As most people in the world know, the Queen of England died a short while ago. Part of her exemplary life, among many other qualities, was that she approached events and people with calm and compassion. It is difficult to imagine that death held any fear for her. Speaking to the nation a short time before her departure, she quoted something she attributed to an aboriginal nation:
“We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love… and then we return home.”
Her own Christian faith gave her great courage and power to fulfil the responsibilities that had been thrust upon her, at a young age. Religion, at its best, helps us to steer through and overcome the negativities fear stirs in us.
When we are afraid, we tend to react in selfish and sometimes violent or even unthinkingly mob-like ways. The ‘still small voice’ within, which guides our higher selves, becomes drowned out by blind emotion.
We all have both goodness, and limitations, within us, and religions give advice on how to live aligned with inner virtue. Most tell us to have a generous heart, free from animosity, so that we remain full of good wishes for others.
Many of us, however, carry burdens from past experiences that get in the way of our benevolence. It is one thing to hear the advice, and another to have the power to act on it.
In my experience, this power comes from accepting that true goodness lies within each one of us, but at a soul level rather than when my consciousness is caught up too much with the physical side of existence.
Every day, I practise feeling the truth of being a spark of pure spiritual energy, and that I have come from a Supreme Being whose intrinsic nature is of love, peace, wisdom and joy. As my relationship with that One deepens, those qualities return inside me and my fearful tendencies, and the negative behaviours to which they give rise, are gradually removed.
Little by little, learning to identify with that inner being, the soul, rather than with the body, eliminates the fear of the separation of the two – which is what we call ‘death’. Death in fact does not exist other than in the physical sphere, as extensive research into Near Death Experiences (NDEs) has shown. Understanding this continuity of consciousness, it becomes easy to ask: ‘O death, where is thy sting?’
At their best, meditation and prayer involve consciously moving into an awareness of this place of safety, the realm of eternal truths that lies beyond time and space. Such practice is made easier as we ‘die’ to temporary, worldly pleasures, which curtail our freedom and drain our happiness when they exert an excessive hold on our thoughts and feelings.
By reminding myself, like Queen Elizabeth, that I will at some point return to the home beyond – Paramdham – I become better able to live, learn and love in the here and now.
Woody Allen, the American comedian, actor and film producer, quipped: “I’m not afraid of death – I just don’t want to be there when it happens!” But if I learn to ‘die alive’ now, and become a master rather than a slave to my senses, I will find myself becoming free of fear – and ready to lift off easily when the time comes.
Neville Hodgkinson is a
UK-based author and journalist, and a long-time student of Rajyoga.