On one coast-to-coast flight in the 1970s, our DC-8 hit a really rough patch of turbulence over the Rocky Mountains. The plane’s wings were bouncing and flexing as they’re built to do, but the rattling was so fierce that it felt like the plane was being torn apart at the seams. I had to sit down in one of the passenger seats and buckle up. Looking out over the wing I saw the rivets that held the wings together jumping up and down, like they were going to leap right out of their sockets.
I knew there was a good chance that things could get dangerous. If the wing came off we would fall out of the sky, and there was nothing I could do. Big chinks of my life flashed before my eyes. It was like a movie; a jagged sequence of scenes, one after the other. They weren’t good or bad, they just were. As these vignettes unfolded, a profound peace descended upon me. Death wasn’t something to fear: it was nothing more than a peaceful transition from sleeping to waking. The iron filings in my head started tingling, and I knew that wherever I went after I stepped out of my “spacesuit,” it would be the perfect place for me. These scenes from this life would be with me, like dreams lingering in my mind long into the morning -- but in the end, they would be just that: dreams.
After that, no mid-air turbulence could shake me. Even when conditions had passengers in panicked tears, I remained perfectly calm.
It’s been said that all fear ultimately stems from the fear of death. Our fears about violence, lack, abandonment, and disease can all be traced back to that one ultimate fear. For me, the key to being comfortable with death was accepting that I am not my body. If the truest part of me is pure eternal spirit, nothing that happens to this body-- up to and including death-- can truly harm me. Injury, disease, aging... None of these can touch me, because I have no fear of them.
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