Opening to Fear

It’s not until recently that I started to contemplate the meaning of fearlessness. What does that mean? I contemplate the meaning of this as I find myself in one the scariest times of my life. I suppose this is taboo topic matter, but I attribute my devotion to meditation for my lack of shame and embarrassment about where I find myself now. My household is experiencing a financial crises and things are coming to a tipping point. Things are about to either change for the better with a slow accent out of a hole that’s been dug or…or I can’t even fathom the alternative. I can’t even wrap my head around what will happen if things don’t take a turn for the better. I don’t know what’s coming up for me in my life and I’m scared. I’m scared of the unknown and my heart is pounding.

So what do we normally do when we get scared? In Buddhism, they talk about fear being the birth place of the six root kleshas or poisons: desire, anger, pride, ignorance, doubt and opinion. The more we engage in these conflicting emotions, the tighter the grip fear has on us. Fear comes from our lack of understanding in our basic goodness. In a world that praises people’s ability to obtain money and material possessions, I have battled with seeing my goodness over the past couple months. I have retreated from my friends, my family and my relationship. I have retreated from the world.

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My retreat from the world has spawned the beginning of my home practice. Feeling incapable of facing real live people at a studio in the midst of experiencing paralyzing fear, I made just enough room for myself in my small apartment to roll out my mat. The first few times I did this, I sat down riddled with anxiety and got up immediately. I wasn’t yet ready to heighten and connect to my experience through my practice. I often went back to reading in bed as a means to ease myself.

The book that shifted my perspective enough to eventually dive into my experience was Smile at Fear by Buddhist meditation master Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche. As he called out and discussed each obvious and underlying neurotic thought and behavior linked with fear, I began to see myself clearly in a downward spiral that I would only be able to escape if I chose to make friends with fear and use it as an opportunity to connect to my humanness. Fear has cracked open my mind and woken me up, I can confidently say that I am a more awake and receptive human because of it. I have lost attachment to hoping that life will unfold a certain way or that I am somehow special and deserving of special treatment. I surrender to the universe, I surrender my fixed thoughts and notions, I surrender any grip I may have had on life. I have nothing to offer, but kindness and compassion. I have discovered my true nature through this ordeal, I am love and awareness.

I rolled out my mat and practiced for the first time with fear pulsing through my body. I backbended and felt the fear nestled in the middle of my chest, expand and drain into my arms, hands and fingers. I applied patience and discipline to my breath, which arrived shaky and short, and found space within my body to move into and feel more at home in. I began to see that I can show up as an awake individual, while feeling scared and confused. Home practice gives us the space to see that as everything is on our own terms. The point of being fearless is not to not feel fear. The point is to recognize it rather than avoid it, which keeps us chained. The point is to be really conscious of how we respond with our thoughts and actions.

While I’d like to say that since I’ve had all these insights I’ve become a total warrior, the truth is that I’m still struggling. I still find myself pacing around the apartment with my hands on my head while huffing and puffing about what’s going to happen. I am constantly reminded of my current reality when luxuries I used to take for granted such as buying groceries or putting gas in the car are barely option. I am beyond relieved when I get to go teach and can take a break from thinking about myself to help others. Connecting with my students is what gives me the confidence to come home and feel the fear, either through meditation or home practice.

I invite you to experience fear with me. Fear is happening all the time, it’s our neurotic behavior. It happens every time we avoid eye contact. It happens when we pull out our phones incessantly because we can’t just be with ourselves and feel. It happens when we edit or embellish ourselves to get into someone’s good graces. In a time where technology rules, corporations are getting what they want, a society of checked out people who are exhibiting obsessive-compulsive behaviors because of addiction to distraction. I invite you to put down the cell phone, the television remote, the bottle and feel something real. I invite you to experience fear with me and develop a relationship with it. What does it feel like? What language does it speak via your thoughts and actions? How do we evolve when we practice patience and let it run its course? Fear is an emotional hook, it’s fluid, it moves around and changes shapes, meaning it’s workable. Fear will wake you up to reality, fear will allow you feel MORE. Only when we allow ourselves to experience fear will we connect to being human. Only we open to fear, can we become fearless.

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