What are you afraid of? Spiders? Exams? The dark? Nothing?
Oh that’s a lie. Afraid of nothing?? Everyone is afraid of something, even if they don’t admit it. You’re human, you have a fear. Or fears. It’s normal, it’s natural. Wait a minute…let’s separate those two words, normal and natural. Normal…being the norm, the usual thing. Okay, yes, fear is normal. Natural…being of nature. Is it your nature to be fearful? Hmmmm. Not so…normal. Fear of course occurs IN Nature: prey animals know they are food and fear their predators. It’s a normal instinct, helps to keep them alive. But stop and think about the kind of life those prey animals lead: always in fear, always on the lookout for the predator. Most of them are grazing animals…you do know that “grazing” essential translates into “eating on the move”? And to sleep (perchance, to dream) they either catch naps and move some more during the night or they go into hiding (dens) to avoid being eaten while asleep. Prey animals also tend to be herd animals, with a mindset of “if there’s a lot of us, moving around, then I personally stand a better chance of avoiding the predator’s picking me”. (Fish in schools and birds in flocks also have this mindset.)
Humans, while tribal, are not HERD animals by nature. They are not preyed upon by another animal. We are the supreme predator in the natural world. So naturally, we are not supposed to live our lives like a prey animal. Are you living your life with the prey animal mindset? Are you living a life of fear? One of my favorite quotes comes from the movie “Strictly Ballroom” and it’s this: A life lived in fear is a life half-lived. (Rinse and repeat as necessary to let go of fear.) We are not, BY NATURE, supposed to be afraid of the things around us. But everything is geared towards giving you fear and increasing that fear and feeding that fear until you become what my friend refers to as “sheeple”. Yes, people with a prey animal’s mindset.
Before we can talk about that, let’s separate the “good” fear of natural reaction/instincts from the life-sucking, “drag you down and bury you alive” fears that we are taught. It’s right to fear a poisonous snake when you are in the bayous of Louisiana and water moccasins are a real threat. It’s a good thing to be alert for their presence and be prepared to defend yourself should they decide to attack you. (And they are an aggressive snake and WILL attack.) It’s right to fear a fall from a great height when you are a window washer on a New York skyscraper, to be alert for the danger and to protect yourself by clipping onto a safety line. Is that enough of an example of good fear? Oddly enough, we don’t call that “fear”. We call that “good sense” or “being cautious” or “looking out for danger”. It is a wariness, aware-ness, a heightened state of alertness, appropriate to the situation that does not extend beyond the moment of danger or past the need for that caution to interfere with our daily lives.
Which leads me to the “bad” fears, the ones we just call “fear”. These can be identified by the fact that the prey response (heightened alertness, unease, “fight or flight” response) goes on ….all the time. Or at inappropriate times. It interferes with our daily living. It quite literally can cripple us, if only mentally, from achieving our full potential. So let’s get back to “everything is geared towards giving you fear”. We are taught, from an early age, to fear the world around us. Our own parents can teach us fears without even meaning too–a mother that is afraid of spiders and shrieks and runs each time she encounters one will almost inevitably give that fear to her child. Children are not stupid and they are certainly more intelligent than the family dog, who can read your moods–so it should be no surprise that a very young child can be taught to fear just by the parent’s example. The prime one that a lot of them learn is taught by the parent during the phase when the child is trying to overcome gravity: that is, trying to walk. The child makes a step or two and then gravity takes over. Instead of going “Oopsy daisy” or something similar, too many parents run over and grab up the child, making high pitched sounds (Are you okay, ooooh poor baby!) that in nature indicate distress. If Mom’s upset, then something bad must have happened. So the child cries. And the cycle repeats.
As we get older, we get more teachers and more places to receive our information from–friends, TV, Internet, and so on. We also begin to assimilate the societal information, which includes such things as racism (overt or, more sinister, COVERT), tribal identity and the need to exclude those “that are not of OUR tribe”, and the societal fears (of being unemployed, of being shunned). Even those nice Public Service Announcements are usually of a fearful bent, warning us about the dangers of this or that. Not that those dangers aren’t real, but the intensity of the fear we should feel about them can interfere with our lives. The media is a prime teacher of fear: the 6 pm news always tells us how bad the world is, how dreadful things are around us. Newspapers sell on death and tragedy, making it seem like that’s all there is “out there”. And everyone knows just how evil and awful the Internet is, with online stalkers and child pornography. It’s a bad, scary world “out there” and we should all be afraid. Be very afraid. Stay at home and “we” will tell you how to live your life and worse, how to think. Don’t think, we’ll think for you.
Now that’s something you should fear. Like FDR said, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”. I would suggest that in most cases, the fear is being taught specifically to control us. “Don’t run out in the street, you’ll get run over.” Right, good advice. Not if you’re terrified of taking a walk because of the remote possibility that some mad man will tear down the street as you try to get to the other side. It’s a matter of degree, which can only be determined by YOU. You must be able to think clearly and coherently and decide what is dangerous and what is not. You must have the freedom of choice to be able to live a life without fear, to live a life without external control.
