This Powerful Ally Is Also Our Biggest Fear…

April 1, 2015 78 Comments

The great Lao Tzu of the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BCE) once said,

If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve.

If you were to rank the most prominent human fears, the fear of death would most likely come in at number one – with public speaking just behind it. This is a very delicate topic, but it is something we all experience and it’s time we said hello to the elephant in the room.

Whether you’re studying the ancient Bon traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, the mystics of India, or the shamanic practices of the Americas, the act of overcoming our fear of death is seen as a doorway to higher realms of consciousness. The gist of it is that resisting our own mortality prevents us from truly living, and can hinder inner and outer healing.

Where I grew up, we didn’t talk much about death – unless, of course, somebody died. Even then, it felt like most of the processing around the event was done alone, behind closed doors.  We spent much more time “mourning the loss” than we did contemplating with awe, the incredible unknown that every sentient being experiences.

To many, the idea of discarding our fear of death might seem absurd. After all, isn’t it tied into the survival instincts that help keep us alive?

A shaman might encourage you to examine this thought construct a little further. Can you identify what it is that you think death is?  If not, can you identify what life is?  In fact, who and what exactly are you?

A few years ago, I witnessed the passing of an amazing man named Garry Thompson, who had come to the Peruvian Amazon after being diagnosed with late-stage neuroendocrine cancer. We sat with him in his final moments and for many hours afterward into the night. 

The following day, a local shaman shared these words of wisdom to both honor Garry and challenge the rest of us to fully integrate the experience:

“Wherever there is life, there is death – and we cannot hide from it. Death is a process that is necessary for life to exist. Western societies have demonized it out of fear and ignorance. But why?  Is there truly something to be afraid of?  People spend so much time running from death that they never truly live.”

Why do we do it to ourselves?  What are we really afraid of? Does it stem from a deep remorse at not having lived as authentically as our hearts know we could?  Is it that we can’t take not knowing what will happen when this particular channel of perception shuts off?

I once heard a renowned surgeon exclaim that the average American patient fears death to such a degree that a bad diagnosis can be more life threatening than the illness itself. When disease strikes, we jump ahead and drown ourselves in the implications of what this could mean to our lifestyle, our relationships, and ultimately our own survival.

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“The fear of death proves mortal, and sets people on methods to save their lives, which infallibly destroy them.”

Joseph Addison, English Poet (1672-1719)

This isn’t how it has to be. In fact, native medicine is a prime example of what is possible when we overcome our fear of death and the unknown.

In one Amazonian lineage, medicine men are taught when they are apprentices that diseases are “mothers” who become pregnant with us in order to teach much needed spiritual lessons.  In this ancient understanding, when a patient embraces their illness instead of “fighting” against it, the illness / mother rebirths them back into the world anew.  Through this process, valuable information is unlocked that not only heals the body, but also opens new pathways of perception.

On the other hand, if the patient is unable to learn the inherent lesson, they are delivered lovingly into the next life, where new lessons can be experienced.

Now, this belief can be taken literally or simply viewed as fascinating local mythology, but one thing is for sure – it creates a mindset of peaceful surrender to the unknown.  This is something that most great wisdom schools hold as a golden principle.

Perhaps the reason that shamanism and indigenous medicine are spreading so quickly nowadays is because they boil down to a few simple truths that resonate within all of us.  The most powerful of these may be the understanding that neither life nor death should be feared.

In a world that is increasingly hard to decipher, it can be useful to hone in on the phenomena that we know are unquestionably true.  One thing is guaranteed in this life – there will be an end to our physical incarnation.  By surrendering to the impermanence of our reality, a doorway to liberation can be accessed.

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”

-Mark Twain

In honor of all the loved ones who have passed this year, may their transition unlock something deeper within us.

Stay curious,

Nick Polizzi
Director, The Sacred Science

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Filed Under: Shamanism

About Nick Polizzi

Nick Polizzi has spent his career directing and producing feature length documentaries about natural alternatives to conventional medicine. Nick’s current role as director of “The Sacred Science” stems from a calling to honor, preserve, and protect the ancient knowledge and rituals of the indigenous peoples of the world.

View all posts by Nick Polizzi

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  1. Pam Furno says:

    Hi. My experience with my husband who passed in 2008 was that he came to my son in a dream where he was waiting to speak to God, with a mini refrigerator shown t me because I had been nothing by mouth for pancreatitis some years earlier when I had rather than not eat in heaven, he gave me that gift, my son and I are still here when all else has failed, family and friends. We are both here for other bigger things with the help of my husband in heaven.

