Liberation is freedom from the fear of death.

Chronicle of a spiritual vagabond (3rd part, January 07)

Defeating fear is the most important challenge that we can face in this life; more precisely it is the fear of dying, because this is the ultimate fear. In overcoming this fear, we free ourselves. Not before. This is when we start living.

There are two groups of human beings. One is composed of those who are fearful, they are 99% of the population. The other 1% is made up of those who are also fearful. Both groups have the same fear, they look the same. The only difference between the groups is the attitude that each has towards their fear. It isn’t the fear that differentiates the groups, rather what they do with the fear. A. Huxley used to say: “Experience isn’t what happens to us but rather what we do with what happens to us.” What do you do with your fears?

The majority group blocks the fear, they stop it, they aren’t daring, they don’t endure, they don’t move forward, fear paralyses them. This is the group of cowards, the great majority.

The other group is different in that, in the face of the fear they may feel in a given situation, they don’t stop, don’t doubt, don’t remain stuck; instead they move forward. They too are trembling with fear just like the other group, but they don’t stop in their tracks, they move in the direction of the fear, they move through it, step by step they go into the darkness that scares them; they are the brave, they are those who possess courage.

A spiritual vagabond belongs to this second group. They have chosen the joy of living dangerously, trusting that all of existence will be with them in every moment. They travel the journey of life with the clear idea that they are journeying towards death and that, as they move forward, they get closer and closer to it. For this reason, they love death, they don’t reject it, they accept it as part of life. For a spiritual vagabond death is their final and greatest lover, with whom they will have most of their orgasms, because with death whatever they are not, will die.

Life is a journey towards death. From the moment we are born we begin getting closer to death, day by day, moment to moment, in every instance we get closer. With each step that we take the shadow of death accompanies us and the consequential fear to face it.

The essence of fear

Fear of death isn’t actually a fear of death, but a fear of life. It isn’t a fear of no longer existing, but a fear of not living before dying. How can I die if I haven’t yet lived enough? How can the end be nearing if I haven’t yet done all I wanted? How many times do we ask ourselves: Is there life after death? But why don’t we ask ourselves: Is there life before death? Behind a fear of death another reality is hidden, that if I die without having lived I will have wasted the opportunity, but if I decide to live, living life, living it with intensity, I will have to face my own truth, what I am and feel, and the need to be free in order to be able to live. For this reason, fear of living also covers up another even deeper fear: the fear of freedom. What does freedom have that causes us so much fear? Being free is Being oneself, being who we really are.

It is in this way exactly that we can unveil the true origin of all fear: that behind the fear of freedom hides the fear of being ourselves. If we truly were ourselves, we would have to face the rejection of a whole society that we form a part of and within which we have learned to prostitute ourselves to fear. Throughout the whole process of edu-castration we learn to lie, to deceive, to stop being authentic, to show ourselves in the way that others wish to see us. We know that we live in the slavery of wanting to satisfy the expectations of others, and we make great compromises based on satisfying their expectations in order to satisfy them, be recognised and accepted. Being oneself is the most difficult thing we can challenge ourselves with, but it is also the master key to freedom towards life and overcoming fear of death. All of our fears collapse the day we decide to be ourselves. In this moment we run a trivial risk: being rejected or condemned. Being oneself is a big decision. Although it guarantees us an attack from a society that only wants to see us as “normal little sheep in the pen”, in our wild hearts we will feel deep acceptance, we will be comfortable for the first time, we will begin to accept ourselves. Despite the possibility that others will get angry, in reality their anger will not be at us but rather at the cowardly part of themselves that they listen to, they limits them, that prevents them from moving forward towards freedom.

Fear doesn’t really exist. It is an invention of the mind. Fear, which originally is instinctive and is designed to keep us away from situations that put our life at risk, has been converted into a psychological fear, meaning that every time our “I” is at risk of dying, being attacked or rejected, fear is triggered and blocks our actions that presume a risk of “dying”.  Osho said: “In a state of non-I-ness we defeat the fear of dying since the only thing that dies is the “I”. The “I” is the thing that we are not but that human beings live in and thus don’t know who we are. It is for this reason that we want everyone to give us recognition, we want to be accepted, applauded, praised, and certainly not rejected – this is our whole aspiration. When someone transcends their “I”, they begin to know who they are and this initiates a relationship with their own Being because they start to Be, leaving behind their concern for fame, image and prestige, as they are no longer interested in what other people think or say about them; they already know who they are so they don’t need external opinions.

In the tale of a mystic Sufi, a spiritual vagabond one day called at the doors of a rich man’s house saying that he just wanted a little food. When the rich man saw him he said: “Nobody knows you here. How dare you ask for something from me if I don’t know you?”. The dervish replied: “But I know myself; how sad would it be if everybody else knew me but I didn’t know myself. And for this simple fact that I know myself I am able to look you in the eyes and ask this of you, without feeling shame or that I am lesser than you. You and I are both on the same path, moving in the direction of death, there is no difference in our destinies, nothing and no-one will stop this reality. It’s even possible that if you knew yourself a little better, you would realise that all you have doesn’t serve you to overcome the fear of dying”. The rich man looked surprised in his weakness and he asked the Sufi: “Please tell me, how could I overcome the fear of death?”. The dervish replied: “Living. Only in living life can we lose the fear of dying. You don’t live, you are just taking care of your possessions. Living just to accumulate is being dead in life.”

One night in the Colombian jungle, a group of us had just finished cooking ayahuasca in the middle of the bush. It was already night-time and we couldn’t see a thing, we could hear unrecognisable sounds, the ground we were treading on was soft and unpredictable, it was frightening… we were surrounded by danger and in that moment I asked the Taita Alfredo: When you come here alone, what do you do with the fear? And he responded: What is that? I hear a lot of talk about fear here but I don’t know what it is.

These men who live in the jungle who, since being children, have encountered very dangerous situations, learn to realise that fear doesn’t exist for those who don’t stop in their tracks on the path of life. That “the worst” that they might encounter is death, who they consider a friend, a new beginning to another life. Many masters agree on this and I was taught that in order to be a spiritual vagabond we must have courage. Courage means continuing to move forward despite fear. When they take these ancestral remedies, there are a lot of people who ask to defeat or overcome fear, but when ayahuasca activates the inner master, the master speaks in a soft and deep voice that comes out and responds overwhelmingly by saying: “I cannot help you to overcome something that doesn’t exist.” This voice that is activated is the voice of existence and the internal voice of a human being filled with divinity who, as they move forward, and as they gain more and more courage, sees that fear disappears.

Cowardice listens to fears and obeys them, then it becomes full of rage that ends in violence towards ourselves and towards others. Those who are brave put their fears aside, keep moving forward with nothing stopping them, and become full of strength and love. Fear is the signpost that shows us the path to freedom. In crossing this path fear will disappear.

When fear leaves, love and freedom flourish.

Alberto José Varela

[email protected]

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