On Fear

I’m going to share with you my personal relationship with fear in the hope that you may find it useful.

At the very beginning of the journey (literally my first ever meditation retreat,) I was lucky (or perhaps unlucky) enough to have had an extremely powerful experience, something that I believe can only be described as a moment of grace made possible by the energy of a powerful teacher. It’s also worth adding that I had a similar experience just a couple of months later (as if just to reassure me of it’s authenticity.) Nearly 20 years of dedicated practice has since passed but never have I even come close to such an experience again, talk about beginners luck. This experience give me a thirst for the practice; once I’d seen behind the curtain, the desire to see again created a tapas, a burning desire which continues to fuel me. However the experience also brought with it fear, I saw that the reality in which I was living and which I so believed in was only a half truth and this was quite frankly very scary. This is the fear I work, yours may be very different. Or very often you may not even know the story behind your fear (and that is OK.)

I would like to take a moment to discuss the concept that fear is not even real. Yes, I can understand this, of course, fear is just energy or Sally Kempton once said “part of the egos storytelling mechanism” (I liked this.) However, I have personally found that intellectually understanding these abstract thoughts has not necessarily made the fear any less real for me and so it is with realism that I will continue to discuss fear as a very real thing.

Initially I thought that fear was to be conquered, that it was in some ways a battle. One that I didn’t seem to be winning. Then I received a teaching from the Carlos Pomeda. On the realisation that everything is a manifestation of the divine; so too fear must be a manifestation of the divine and in this way, I started to make friends with it. What is it the Buddha said; “Invite fear for tea,” something like this. Anyway it helped. A bit.

It is only very recently though that I have become such good friends with fear that I am starting to feel very thankful for my dear friend, a friend whom I believe that we need. Let me give you an example: When you go into Hanumanasana (the splits,) the hamstrings create a sensation of pain which, if you are sensible will stop you going deep enough to irreparably damage yourself. If we are a yoga practitioner, we don’t run away from the pose and swear never to do it again. No, we stay there, we breath and and day by day the pain gets less and we get deeper into the pose until one day, hey presto we arrive in full hanumanasana minus the pain. Here’s the interesting thing though, although there may be some frustration, we don’t on the whole get too pissed of with the pain because we know that it’s protecting us and stopping us from tearing our hamstrings potentially rendering us unable to to ever do the pose again. Well, I’ve started to see fear a little more like this. A necessary sensation, protecting us from doing potential irreversible damage to ourselves. There are, some who have tried to take short cuts on the journey to bypass fear and not always with enviable results.

So, just as you meet the pain in your hamstrings with a few deep breaths and the faith that this will dissipate. So to, you meet fear in the same way. And just as you great that pain with gratitude for teaching you to move at pace that will best serve you, so too you can great fear.

I do not now believe that a battle will be needed. When the practices have been done and the time is ready, the fear, just like the pain in the hamstrings will evaporate with very little effort from yourself. Just have faith.

I’ll leave you with some beautiful words from Sally Kempton:

“When you soften to fear and treat it kindly (as opposed to trying to get rid of it), you make space for fear to relax. At that point, you will begin to realise that fear is not something concrete and solid, that it will pass, and that you can even see through it. You can recognise that it’s a natural reaction to the new, and let it go.”

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