Tomorrow is designated as Talk About It Day here in the US. It’s a day designated to remind us all of the importance of mental health and to remove the stigma of seeking help for our mental wellness. Good mental health, our peace of mind, is a huge part of living a more fulfilling life and achieving a more peaceful death.
As I stated yesterday, while beginning to journal and to improve my mindfulness in my self-care, I started to think about how to prepare my mind, my mental being, for a fulfilled and meaningful life and eventual peaceful death. How do the things I believe, the stuff that I’ve been told about myself or how I was molded and shaped by my family, culture and society impact my life today and keep me from living my best life? Each of us could easily find several untrue things deep wired in our psyche if we took some time to reflect.
All these perceptions often lead us to devalue ourselves and others unless we work on re-wiring and re-learning. One of the most important steps is re-wiring our mind is to address our fears. So what are you afraid of? I’m not talking about things like snakes, which truly terrify me, but what am I afraid of today that might be keeping me from finding peace-of – and in – my mind? And, is there any action I can take to address and alleviate that fear, and how would that affect and improve my day to day life?
Obviously, the things that I’m afraid of as a 50-year-old, white, comfortably middle-class woman demonstrate that I have led a privileged life, where I do not fear how I am going to meet my basic needs: safety, food, shelter, warmth. Especially in this time, these are real fears that are impacting hundreds of thousands, and I am exceedingly grateful that I am privileged enough to even have the time and energy to think about mindfulness and ways to search for fulfillment. Those who are struggling to meet their most basic needs certainly do not have time to be worried about how they may find more joy, peace and contentedness in life. But if you are fortunate enough to have your basic needs met and have the luxury of considering personal fulfillment and growth, it’s time to think about what you fear and how that fear keeps you from realizing your potential and living a full life.
What do we lose every day from fear? How many opportunities pass by while we wrestle with fear? Acknowledging that we are afraid and focusing some of our energy on finding where the basis of those fears lie and finding the real truth of our fears can propel us forward on our path to greater peace of mind. Is it rejection we fear or is it truly loneliness? Is it change or is it really the uncertainty of death that we fear? And why? Is there trauma that needs to be healed? Are there layers of untrue thoughts, feelings and beliefs in our psyches we need to unpack and examine? And once we find that fear is there anything we can do about it?
For many of us, it’s uncertainty that causes us the most fear. Ultimately, death is one of the biggest uncertainties we face, so for many, death is the ultimate fear. If we really think about it, however, death is no more of an uncertainty than any other aspect of life. Do we know where we’ll be working, or if we’ll be working in five years? Do we know where we are going to be living or what we are going to be wearing, driving, eating, reading, thinking or who we are going to be loving or excluding in the next days, weeks or months? And yet, we know one day we will die, as will every single person we love. Yes, we may not know exactly when or how, but we know it definitely will happen, so death isn’t really an uncertainty at all.
So, take a deep breath. Doesn’t it feel better just acknowledging that truth? One of the best ways to deal with that fear is to think about it and talk about it. Thinking about death can bring about profound peace and acceptance for us. Happiness researchers found that the citizens of Bhutan are among the happiest in the world, and they achieve that joy by contemplating their death for at least five minutes every day. If we can think about it, we can talk about it. If we can talk about it, we can plan for it. And if we can plan for it, we can gain some amount of control over it.
Fear is like a bogeyman or the thing lurking in the dark. Thinking about why we fear death or aging, loneliness or rejection, change or uncertainty, shines the light into those dark places and exposes things for what they really are. So, I invite you to join me this week in thinking about what you’re scared of, because it’s time we talk about that, too.