"Towards the end of his long life, the English philosopher and mathematician Bertrand Russell, who died at 98, had this to say about overcoming the fear of death:
The best way to overcome it … is to make your interests gradually wider and more impersonal, until bit by bit the walls of the ego recede, and your life becomes increasingly merged in the universal life. An individual human existence should be like a river: small at first, narrowly contained within its banks, and rushing passionately past rocks and over waterfalls. Gradually the river grows wider, the banks recede, the waters flow more quietly, and in the end, without any visible break, they become merged in the sea, and painlessly lose their individual being. The man who, in old age, can see his life in this way, will not suffer from the fear of death, since the things he cares for will continue.
I’ve had a lot of opportunity to think about Russell’s quote, and not just because I am now in my middle years, and thus aging more noticeably (and, it feels, more quickly). For several years I’ve been researching a book on the changes that happen to advanced meditators over a lifetime of practice. Again and again, the central dynamic described is the very one Russell articulates: greater openness and humility and equanimity, an expansion of identity, a paradoxical increase in both the impersonal and the personal, and a lived intimacy with an ever-larger world."
How Zen Masters Die - Psychology Tomorrow MagazinePsychology Tomorrow Magazine: