Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but I will fear no evil, for you are with me.
This is, perhaps, the most famous single line from the Psalms. It’s fame rests on its evocation of the possibility that we can face what we have feared most, our physical death, yet are free, completely, of that fear.
Can we realize that extraordinary courage in our life right now, before the shadow of our death begins to fill our lives?
We can, but first we will need to understand the real nature of fear. So, we need to ask ourselves, what is fear?
The first definition in dictionary.com says:
a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.
Fear is an emotion whose existence is based on the mind’s certainty that something bad will happen.
We seem to know death. People, animals, and plants die. We see their deaths and know that death is real. Observing the death of another is not quite the same as experiencing our own, inevitable death. A plant dies, we toss it in the trash. We see the remains of a dead squirrel and we might wince. Our cat or dog dies and we mourn their loss with tears, and members of our family die and we feel the final totality of death first-hand.
We know that a day will come when we will have our last breakfast, that last cup of coffee, that last sunrise, that last hearing of birdsong, that last conversation with our kids, that last time alone with ourselves and such thoughts may fill our hearts with the deepest of sadness. Death is inutterably final. It is, truly, the end of all endings.
We might like to think that it is the great unknown, but we know enough about it to understand that among all of the events of our lives it stands alone in its dark finality.
Thus we fear.
The psalm urges us to trust in the Lord, but for many of us our belief in this Lord has been badly shaken or has dropped away completely. So, how can ‘walk through valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil?
There is much we fear in this life. The fear of our passing is, perhaps, our greatest fear, but it is really just one fear among many.
Now return to your past and recall those things that you feared most intensely. What happened?
I know you will say that you survived. You will say, with conviction, that death really is different for this is one thing that the “I” will not survive.
What is this “I”? Is it not the physical body and mind? It is! And we can see in this very moment that we can notice this physical body and mind.
So I ask you what is it that can observe the body and mind? What is this that can even contain the process and motion of attention? What is it that already is prior to the mind becoming aware that it is aware?
This is a question that your mind cannot answer. If you cannot answer this question, then you are identified with the mind.
I will tell you now that what observes this body and mind – mind with all of its multitude of thoughts, feelings, and sensations is Life itself. Life is an absolute and total vacancy. It possesses no quality … except one.
What quality do you think that is? Please consider this question before I offer you how I answer this question.
Have you really considered it?
It is this: the capacity or potential to contain anything … even death!
Thus, as life, I truly need never fear any evil. But as the physical body and mind I am obliged to live a life consumed with the fear of its demise.
So I invite you, starting right now to be the Life you already are. Remember that it is the conditionlessness of limitless potential. That life includes the many ups and downs of this physical body and mind. I invite you to be that infinite vastness. Be the ocean that contains the many waves … small and large. Be the infinitude.
This is what it means to truly walk in the valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil. Breath deep and feel it now. Really feel it to the depths of your assumed being and then go way beyond that to infinity. For you are that. Infinity cannot be contained by the mind. The mind can only believe that it knows itself. Is that true? Is it true that the mind only believes it can know itself? That is a question you might want to explore.
Walk up to a tree. Do you know that tree? Can you really say that you know this very tree?
Obviously you can’t know the tree. The tree is a profound mystery. Ultimately it contains the universe in its totality. It took the universe 14 billion years to make this tree. As the great astronomer Carl Sagan was fond of saying, “To make an apple pie from scratch, first you must invent the universe.”
As life, death is just a passage. Death and Life are two sides of the very same coin. As Life needs Death, so Death needs Life. They are a single truth. We cannot embrace Life, unless we embrace Death. And, just as Life is a mystery that can never be known, so is in Death. The mind can never know anything. It only believes it knows and it is that belief that creates all the confusion and fear in our lives. But if it cannot know that tree, how can it know anything. Mind, that God of us all, is no God at all. Rather it is a tool … a tool that can be used for a million purposes … but knowing is not among them (don’t confuse description or measurement with knowing – that is a common error of those wedded to the story of science).
When you stop seeking answers through the mind … ever again … then turn to the heart. It is the heart that is the next step on the way to Life. The journey will then begin to unfold effortlessly – for effort is an expression of the mind. Know that as well. Follow your heart unencumbered by the protestations and beliefs of the mind and the heart will light the way.
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Psalm 23 Even Though I Walk Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death: Death and Fearlessness by A Voice, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.