This was in the same talk on the Sandokai that I quoted yesterday, but I wanted to look at it separately, as it deals with the fundamentals of practice from a slightly different angle. I have heard it said that we practise in order to come to terms with our fear of death, and this is how Suzuki Roshi talks about this:
"Most questions and problems are created by human-centered, selfish ideas. 'What is birth and death?' That is already a very self-centered idea....When we say 'birth and death', we mostly mean the birth and death of human beings. When you understand birth and death as the birth and death of everything - plants, animals and trees - it is not a problem anymore. If it is a problem, it is a problem for everything, including us. A problem for everything is not a problem anymore".
I find that comforting to read; of course an intellectual understanding of this does not take away the deep fear of dying. I remember Reb telling someone at Tassajara that letting go of the fear of death does not necessarily mean completely accepting it, but it can mean going from a tightly clenched fist to a less tightly clenched fist. That is still letting go. Another time at Tassajara I realised that part of my own fear of death was the idea was that 'me, now' would die, when of course the 'me' that will die is the 'me, now' of a different time, who might have different ideas about it. This does not mean that the 'me, now' of this time can ignore the issue, but I can recognise it as a fear of something that is not happening now, and that helps diminish the fear.