain, but welcome it. To welcome the destruction of my own identity, for it is not really mine, but a mere idea of who I think I am. Know that what is being chipped away, as painful as it may be, is only bringing me closer to myself, and as I come closer and closer, with less and less assumptions contributing to mine and others experience, the joy of simply being is felt stronger and stronger in the heart.
So I give space, allow everything its place, and in doing so, I too am given mine.
There’s plenty of room for all of us…
Written by Patrick J Price