  2. Nancy Belser says:

    Beautifully written. It is time indeed. My life’s work is spreading this message so thank you for your ability to do so on a larger scale.

  3. Kimberley Barker Nightingale says:

    Thank you Nick, this couldn’t have come at a better time in life for me. I am truly grateful!

  4. Denise Ward says:

    Very profound and I have tried to dissolve my fear of death and any other fears too. I have somewhat succeeded though I think if an explosion were to go off it would surprise me and would cause a jump. However I am not fearful of death as far as I can tell. However I also have a hunch that death is not as necessary as we think it is. I feel there are ways we can switch it off, or perhaps not switch it off completely but extend life. However, when we get to a certain level of consciousness, the idea of life and death may be completely different too. Therefore my way of thinking is that you can’t go wrong if you live every moment in absolute bliss. Do only what gives you bliss or at least pleasure. I see so many people delaying bliss or not even knowing what their bliss is. So many people doing work that destroys the bliss of others. All for a paycheck. Money of course is the disease of our culture. Although money is not necessarily bad, if it were to be based on higher human qualities that greed and competition. Hemp is what I would like money to be based on. Cannabis in all its forms. One dollar could equal 100 grams of hemp. We’d all be better off with a change as easy as that.

    • Michael McKinney says:

      Denise thank you for your thoughts. I too have these thoughts which I use daily to keep me where I am to be, not lost in the past with thoughts but going into the present time and creating there. The Hemp/Cannabis is one of the best thoughts to tag our resources to, I agree. The current standard is where we are now look around

  5. Eila Neergaard says:

    being 84 and having had a life with such troubles that I several times were close to death I relax and do not fear death these years, but actually live with the trust that death is precicely coming when right

    • Claudia says:

      That is beautiful. I am an RN working in the ICU….death is always around the corner and it is rare to meet people who are accepting of its’ inevitability.

  6. Jim says:

    True and comforting words. My mother just died at the age of 95. I hope that she learned the lessons she came here for while helping others with their lessons.

  7. Linda says:

    Thank you, Nick, for your timely article! I really want to take this message to heart!

  8. Mary gayle says:

    Having been a hospice nurse and having had the gift of being with dying friends,I agree,there is nothing to fear but our world does not support the idea of impermanence.Thank you for this and blessings for your ongoing work

    • Marta Altheide says:

      Also was a hospice nurse almost 8 years. It truly was an amazing experience to listen to just about all that were verbal say the same thing. ” nothing matters in life except God and family” those that were unbelievers, and in pain, there was nothing I could give them to relieve their pain. I rejoiced when believers died, and was torn when I stood by and could do nothing to save the list. I now believe the MOST important hospice calling is the chaplain. Eternity, and where we will spend it is far more important than this short life.

  9. Marta altheide says:

    Am a believer in Jesus, know that death is only of our earthly body, and that we have eternal life after this Death. Yet, we fight disease with all that is in our power. Clinging to an existence that is but a vapor compared to eternity. Sad, to say we trust God, and put all our faith in man made cures. Perfect love, casts out fear.

  10. david says:

    Great message, thank you for sharing.

  11. Mary says:

    Hi Nick,
    Thank you for this. When I went to the Optimum Health Institute in San Diego, they encouraged all of us to refer to any illness as a ‘health opportunity’. It really changes things when you do that.

  12. allene says:

    It seems this message was for me today, I feel that soon will be my time to leave this earth tgo go on to a higher plane , I am weary and ready to go.

    • Nette says:

      Allene, may the winds of peace gently lift you into the eternal light, when it is your time to move through the veil from the physical to the ethereal. Namaste & Blessings to you.

    • Lorraine Katena says:

      God(dess) bless your journey Allene… Up…Up and Away!!!!!!!!!! :):):):)

  13. Janette says:

    Thank you Nick. Profound words written beautifully.

  14. Theresa says:

    I truly believe we are here to learn life lessons and when we deny or chose not to face them we are not at peace with ourselves and the trials of the death process become unnerving and we panic. Because deep down we Know there is something we needed to finish and learn, and we are distracted with life’s tribulations. We need to spend more time facilitating an inward examination of those trials and tribulations, learn the life lesson and then move on to the next phase in this wonderful life or death.

  15. annie says:

    as a Shamanic Practitioner engaged in the service and practice of psychopomps, i can certainly affirm that the experience of “death” very often leaves us confused and frightened, but the Governing Fear that most of us know, battle and master only through the experience and practice of Unconditional Loving is the Fear of Not Being Loved: more than anything, we fear Shunning, Abandonment…more than anything we seek Communion because We ARE Love….to the extent we fear Death? we fear being alone in a way that we cannot Remember….when, though, we do Remember Who We Truly Are, there is fear neither of Death nor of being Abandoned….we are, instead, Fearless as we extend Unconditional Love….knowing full well that our hearts will be broken, understanding that…if we are BEing who we truly Are…we can never Be Alone, even as we shine a Light unique and brilliant for all and forever…..

