Befriending Fear

“What counts is not the enormity of the task, but the size of the courage” Matthieu Ricard

A lot of our decisions or indecision in life are governed by fear. I’m not talking about instinctive/survival fear that we feel when we are faced with life or death situation. I’m talking about daily life fear – the one we have when we are about to make a decision whether to quite the job, leave a relationship, pursue a dream, chase the person we adore, tell the truth, face our demons etc. You get the gist of it.

It is normal to feel fear when we are going to enter an unknown territory. It’s the unknown that we’re normally scared of. And a lot of times, we create “stories” in our mind, the “what if” stories, usually of bad scenarios. Sometimes the plots get more dramatic the more we roll them, and the stronger the fear we feel.

One time I was asking an English Buddhist monk, Ajahn Sucitto, about how to overcome fear. His reply was simple and stuck with me “What’s frightening is the fear itself”. He didn’t elaborate much on it, but I got it. A lot of times we think the objects of our fear that is the problem – but the truth to the matter is, it’s not the object, but rather the feeling itself.

Part of the way to overcome fear is to understand that the stories are just that – stories. They aren’t real. And through reflections we’ll come to see that they don’t usually happen. How many times those “stories” came to realities in the past? I can guarantee, the success rate of these stories are so minimal, that probably almost never came to fruition exactly like what we thought it would be. So it’s wise to drop the stories – but if you can’t drop it altogether, at least, don’t believe in them. I’m not suggesting we shouldn’t weigh or analyse the decision we are going to make. I think we should do it – but do it with wisely. Be aware that each decision will have consequences, and we should know the risks entailed. However, also bear in mind, that future is unknown. No matter how many scenarios or possibilities we make in our mind, they are just that – possibilities. We will never know what the true outcomes will be until we are in it.

Another way is to befriend fear. To get close and intimate with it. The more intimate we are with it, the less scary it becomes. It’s paradoxical – but that’s normally the case. Fear feeds fear. Only courage and friendliness can melt away the might of fear. And this will take training. With training, baby steps are required. Just like when one learns to swim, it will be easier to test the water first by dipping the foot, then slowly the legs, then the whole body immerses in the water. So with fear – when we learn to get to know it, we learn it bit by bit. First to tap onto the surface of it…. until ultimately to face it at the core of the fear itself. Once fear becomes our friend, it loses its power over us. Just like a good friend, it wouldn’t harm us.

So, my readers, if you are having fear at the moment – embrace it. Don’t run away from it, but rather understand it and befriend it. And… foremost, don’t be afraid to follow your heart. We may not be able to have all what we want, but we can always make the most of what we have. 

“Usually we think that brave people have no fear. The truth is that they are intimate with fear” Pema Chodron

Be well,

RL

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