Q: I am having the fear of dying arise. I am not so much in terror, but there seems to be many aspects to this unwinding. This facing of death I see as a significant step...possibly even the biggest step in moving beyond acting from my ego. Here is my question: Do you have any advice to give to a person facing this level of unwinding? What happened for you? How did you face this?
A: As for death, I will share an anecdote. When I was about 20 (40 years ago!), I went into a deep depression and wanted to escape life by dying. Then I started having a series of out of body experiences that were quite vivid and powerful. At one point I suddenly and deeply realized that essentially nothing would actually change if I died. Whatever difficulties or problems I was experiencing would still be there wherever I landed after dying. Paradoxically, instead of overwhelming me, this realization freed me. I figured if there truly was no escape, I might as well enjoy myself. And that is what I did. Within just a few months, I went on a skiing vacation to Colorado, went back to school to study alternative energy, and got a great job as a solar energy system designer and installer. That deep sense that death does not really matter one way or the other has stayed with me ever since.
Death, whether of the body or of the ego is not very real or important. Even when the ego dissolves, life is still pretty much the same. And just as we can easily form a new body (either physical or subtle), we can reform a new ego in a heartbeat. In fact, everyone's ego actually "dies" several times a day. It is pretty easy to kill a thoughtstream, and that is all the ego ever really is. When we pause for a minute or move onto another thoughtstream, the old ego that was there a minute ago is gone. The fear of death, like most fears, is based on a misconception that there is something lost when we die. What can be lost was never real to start with, including the self of past lives, and the ego you had this morning before breakfast, and the ego after that, and so on.
The end of the ego is not a prescription or something we need to accomplish or make happen, it is simply a description of the way our egos have always been dying with each new thought. Egos are like fruit flies that hatch, breed and die in a few moments! When you realize the extremely transient nature of our ego identities and fears, they may still arise, but they are simply seen to not be important or meaningful. You can just wave the ego flies away and bite into the fruit of life itself. Or you can be curious about the flies if you find them interesting. What a mystery it all is, including the most temporary and brief experiences in life.
I hope this is helpful.