    • Queen Dreama says:

      Dear Annie;

      How beautiful your post, and how blessed we are to have Nick to share with us so lovingly and willingly. I cannot agree more with you that unconditional love is the answer! I expounded on that in my post, near bottom of this page. Bless you, Annie! Continue letting your Light shine in the dark corners of fear and ignorance. Even the deepest darkness cannot stand against a single, lighted candle. Shine on!

  16. Carol says:

    As my mother was approaching her passing, I asked her if she was afraid of what was to come. She replied that she could not possibly be afraid of something when she did not know what would happen. When the time came a few days later, at the moment of her release her face became beautifully childlike and I knew she was in bliss.

    • Roree says:

      My mom is in her late 70’s and has had some serious health issues. She almost died last fall. I appreciate deeply what you shared about the passing of your mother…it is reassuring in a sense to witness this and helps me to trust this process. Thank you.

  17. Rochelle says:

    Great text! By the way, I have no fear of death, never had. Thank you!

  18. Roree says:

    My folks are in their seventies, my mom almost died from the complications of surgery last fall from having an aortic aneurysm repaired. I have seen people my age (50’s) pass before my eyes. I don’t cry when going through these experiences with people, not that I don’t feel the pain, loss and sadness and even fear….I also feel something around the mystery of their passing and leaving this physical plane.

  19. Dorothy says:

    I am being taught this method of healing, but I think I must concentrate on meditating more. Since I was diagnosed with cancer , thenour son Kevin died suddenly on Wednesday 25th March, he was 52 years old and we are awaiting the coroners report. I often feel his presence, and ackknowledge him. Many thanks for this article~ Dorothy

  20. John says:

    Expecting life to be fair to you because you are nice person,
    is like expecting the bull not to charge you because you are a vegetarian.

    A quote from a book written by Rabbi Kushner

  21. paulette says:

    Nick, I continue to be grateful for your timely emails which inspire and support my way of living and thinking. I have done end of life work for over 25 yrs and just spent the last six yrs of my life with my mother, who died last fall. I have always known these experiences as sacred. You are doing powerful work for us all and I am grateful.

  22. Judith Edwards says:

    Please post this on http://www.cansurviving.com ?

  23. Carol says:

    After watching my parents go through very difficult deaths… with little spiritual connection, I spend my life living so that my own death will be an easy one. In fact, my husband and I joke that we’re each rather curious about what comes next!

  24. Katerina vlcek says:

    Hello, I believe that death is the biggest fear for most, myself included. Your words are full of wisdom, and soothing in some way. The truth. Sometimes we fear the truth…..Thank you for your words and quotes.

  25. Halanna says:

    Nick, thank you for this inspiration and truth that we needed to know!

  26. Mercy says:

    Oh Mike,
    What a beautiful article today. I couldn’t agree more.
    We are spiritual beings having a physical experience in order to learn lessons. The two go together in such wonder.
    Thank you,
    Mercy

  27. Sarojini says:

    After losing my husband to cancer death seems such an integral part of life.. It is not death for myself that I fear but the loss of loved ones who are leaving me to carry on alone… It is the fear of pain and dependency upon others when they may or may not be there for me . Knowing well that we all have to go and soon return to another life, does not remove the fear of pain!

  28. Prudence-Mary says:

    I don;t fear death but having had the experience of being with my father whilst he passed over was a most humbling and profound time. The part of me that is mourning found your article to be very soothing. The part that witnesses knows that there is no death. Life and death are all part of the illusion of experience.

  29. Queen Dreama says:

    My heart truly goes out to those who fear death. Even as a child, I did not fear death, but saw it as a necessary doorway to eternity in Heaven. Our mortal lives are so fragile and temporary; like a short assignment from God to accomplish a certain thing before returning home.

    Perhaps the “secret” is to realize that if we accept the moment-by-moment changes, then we, too, are willing to accept and change with them- instead of fearing them. I close with my favorite quote from Marcus Aurelius Caesar (AD 121-180):

    “There is a stream of things which enters into being, and time is a raging torrent, for no sooner does each thing enter our sight than it has been swept away, and another is passing in its place, and that, too, will be swept away.”

    Some view this temporary life as a gift. Some, as a test. Still others, as a curse. But as with all things- life- is what you make it. Each day, we mortals make thousands of conscious and subconscious choices. The secret? Be prepared to simply be the most kind and loving person you can be each moment of the day.

