“True morality consists not in following the beaten track, but in finding the true path for ourselves, and fearlessly following it.” – Mahatma Gandhi
“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” – Marie Curie
“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
You are going to die.
Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday. It’ll happen.
And guess what? I’m going to die, too.
I’m not saying this to depress us. I’m saying this because it’s not said out loud enough, and because of this, our fear of death dances around taunting us, hiding in our shadows, but never getting the attention it deserves, and thus becoming the annoying younger sibling who will bug us brilliantly and obsessively until we snap.
By doing our best to ignore death’s inevitability, as individuals and as a culture, we think we can escape it.
So I’m slapping it on the table in front of us. Yup, it’s true. You, me, we are going to die, someday.
That’s pretty much the worst thing that can happen, right? And it’s going to happen. So instead of fearing death, we can accept it now, and move on to the topic at hand…
When it comes to these 31 Days of Possibility, I’d say FEAR is the pink elephant in the room – False Evidence Appearing Real, as the popular acronym says.
Fear, fearlessness, and the giant gap in between these concepts – this is the subject on the table today.
“The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but, it is fear.” – Gandhi
I’ve heard quite a few times over the years that the opposite of love is not hate, the opposite of love is fear. The first time I heard this, it really shook me. Yeah, I think it’s true! Fear IS the big, bad wolf of our beautiful POSSIBILITIES, and it must be stopped!
Fear is at the root of all unfilled dreams, most of our pain and suffering, and the lion’s share of our worries and sadness. Fear is such a wily and dastardly foe that most of us are afraid to even address it. Oh the irony! It lurks in the darkest corners of our minds and gets bigger and stronger the longer we ignore it. It’s the whisper that tells us we can’t do something, or we’ll embarrass ourselves, or we’ll [GULP] FAIL. And for some reason, we believe it. Year after year, lie after ridiculous lie, we hang our heads and hand Fear our power, and ultimately, our lives.
Heartbreaking. Totally and utterly heartbreaking, our relationship with fear is.
“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt’s First Inaugural Address
FDR was right! Fear is a lily-livered leech, a Machiavellian parasite that unscrupulously hijacks one of our greatest strengths – our Imagination. Fear takes the best of our Imagination – our glorious ability to invent scenarios and stories and worlds on a whim and at will – and it throws in anything it can to keep us from changing, to keep us from moving forward, to keep us where we are because it is fueled by one belief: Change is bad, and the devil we know is better than the devil we don’t.
If our ego is the mafia of our minds, doing everything it can to keep the world it knows under control, under its rules, always ruling with that iron fist, then Fear is the big lug that does all the dirty work.
Our inner mafia does not want to play with or acknowledge our Possibilities.
Our Possibilities exist outside of our comfort zones. Anything could happen out there! The ego’s whole identity is wrapped up in staying the same, what is a known quantity, and how things are, in the most unthreatening one-dimensional box available. Fear keeps us semiconscious, even sound asleep, cowering from scenes and situations that will probably never, ever happen.
“Fear is not a trivial matter. In many ways, it restricts our lives; it imprisons us. Fear is also a tool of oppression. Because of fear, we do many harmful things, individually and collectively, and people who are hungry for power over others know that and exploit it. We can be made to do things out of fear.” – Judith Lief, Starting on the Path of Fear and Fearlessness
To make matters worse:
“Fear expands to fill the space you give it.”
“Fear is a lot like the crap I have in my kitchen junk drawer. No matter how large or small the space, the minute I let my guard down the drawer fills with rubber bands, paper clips, broken tape dispensers, ballpoint pens, business cards, half-eaten chocolate bars and screwdrivers. I’ve discovered that junk and fear will fill up exactly as much real estate as I give them. If I’m not careful I’ll end up on an episode of Hoarders. So, I’ve learned to stick my fears in a tiny closet and I try to be ruthless about cleaning it out.” – Devon Corneal, “What I Know About Fear Now That I’m In My 40s” via HuffingtonPost.com
So, what could we possibly do to get a grip on our Fear? How about this advice from Bohemian-Austrian poet Rainer Maria Rilke:
“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”
Hmmmm. Could we do this?
