Nothing serious. All’s well. Ever so often (only three times in two years) I need a break from daily writing. Not that life isn’t full of opportunities for learning! I had occasion to be with three separate people, each dealing with the rapid decline and imminent death of a close relative. Their thoughts and feeling were, quite naturally, tied up with worry and sadness. As we sat and I listened, it occurred to me how easy it is to be drawn into the suffering (dark) side of our existence–and I’m speaking for myself as much as for these three people. When something scary comes along, my vision becomes myopic as I focus on what’s not working, including my own ‘flaws’ of course. On a good day, I understand such fears as self-constructed, something my mind makes up and I then react to. Does that make sense to you?
Zen teacher Ezra Bayda explains it more clearly. “Fear tells us to close down,” he writes, “[and] not to go beyond the protective outer edge of our cocoon.
By giving in to fear, we make it more solid. We strenghten our cocoon, contracting and limiting our existence. Fear has us avoiding some terrible imagined outcome, yet the substitute life we experience by giving in to our fear is already a terrible outcome.
There it is: the outcome I imagine. My vivid imagination, so welcome and valuable most of the time, plays tricks on me. It makes me conjure up all kinds of terrible situations, conversations and circumstances. My little mind then takes those fabrications and reacts to them as if they were guaranteed to occur. “Fear is one of the most slippery realms in life,” Bayda continues, “The list of what we’re afraid of is very long.” They relate to fear of disease, pain, losing control, being helpless, losing a loved one, and materials security (to name just a few). For me, being criticized, misunderstood, and seen as lazy or incompetent top the list. Bayda points to the first step in approaching such inner fears, which is not to avoid or combat them but …
… to gradually become aware of how much fear there is in almost everything we do–the fear behind much of what we call kindness, the fear in our ambition, in our depression, and of course in our anger.
source: Bayda, E. (2002). Being Zen: bringing meditation into life. Boston: Shambala, pp.65-66. image: cocoon at animals.howstuffworks.com.