    LOVE is the strongest thing in the universe. It is the most easily shared- yet the most withheld. It is the most sought-after, yet the most difficult to find. If only we could realize that within each of our own hearts we carry the key to happiness and peace!

    That key-is LOVE.

  30. juvenal hidalgo says:

    Mahalo nui loa for your kind message today!

  31. Jacqueline says:

    Thank you. I enjoy your shadings.

  32. Linda Corbin says:

    I believe we will be reborn if we choose to be..or we can stay on the other side and do what needs to be done there…I personally do not want to come back to this insane planet

  33. Barbara says:

    I’m 80, and am told there is a heart problem. I’m not afraid of dying, but am afraid of having a stroke, or being disabled, or so weak that I’m not able to function. I’ve come back from the other side a couple of times, and there’s nothing to be afraid of on the other side. Loved ones await me there.

  34. Cynthia Prah says:

    In my part of the world, ie. Ghana/west Africa, the fear of death is profound. I lost my mum before the age of 10 and was totally traumatized. This is beautifully written indeed. Thank you.

  35. Anna says:

    How does one embrace his illness or embrace ones fear of death>

  36. Madeline Garcia says:

    i was drawn to the documentary “Sacred Science”. My sister was recently diagnosed with endocrine Cancer and Gerry was there suffering the same disease. I felt this throughout my whole being that I was in the right place. My sister and I are currently going to be celebrating her life when I see her in April. I myself suffer from depression on the lowest level. I will do whatever it takes to get us both there and if not both then I will succeed in getting there myself. This is the kind of medicine that should be available to anyone that wants it. No matter where you live. There are a lot of people suffering and can’t afford to eat never mind having to pay such prices just to get there. We need to do something about this. It’s always seems to be about the bottom lne and not about the human being. Medicine no matter how new or how old nor how different shouldn’t only be available to the rich. Even here there is a disparity. I pray that someday I get there maybe not in time to save my sister but in time so I can stop these tears from falling. Please don’t get me wrong I love what they are doing I just can’t get through the cost. I’m working on it though. I will never give up.

  37. H R REDDY says:

    We have decided the date of our departure even before we are born. Only reality is, we forgot to remember that date for good.

  38. Tina Frisco says:

    Thank you for this wonderful post, Nick. I just spent several weeks caring for a friend who was dying. I’m going to share this article with the other 2 people who sat with me through the unmitigated waves of grief and fatigue. Hugs and blessings…

  39. Michael says:

    Truly inspiration stuff. Thank you for sharing.

  40. John says:

    Blessing mate and thanks.

  41. Helen says:

    We live in a world of contradictions. As individuals we fear own our passing, our own death and strive to cling on to life for all its worth when its continuation is threatened. However in centuries of existence humans still have not ceased to devalue life and create death by perpetuating wars, needlessly taking the lives of our fellow human beings.

  42. Name says:

    I just LOVE the way you use your words for The Inevitable! I know that if we are truly living a good life – loving what we do & doing it the way that makes us happy – we can then learn – there is nothing to fear! Who said this? “There is nothing to fear but fear itself?” I totally agree! However, to be perfectly honest, I am close, but I am not fully there! THX MUCH for your sharing! With MUCH LOVE – D.J.

  43. Berit-Marie says:

    About two months after my father passed, he came to vissit me one night. He came into my bedroom, bent over me and kissed me saying: ” All is perfect, do not worry”. Then he laft the room. It was a wonderfull feeling. It has been with me since. The feeling of peace comes over me every time I think of the peisode. It was very real.

  44. TimA says:

    G’day Nick, beautiful article, I truly hope that the west looses its irrational fear of this most sacred of processors as I had during the passin of my Nonna 4 yrs ago. Fortunate to share the last 3 nights beside her whilst in a coma. Thru out I was fully aware that there is a level of consciousness and this I used by sharing love with her expressing that she can pass wen she was ready and that where she will be going will b full of unbounding love. It was such a privilege and honour to be there for the matriach of our family whilst everyone else was lurking round in the shadows too frightened to see her and the process for what it is. Very sad reality. I garnered my awareness thru dharmic practice and with great insights from The Tibetan Book Of Living And Dying read years before.
    I am now beginning a monastic path in the Theravada Forrest monk tradition and I wholeheartedly yern to support the elderly and dyin in the future. Especially after attending several funerals with the monks and experiencing the beauty and joy of these occasion. Love and peace

  45. Mary Fenlon says:

    My sister, Alice, passed away March 30, 2014…recently diagnosed with lung cancer, she’d had schizophrenia for 40 plus years…rather than do radiation and chemotherapy, she just let the angels take her in her sleep…that was my joy! I hope to be as smooth one day!