So back to our original question: what are you afraid of? I believe the better question is this: WHY are you afraid? Don’t tell me you have a fear of cats if you can’t explain it, logically and without emotional wording, giving me a valid reason why you should be so terrified of that cute little kitty. I can understand a fear of the ocean if you were attacked by a shark as a child, but I won’t let you off the hook if your only reason is that you saw the movie “Jaws”. Fear, abnormal and unnatural fear needs to be examined, needs to be dissected and pulled apart to see what it really is. Is it a true fear, based on a true event that happened to you (not someone you know or heard about on the news), an internal and internally generated fear…or is it a false fear, something taught to you by an external source, that is only feared because someone else told (or showed) you to fear it?
I had a friend that insisted he did not like Chinese food. Finally one day I got smart and asked the right question: Have you ever HAD Chinese food? Ummm, no. Then you don’t know if you like it or not. I made a deal with him–I ordered something I thought he’d like and if he tasted it and didn’t like it, I would then order him a pizza. Guess what? He liked it, Mikey, he liked it! (Reference to the Life cereal ad if you’re too young to remember it.)
So I ask you the right question: WHY are you afraid? This fear that you have…why do you have it? Where did it come from? When did you first realize that you had it? And most importantly, why does it interfere with your life? How does it interfere? And why do you let it? Okay, that’s really 7 questions. But they are a testing ground for independent thought and conscious choice-making. I’m not really talking about clinical fears, aka phobias. Those are groundless and emotion-laden and require someone with a degree to work through. I’m talking your garden variety fears: I’m too…fat, skinny, old, young. I could never…skydive, ride a bike, teach a class. I’m not able to…get that job, talk to her, let go of past conceptions for current truths.
We buy into the fear-mongering of the media, we accept as natural this need to herd and hide from “the predator”… the only predator we need to be afraid of is called “fear” because it will kill us, bit by bit, tiny shred of our mind by larger shred. And this is the point in my discussion with you that I share the following lesson on fear:
“I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.”
(Frank Herbert, “Dune” series, “The Litany Against Fear”)
I must not fear. To fear or not to fear, that is the question. It is a choice that we have, even if we perhaps do not actually recognize it as such. “Must” because if I give in to fear, I become its slave and it rules me instead of it being that choice. It is an impelling choice, “must not fear”. Something that is required, something important…”I must”. I MUST not fear. I must NOT fear. Same thing.
Fear is the mind-killer. Fear removes our ability to choose because we get so enmeshed in the fear that we can’t see the way out. Our thoughts become chaotic but paralyzed and this is the “little-death” that brings our total obliteration. How many have died because of fear? And I don’t mean scared to death, I mean died as a direct result of someone’s fear, if not their own. Hitler feared the Jews; race wars are based on fear of another’s color. Someone who fears cancer may not seek treatment for a suspicious lump because of that fear and instead of finding it and treating it, they end up dying from the very cancer that they feared. From a single individual to entire populations, fear can truly be that little-death which brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear. I will look at it closely, examine it, rip it apart to understand how it works and then, “forget” to put it back together. Because once I know the fear, once I can identify it and say what it is, what it truly is, I can let go of it and get on with my life. I can take back control of my own life, my own thinking.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me. I don’t deny its existence. I treat it like every other experience I have: I let it exist long enough for me to identify it and then it leaves and I go on to the next moment of my life. By passing over me and through me, I acknowledge that it is separate from me–it is NOT me. I am not my fear. My fear is NOT me. It has a motion of its own that is not me and I can either hold on to it or let it go. I choose to let it go.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain. Fear is smoke and mirrors, fears is “don’t pay any attention to the man behind the curtain”, fear is…ephemeral and can only live if I let it feed off of me. If I don’t feed it, if I refuse to give it a reality that it doesn’t deserve and cannot create on its own, it is nothing. Only I will remain.
Like with many of the things I write, I am back to the idea of examining one’s self, to know who you really are, what you really want. To live a life of constant testing of self, constant testing of “truth”. I repeat what I’ve said before: “truth” is dynamic, it’s changing all the time, and it mostly depends on your point of view. What was true, even for you, yesterday may not be true today. May not be true tomorrow. So always test your truths, always examine your self (pointed separation of words there; not “yourself” but YOUR self, the inner core–your soul, if that’s how you’d classify it. The part of you that makes you unique, that makes you YOU.
And part of that identification of self includes the examination and identification of your fear(s). It’s very easy to decide what to keep and what to get rid of if you use this kind of question test:
1. Is this true?
2. If it is true, how do I know that it is true of my own experience and not secondhand?
3. If it is true and I know it from my own living, does it lift me up or drag me down? (Is it a positive, helpful thing or a negative, harmful thing)
4. If it is true and I know it from my own living, and it lifts me up, does it help me live a sacred life?
5. Is is still true?
(Rinse and repeat as necessary, every day.)
What do you fear and why do you fear it? What would happen if you stopped having that fear? What will happen if you don’t? Does that fear interfear with your life? (Intentional misspelling, don’t comment on my ability to write.) Who is in control, you or your fear? Do you want to continue to live your life with someone else in charge? “Yes, Mr. Fear, right away sir.”. I must not fear. I WILL not fear for fear is the mind-killer that brings about the total obliteration of who I am and I’m not going to let that happen. I’m going to look my fear in the face and say, (excuse the language) “FUCK YOU, FEAR” and it’s going to get out of my life…where it never belonged in the first place. Out, damned fear, out.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
Thank you for your time, and Namaste!