Are you scared of death? Do you feel that fear in your body – and if so, where? Is it in your chest? Is your heart beating faster, just thinking about whatever it is that you’re afraid of? You might feel it in your throat, or as some tightness in your body. These traumas are usually associated with something that happened when you were very young, something that made you feel that life could not be trusted, that you weren’t safe. And underneath it is our collective fear of death, because we don’t really understand what it is. And because of that we don’t fully live.
A lot of our trauma happens at a very young age and it programs our subconscious mind. Now I’ve been working for the last seven years in the field of alternative medicine, and interestingly I came up on this path for my own healing process to heal eating disorders. I was having a lot of anxiety and I went through a lot of the traditional medical routes, seeing psychologists and doctors, but no one could help me. I even went on some anti-anxiety medication and I realized after a while that all my anxiety, all the fear that I was experiencing, was really around me not facing my shadow, and not accepting the truth of my life. It was my soul crying for my attention.
The greatest gift in life is being able to face our fears. And by going through them it actually unlocks your life energy, your creative power. Eckhart Tolle once said, “you have to die before you die so that when you die, you don’t die.”
And what that means is, when you understand what energy is – that it’s always transitioning from entropy, which is death, to life – it’s always being reborn; when you understand that you see that there really is no such thing as death – that concept of death being the “end” is something that we’ve created. There is some ending to your personal life, but larger life always continues.
So my question to you is, what does death mean to you? Take a second and feel into that.
The Ancients View of Death
In the ancient cultures, death was something that was revered and valued. The Egyptians did elaborate rituals to honor the passing of their beloveds. And the Egyptians also wrote a book, The Book of the Dead, which carries all of the secrets to allow you to understand these death rituals.
The Tibetans also wrote a book called the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and they talk about the different realms that you pass through as a soul when you cross through. Some of these realms have a lot of darkness and can seem very, very dark and scary; other realms can be really beautiful and filled with the light and filled with beautiful colors and maybe even different types of geometries.
Ultimately all these cultures taught that when we repress our fear of death, we feel an emptiness inside of us. And when we react to that fear, it creates addiction. So that feeling of uncomfortableness or uneasiness, it creates this drive to do something.
That might be a destructive addiction, such as turning to alcohol or a feeling of a “voidness.” And really what this is about is a lack of connection. So ultimately, all fear is related to a lack of connection. All fear is equivalent to the fear of death.
Living Free of Fear
The only way that we can really truly live our most free life is to take the energy of that fear and own it.
The raw, creative power of our mind creates stories around the fear. Like, all of a sudden you feel this uneasiness in your body and you think, “Oh, something’s happening. I must be dying or something’s wrong with my body.” And it’s the story that is creating your suffering. All we need to do to transcend that suffering is to enter those spheres from a loving and compassionate space.
These fears have wisdom for us. They have information for us. So my question to you is how can you be curious about fear? How can you be curious about death? Many of the things that we create in our mind, the stories we create about what’s happening in the physical reality aren’t even true. We create these stories.
I really believe that we need to understand death to understand life. In my work with plant medicine, working with psychedelic plants in a shamanic setting, I was once invited to work with a center in Mexico where they work with a plant called Iboga, which is one of the most powerful psychedelic substances on the planet. I also work with another medicine from the Sonoran Desert toad, which is a venom that when smoked, creates a powerful, transcendental state of oneness and a dissolving of our egoic structure, which is the part of us that is our identity.
It’s interesting when you witness over a thousand ceremonies of people experiencing their true self, and experiencing that ego dissolving away, just really seeing what is truth and what is the illusion, I came to understand most of it is based on trauma. This is trauma that happened when we were very young, maybe when you were a baby, even in the womb.
These systems created your egoic structure, which actually drive a lot of your unconscious decision-making. It’s an operating system that’s running in the background and drives us to fear, addictions and extremes. I like to think of it like when you see a moth going into the flame of a candle, it burns up and it destroys itself.
That’s the egoic path that we’ve been on, where we’ve been chasing power outside of ourselves, destroying ourselves because we’re chasing an illusion based on our separation from life, and it’s reflection in death.
A Meditation on Death
Now I invite you to take a breath. I invite you into a meditation. Nothing is going to happen to you. What I want you to do, first of all, is sit comfortably. If you’re not comfortable right now, get comfortable, place your feet on the ground, and start to focus on your breath. Start by relaxing your legs.
Start to notice your feet relaxing. As you breathe, start to feel your shoulders unravel and relax. If you haven’t already closed your eyes, close your eyes right now and turn inward, and connect to the divine power within you. You’re going to start to imagine the energy is leaving every part of your body. You’re dying.
Each part of your body is merging back with the earth. You can feel the fire leaving as all the energy drains out of your body. All of a sudden, you see the water evaporating from your body. You can imagine it merging back in with the ocean of life. Now, you see the air merging, leaving your body as you breathe out, merging back into the atmosphere, and all the minerals in your body are merging back into the earth.
And you still feel this awareness, this part of you that’s still alive.
This is your true identity. Now, you see your body is dead. It’s been a few days. It’s bloated and blue. You’re not sure how much time has passed, and all that’s left of your body is a skeleton with some flesh and blood still clinging to it. How does it feel?
You lose track of time again, and now, all that is left is a collection of scattered bones. All the bones of the feet scattered one way, the bones of the hand, another, the thigh bones, pelvis, your vertebrae, jaw, teeth all come apart in different directions. They’re all just bare bones now. You can see them start to decay and turn brown, to become dust, and as the wind blows it scatters them till there’s nothing left.
Now, imagine consciousness is a fire. And that fire coming back into your body through your heart, spreading itself through every part of your body breathing and brimming with consciousness again. Imagine all of your body parts becoming active, slowly regaining strength and vitality. The whole metabolism of the body that had once come to a halt has now started up again in full flow.
The external and internal organs have all started working to their fullest. Visualize every organ in your body and imagine it activating again and gaining in strength. Your heart, your lungs, your kidneys, your brain, everything slowly comes back online in full vitality and health.
Now, slowly open your eyes and wake up, and take a couple breaths. Let’s do a check-in. How do you feel right now? How did it feel to die? What did it feel like to look at yourself dead? It’s so interesting that when we take a moment to really think of this, it loses its power. Death no longer has to be feared anymore.
All things live, all things die, and all things are constantly being born and reborn, and so I just want to thank you for taking this time to explore death with me and to explore connecting with your divine nature and connecting to your true power, your authentic power inside.
This essay was an abridged transcript of the following talks, used with permission of the author:
Death Becomes Her PT 1
Many of us fear death, and that fear translates into a fear of the unknown. As a society, we have been taught to repress our dark nature. When we dive into the depths of our suffering, we realize that all we need to do is feel and express our deepest fears to allow them to be acknowledged and confronted. We will do a guided shamanic exercise to help you release your fears and attachments.
Death Becomes Her PT 2
We will embark on an journey into the inner wild together, connecting to our deepest fears and transforming them by acknowledging them. Tricia will explore ancient wisdom on the topic of death, and will lead the group through a death meditation to support you in understanding our own subconscious fears and learn to surrender.
Tricia Eastman curates medicine retreats in countries where use is legal. She is an experienced ceremonial facilitator of 5-MeO-DMT, a powerful psychedelic medicine from the Sonoran Desert Toad. As an Iboga provider, Eastman has been initiated into the Mboumba Eyano tradition, trained in the Missoko tradition, and she has facilitated the psychospiritual Iboga program for Crossroads Treatment Center in Mexico. https://www.psychedelicjourneys.com