“If you don’t understand the nature of fear, you will never be fearless.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but when I first heard this bit of Buddhist wisdom, I had a serious, “Holy shit,” moment.
I can’t tell you how much time and energy I’ve spent wanting to be fearless, all the while looking back over my shoulder as I ran away at light speed—that’s always been my battle cry in the face of fear: “RUN AWAY!”
But to hear that I have to understand it before I can get rid of it… Gee… What a concept. And it makes sense. Eckhart Tolle said that you can study honey; you can write a dissertation on the bees, the process in which it’s made, the molecular structure of the substance… “But if you’ve never tasted it, you don’t KNOW honey.”
Dude, that’s big.
In order to understand the nature of fear, that means I have to get to know it. Sit with it, taste it, feel it. Which sucks because being in pain is terrifying to me. But in all actuality, what’s scarier? Feeling my fear…or the uncertainty of what will happen if I let it go?
Think about it: Who are we without fear? How does it help us hide? In what ways do we delude ourselves into believing that our fears are protecting us? “If I’m not afraid of the Big Bad Wolf at my door, then my defenses are down and he can get me.” In some oh-so sneaky and subtle way, there’s this belief that if we’re not afraid, we will cease to exist.
Pema Chodrun said, “We look for strength in what weakens us.” How true is that? Think of the ways we escape—alcohol, drugs, sex, food, Netflix—all in an attempt to feel something else besides the fear.
I know I wear my fear like a suit of armor to protect me from pain. And it’s done an okay job for the last thirty-some-odd years. But you know what sucks about armor?
It’s heavy. And I’m beginning to realize that it’s slowing me down.
This is where I leave you: What are you afraid of…and what would it mean if you weren’t?