When I meditate, I tend to focus on the easy inflow and outflow of breath as well as the relaxation of muscles unnecessary to the pose. If I’m sitting, then what’s required? If I’m lying down, then what’s really required? Let go of everything unnecessary, and a kind of clarity enters the picture. Thoughts come and go, often feeling like passing clouds obscuring present awareness. With practice, they are easier to let pass, and that is genuinely relaxing.
And then what? At least for me lately, I’ve begun hitting bedrock fears. The mundane thoughts having been let go of, my mind makes space for what feel like deathbed fears. The fear of my own mortality. The mortality of the people I love. The awareness that everything will end and is in the process of ending right now.
This is not relaxing, and I have ended several of my meditation sessions in the past few months in tears. And I don’t exactly know how to move beyond this other than by staring at it and using the same meditation techniques that got me to this point. Observe. Let go. Observe. Let go.
Even if letting go feels wrong, even if it feels like failure, I have to trust that there is something on the other side beyond these fears that’s worth it.
If there was anything I learned from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, it’s that we are going to face these fears at some point by choice or by circumstance. Best to try and work through them ahead of time as best we can. Even if it’s not relaxing at first.