  46. carmen says:

    Thank you

  47. Marc says:

    Getting rid of the ego is hard to do. Shut down a little each day and you will understand that we are dying a little every day.

  48. Maria Etheridge says:

    This is a most valuable lesson! When my son died in a car accident at the tender age of 17, I was devastated as any mother would tell you. However, it brought home the lesson that every moment COULD be your last and there are no guarantees – only what you do with this precious moment. I live my life in total readiness to leave and I also try and make it easy for those who will have to clean up my mess when I’m gone! Bless you, Nick, for the work you do!

  49. Elizabeth says:

    Since I have become eternally curious after facing down the big “C” diagnosis, finding my own way has been important. I appreciated every word you wrote, Nick!

  50. Barb says:

    I do not fear death. I have been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and although there is no evidence of disease at the present time, I am aware of it’s possible recurrence. This has given me the opportunity to explore the idea of dying. I don’t fear death, but I cannot even think about leaving those I love. And I do not know how to prepare them and help them to lessen the pain of their loss. So, to prevent them from having to feel that loss, I fight to keep living.

  51. MaryAnne says:

    I am struck by how it may be our quest for understanding this deepest mystery of life, that illuminates our path to true service. Could it be that it is only in releasing this fear of death, and calmly embracing the Unknown, that we allow ourselves to be deeply and genuinely present to another?

  52. Anna says:

    Thank you for such true and well versed words of wisdom.

  53. Robert says:

    Thank you, Nick, it is just what I needed to hear.

  54. renee says:

    Well said.

  55. robert holsem says:

    My experience is that pain and suffering is the greatest fear

  56. lila says:

    .thanks so much for your blog

  57. Zabelisa says:

    The biggest fear is to not be loved… way before that of dying.

  58. Madhuri says:

    Thanks Nick, Om Namah Shivay.

  59. Carrie says:

    I cannot relate to this story at all. I have no fear of death – I enjoy to sleep and see death as a long peaceful sleep. What is there to fear? My beautiful mother fell asleep unexpectedly at the age of 78 after living a healthy life. Whilst I grieve and miss her presence daily I am thankful for her peaceful passing and hope for the same peaceful passing.

  60. Zoufy says:

    Briljant 🙂

  61. Ronda says:

    Thank You

  62. GK says:

    so simple, so cool!!!type your comment here…

  63. Terry says:

    Thank you for that.

  64. Victoria says:

    Under dyer circumstances, actually hoping for death; I instead live with tremendous pain and suffering. I have resentment toward the whole race of the people who inflicted harm and seeming permanent damage to my body…I am not afraid of death but rather suffering. What about that?

  65. GLORIA MORENO says:

    Love the information you furnish it is inspiring, informative and healing. Thank you.

  66. emma says:

    if people would know that death is imminent wars could be reduced and loving would change the quality of life amongst people. There is so much wars around the world now, disrespect of life…death may cure… but fears are everywhere… thanks nick for letting us know the mystics of life.. neither fear nor death can stop the flow of life in the highest realms…God is amazing!!

  67. Mary says:

    I perceive death provides a portal to a higher world of spirit not only to those who physically enter it but to those connected they love to that one as well. 🙂 negative emotions will close this portal. Thanks for your words, encouraging us to partake at whatever level….

    Namaste

  68. Rand Lee says:

    I have always been one of those people who feared death so much he hid on the borderlands of life, hoping Death would not notice me there and move on. THis led me to study metaphysics, and I’ve been working as a professional psychic for many years. I would feel the presence of the “dead,” and sometimes relay messages from them to my clients; and after my mother, brother, and love died, I had a visionary dream about each of them. Still my fear of death continued. Last November 2013 I was leading a group in a heart chakra meditation when suddenly I felt myself in the presence of a vast, calm energy field of pure consciousness that knew me down to the smallest molecule, loved and supported me without question, and desired nothing in return because it was complete in itself. And this Love field felt familiar, like an old friend who had been walking 1 foot behind me all my life. I was incredulous that somehow I had forgotten that this is the ground base of reality and that ultimately all of us are safe in its care.

  69. Joyce says:

    Enjoyed your comments on death. Reminds me of when we go under anesthesia. I bet death is no worse than that. Pain is gone-sweet retreat. Of course death has to be better because there will be a new awareness.
    thanks for this article and the quotes.
    Joyce

  70. sandra valadez says:

    As an older adult (almost 57 yrs. young!) I can use anything positive and spiritual you send my way. Thanks so much!

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