Q: While in deep meditation, I often feel that emptiness or out of body experience, and I become fearful.
I open my eyes to come out of it because I become scared. I want to go all the way, because I know this is our life purpose for our souls. How do I overcome my fears of going all the way in meditation, so that I can experience it fully?
Meditation is, in a way like a death. It is the death of the ego, the death of the I.
From the point of view of the ego – meditation is death.
From the point of the view of your essence – meditation is liberation from the limitations of the ego, and becoming boundless, becoming one with the whole universe. The ego is afraid of that.
When you are happy, you feel you are expanding, and the ego is very afraid of that. We are more afraid of happiness than of unhappiness. The ego feels fine when we are shrinking in misery – it feels very afraid when we are expanding in happiness.
Meditation is a like a death, followed by a rebirth.
There will also be a rebirth, but first the ego only experiences death.
The irrational fear we sometimes feel in meditation is the mind and the ego defending itself.
Before they die, they will throw anything they have at you.
They will create a fear so paralyzing, which has no reason and no motives, in order to convince you to stop meditating and preserve their identity.
Imagine a lion, or a snake, or a wild animal being cornered by hunters and feeling it is about to get killed.
The wild animal will throw anything it has against the hunting dogs and the hunters, in the last moment before death, it will throw everything it has against them, because it has nothing to lose.
It is the same with the ego.
The mind is very cunning.
The mind will create all sort of states: fear, depression, in order to convince you to stop meditating.
The mind creates fictitious states of fear and depression in order to preserve its identity.
And the fear the mind creates can be more paralyzing than any ordinary fear.
When sitting in meditation, ask yourself: why am I afraid?
I am sitting in a room, silently, there is no real danger threatening my life, I am physically safe
inside me there is only bliss, an immense inner treasure, waiting for me to claim it
Yet, where does the fear come from? I seem to be in no real danger.
The ego, the mind creates the fear.
The ego and meditation can never coexist.
The moment meditation happens, the ego is no more.
The moment the ego is no more, meditation happens.
When you go deeper into meditation, the ego will start to dissolve and disappear. It will throw everything at you to convince you to stop meditating.
The mind will find one thousand rationalizations, you will feel fear, it will find excuses not to meditate, you will feel an unexplainable state of depression.
Just keep meditating, even if there is fear. Keep going, even if there is fear, even if you are shaking with fear, keep meditating, go within.
Meditation is like a death to the ego.
The death of the body is nothing compared to the death of the ego.
The fear of physical death is nothing – you hear of many people committing suicide, suicide bombers, Japanese samurais committing seppuku – it is no big deal.
In fact, most people are so miserable that physical death sometimes seems the easy way out.
Japanese samurais can easily commit seppuku —
but ask them to commit the death of the ego, to become ordinary, to not try to do anything extraordinary, just be normal, and to meditate until the ego dies – this is more difficult and more scary.
If you tell them to take a sword and jump into battle and kill many men and die like a hero – a samurai will gladly do it, without showing any fear.
But if you tell a samurai – put down your sword, do not try anything extraordinary, just be insignificant, have an ordinary life as a peasant, cultivating rice, shave your head, sit in zazen doing nothing for 3 hours a day, do not try to do anything special — I don’t know if there are many samurais who would have the courage to do this 🙂
The death of the ego is scarier than any physical death. It is the ultimate death.
Even at the very last moment, the mind will try to persuade you to stop meditating.
What can you do practically, when you are sitting in meditation and you feel this fear?
The first thing you can do is to sit still, and do not listen to the mind. Keep meditating, do not move, and do not listen to what the mind throws at you – the mind will eventually give up.
Fear is created by the mind. The mind can also create bodily sensations – when you are meditating, you feel like your nose is itching, or your feet are hurting, your back is itching – just so it distracts you from meditating – so you scratch your nose.
Funnily enough, your nose is never itching, only when you sit in meditation, the nose starts to itch.
Let it itch, let fear be there, and keep meditating. The mind will eventually give up.
There is another thing you can do practically:
If you look deeper into this fear you are feeling, it is like a death, you feel like you are dying.
Close your eyes and accept this death.
This is what meditation is, essentially, a death of the ego – Sheree will no longer exist.
When you say “I feel emptiness” – go one step further and become that emptiness, let yourself be emptiness, be a zero, just like a hollow bamboo.
Be that emptiness, become emptiness, just a void.
You say “I feel emptiness” – you have to go a bit further and dissolve into that emptiness – this is where bliss lies.
When you meditate and feel fear –
First realize that it is a “fear of death”
Secondly, realize that the death is the “death of the ego”
Accept this death, accept that you will disappear in meditation, that you will be just emptiness.
If you accept this death – then everything becomes easier, because you do not cling to the ego, there is no struggle.
I do not mean accept death in a morbid, death-wish kind of way.
In meditation, life and death are united, one and the same phenomenon.
The more you surrender to the death of the ego – the more alive you will feel – you will feel 100% alive, more alive than you have ever felt in your life – and you will feel happy.
Simultaneously with the death of the ego – a tremendous aliveness descends upon you.
So there are two sides to this coin of meditation – on the one hand the mind dies, on the other hand you feel more alive than ever before.
So meditations on death or about death are very useful. When you accept death totally, you lose any fear.
When you accept death, you gain true life –
The life you lived before, a life lived in fear, is not true life.
When you lose the fear of death, what happens, you also lose the fear of life.
You start to live for the first time, fully, fearlessly, taking chances, enjoying each moment.
When you accept death – there is no future. The future becomes irrelevant.
You live each moment, totally, intensely, for you know that it could be your last – so you don’t think about the future.
The mind clings to the past because the past creates its identity
And it clings to the future because it is afraid of death.
So when you sit in meditation, and you feel emptiness – just allow yourself to go deeper, and dissolve into this emptiness, become the emptiness.
Let nothing remain of you.
And if you feel like you are dying, if fear of death appears – accept and embrace this death totally.
Accept that you will die, because this is what meditation is, essentially: you as an ego dies, and all that remains is a boundless pure consciousness, alive, blissful, without any past or future, without any identity or limits –
all that remains is emptiness without labels –
but this emptiness is so full that words cannot describe it
for the first time when you feel empty, you realize you have not felt so full in your whole life
Usually people feel empty inside, and they try to feel this emptiness with all sorts of things and activities: alcohol, overworking, sports, cinema, hobbies, reading etc.
They try to escape this feeling of being “empty”, they try to forget it somehow.
The biggest surprise happens when, in meditation, we become emptiness – for the first time in our life we feel full inside, we feel that nothing is lacking, we don’t need anything.
True inner fullness comes only through emptiness.
So try to dissolve into this emptiness, when you sit in meditation.
Just accept death – this is what meditation is – a death of the ego – this is what you have been looking for.
Accept that meditation is a death, accept and embrace it fully – and let go of everything you cling to – and allow everything to fall away until nothing but emptiness remains.