Bring your life into balance

Empathy works. It always does.

I am afraid to die


WavesI was born and raised in a very loving, forgiving protestant religion. I was always sure that God was loving and loved all of us, including my quarreling sister. I didn’t understand how He could love both me and her at the same time, and I was absolute certain that She did. We humans are limited by our aversions and attractions, God was beyond that. God was abundant Love, powerful and almighty.

I also was sure that I would get in heaven. Not because of my personal achievements or character, but because God was boundless Love. I could not imagine She would turn anyone away at Heaven’s door. He was too loving for that.

Now I study Thich Nhat Hanh teaching’s on impermanence and interbeing. There is no death, no birth, just the stream of life. As long as we identify with the wave, we get upset with it’s disappearance. As soon as we see that the wave has been water all along, there is no gain and no loss. Just an opportunity to appreciate this unique manifestation of life. Nothing comes, nothing goes, everything transforms.

It hasn’t really helped.

Trouble began when I was 12. I realized Heaven was eternal. I imagined living forever and forever and forever. And forever. And forever. And I completely spooked out. That seemed like being stuck in a nightmare covered in icing!

Even writing it down 1:00 am in the morning, I feel scared. What if you get as terrified as me? What if you cannot calm yourself down when I panic? What if there is no way out of this stuckness?

I have no solution to my fear. Maybe there is none. Maybe I need to accept this fear as part of our human existence. Maybe I can just allow myself to be penetrated by it, and open my tender heart a little bit more. We all stand to lose everything and everyone that is dear and precious to us, including ourselves.

I don’t know. I just hope to stand tall when my time comes. I hope I’ll face my own death with love, openness and tenderness. Maybe that is the only thing I am really striving for.

We never know how high we are,

Till we are called to rise;

And then, if we are true to plan,

Our statures touch the skies

Emily Dickinson

This post is in honor of my former colleague and first introduction to Zen Buddhism, Karolijn de Heer. May she rest in peace.

Author: Elly van Laar

I am a coach. I specialize in helping mission-driven professionals bring their lives into balance. I have a Master's degree in Political Science, Leiden University, the Netherlands. I'm currently in an ICF-coaching certification program. I love meditation, walking, gardening, biking, and hanging out with family and friends.

2 thoughts on “I am afraid to die

  1. Because everything is impermanent, nothing is eternal. Nothing is “forever and ever and ever.” We are all just part of a continuously changing and shifting dance of space and energy. Our experience of a separate existence is an illusion. This probably will not help, but I wanted to share it anyway. I am sorry for the loss of your colleague.



    • Thanks, Iektje, for your thoughts about impermanence. Even though they don’t relief the suffering of being stuck in the idea of separation (ideas hardly ever seem to do the trick for me, visceral experience does more often), I feel happy with the beauty of your words and what I perceive as your intention to support.


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