Could we embrace the impermanence of things, see our lives for what they are, and ALLOW (and thus disempower) Fear? Could we do this because we’re so smart, and/or so experienced in life by now that we know by allowing Fear to flow through us – to let it rear its ugly head and then, when it sees no reaction, leave the scene – we could be free from its bony grasp once and for all?
“The gesture of fearlessness is a simple gesture of accepting whatever there is. It’s not the “whatever” of adolescence, which combines “couldn’t care less” with a little bit of aggression. This “whatever” is the whatever of truth. Things happen because other things have happened. Karma is true. This is what’s happening in this moment. It can’t be other than this. This is what it is, and that truth is always soothing.” – Sylvia Boorstein, “The Gesture of Fearlessness and the Armor of Loving-Kindness”
But…but…HOW?! How do we just LET GO??!!!
Turns out we could decide to enter The Cave of the Blue Dragon.
I found this bit of awesomeness on ShambhalaSun.com, a website focused on “Buddhism, Culture, Meditation, and Life.” Quite frankly, I don’t really understand where the author of the article got it – he says it’s from one of his favorite Zen koans, but I couldn’t find the thing online immediately, so I’ll have to trust him on this.
Still, the idea of this Blue Dragon’s Cave is too viscerally cool not to share…
“The cave of the blue dragon is ominous.
Only the fearless dare to enter.
It is here that the forest of patterns is clearly revealed.
It is here that the one ripe pearl is hidden.
The cave of the blue dragon is where we store all of our stuff—our psychological bilge, so to speak—and it’s very difficult to go there. It takes a certain degree of fearlessness to do that. The process of zazen engages that. It engages the fear, in order to empower fearlessness. When stuff comes up, we don’t use zazen as another vehicle for suppression. When something keeps coming up in meditation, that’s a signal that you need to deal with it. You need to process it. You need to process it thoroughly and fearlessly, to feel it and experience it, then let it go and come back to the moment.” – John Daido Loori, The Cave of the Blue Dragon
According to Wikipedia, “zazen” is considered the heart of Zen Buddhist practice. Zazen is “a meditative discipline practitioners perform to calm the body and the mind, and be able to concentrate enough to experience insight into the nature of existence and thereby gain enlightenment.”
Can meditation really put us on a path to Fearlessness, which is a path of our own exquisite freedom?
Signs point to “Yes.”
The question is, are we wiling to walk into our own Cave of the Blue Dragon? Are we willing to face our fears head on, see what they’re about, look them in the eye, thank them for their time, slap them on the back, and then LET. THEM. GO. ?
“When it comes to the fearless life, the divine gives nothing freely… save to those who freely give themselves to discovering the truth about their own fearless selves. The good news is that this supreme confidence and calm already lives within you, needing only your realization of its unshakable presence in order to empower you with the fearlessness you seek.” – Guy Finley, 7 Laws of Fearless Living, via HuffingtonPost.com
Jeez, we might as well check out the Blue Dragon’s Cave while we’re here. We might as well go after that one ripe pearl. It’s there – I know it’s there, and if you’re reading this, I bet you know it’s there, too. It’s there for us. Let’s grab it. Let’s say:
Might as well. We’re going to die someday anyway. Be a darn shame to waste a moment of our time here being afraid of anything else when that sucker’s the unavoidable truth of it all.
Might as well take Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice and “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Might as well get over, by whatever means necessary, the small stuff that holds us back, so we can unleash our potential, and step into the magical, mysterious, ever-lovin’ world of our POSSIBILITIES!
Check out the video for Day 24: Fearlessness (Ha!) in the 31 Days of Possibility series!
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You can find us on Twitter at @LaniVoivod, @AllenVoivod, @EpiphaniesInc, @AhaSummit, and @AhaYourself. Plus, you’re always welcome to ask questions, give feedback, and share some of your own experiences (and hopefully your big “A-Ha!” victories along the way), here in the comments, and on the Epiphanies, Inc. Facebook Page. Allen and I love to hear from you. Here’s to you and your vast and wondrous possibilities!