Fear is Intimacy with Truth and the Present Moment
Caught in the self-centered dream, only suffering,
Holding to self-centered thoughts, exactly the dream
Each moment life as it is, the only teacher
Being just this moment, compassions way.
And…being just this moment is always the perfect teacher why?
It is because we regard discomfort in any form as bad. But if you are one for whom knowing what is true is of great importance, these moments of irritation, resentment, and anger are clear indications that we have just reached our edge. This is exactly the place where we are stuck, where we hold back and they occur all by themselves with great regularity.
If only we can come to regard these situations as teachings, opening to them instead of automatically hating them. This is the point of meditation. It is an invitation to notice when we reach our limit so that even when we shut down we no longer shut down in ignorance. Reaching our limit informs us that we have reached a place where our personality tells us we are about to die. Our teachers encourage us to practice with precisely those things that frighten us and those things we do not like. This is exactly the path of cultivating compassion. When we reach our limit if we aspire to know that place fully…hardness and the feeling of being closed will dissolve.
Rather than meeting an obstacle with the sense that this is a punishment, reaching our limit is finding a doorway to sanity and the unconditional goodness of humanity.
Fear is a universal experience common to all living creatures. We tend to fear the unknown. That’s just part of being alive. We react with fear to the possibility of loneliness, death and the groundlessness we feel as we move closer to the existential dilemmas we face as a result of impermanence and the unknown whenever we get close to this truth.
Retreats set time aside allowing us the conditions under which we can move closer to being truly present. These moments when this happens tend to become earthshaking in their impacts. They are moments that change us. Impermanence, wonder, courage and compassion become vivid. So does fear. Standing and truly experiencing the edge of the unknown our understanding of the vulnerability of the present moment is both profoundly unnerving and tender at the same time.
When we first take up practice we may hold all sorts of ideals and expectations about answers to satisfy the hunger we’ve felt for ever so long. More likely what it is that we will first encounter is an intensification of that which troubles us. Still…becoming familiar with our fear intimately holds the potential of the complete undoing of old ways of seeing, hearing and thinking. It is very humbling to lose the self-applause that come with holding our ideals. The self-applause that does arise is challenged by our growing courage to step a little closer into the unknown. Self-discoveries made through practice have nothing to do with believing anything. It has to do with the courage to die continually.
Mindfulness, emptiness and energy all point to the same thing. Presence nails us to the time and spot we are in. By not acting out, repressing, blaming another or ourselves we meet with an open-ended question that has no conceptual answer. What we encounter here is our heart. Buddha nature, cleverly disguised as fear, kicks our ass into being receptive.
The problem is that the culture insists of sweetening fear by smoothing it over, taking a pill and distracting ourselves. Anything just to make it go away. We don’t need that kind of encouragement because dissociating from fear is what we do naturally. What is needed is to stop running from our fear. Stop checking out when we feel it coming or beating ourselves up. Know that in those times when we have nowhere to hide, those times that we become cornered by everything falling apart, when we have run out of options the most profound spiritual truths seem pretty straight forward and ordinary. True compassion toward oneself is being revealed. Although we will never be able to make fear look pretty, it is fear that introduces us to all the teaching we have ever heard or read. Avoiding moments of world collapse we cheat ourselves out of not only the present moment but of so much more.
We become good at what we practice and when we practice the courage to allow fear in, to become intimate with it we are on the path of self-discovery. We fill find that things are not what we had thought. Nothing is what we had thought. Emptiness is not what we had thought. Neither is mindfulness, fear, compassion, love or Buddha nature. Our life is what we discover when we allow things to fall apart and truly experience the present moment.
Nevertheless when the bottom falls out and we have nothing to grasp onto it hurts a lot. Love of the truth puts you on the spot. This is where self-compassion comes in and know that when things are falling apart and nothing is working is when we are on the verge of something more. Provided we keep our hearts open to that tender place inside that feels so acutely our vulnerability. It is when life brings a total world collapse that profound healing is on hand. The healing that happens when we make room for falling apart to happen.
If we knew what enlightenment actually was,
Would we really want it?
Because it isn’t a self-help program.
It won’t save your relationship or attract all your
Worldly desires to you through some cosmic law.
It isn’t the end of pain.
You will not find anything you don’t already have.
It’s simply the truth.
And the truth is an acquired taste.