Earlier today, one of the yogini-surfers that I follow on social media took the time to create a post about fear during this time of great uncertainty. Whether or not things actually are more uncertain than they were a year and a half ago is immaterial. Things feel uncertain. And rest assured, when things seem uncertain, fear is rarely far behind. With fear at the forefront, many of you might be wondering what to do, or find yourselves wondering how to navigate both your fear and uncertainty.
Reading today's post reminded me of a quote from Chogyam Trungpa's work, Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior, a book on Tibetan Buddhism and philosophy. I first came across this book more than 25 years ago, even before I started teaching classes in martial arts and stress management at Penn State's University Park campus. Even now, several decades later, I still find comfort in Trungpa's words:
True fearlessness is not the reduction of fear, but going beyond fear. Unfortunately, in the English language, we don’t have one word that means that. Fearlessness is the closest term, but by fearless we don’t mean “less fear,” but “beyond fear.”
Rather than ignoring fear, Trungpa encourages us to explore and examine our feelings, even probing them to their greatest depths:
Going beyond fear begins when we examine our fear: our anxiety, nervousness, concern, and restlessness.
From the perspective of the enlightenment traditions found within both the East and the West, examining our fear (or any powerful emotion) is an exercise in a radical form of honesty with ourselves. Instead of attempting to deny how we feel, we allow ourselves to examine the depth of our fear or other feelings - not with the intent to change it, but simply to recognize and acknowledge its presence.
And this is when things begin to get really interesting - at least for me. By taking the time to acknowledge (instead of analyzing or pushing away) our fear we have already adopted a more courageous stance. Maybe things aren't the way we'd like, maybe we're still fearful. But that's alright. By exploring our feelings, without the desire to change them, we cultivate a more honest relationship with ourselves.
This honesty will naturally bubble out to our other relationships, and gradually shift our perspective towards uncertainty and the Unknown. Perhaps most importantly, these types of practices allow us to build a better relationship with ourselves - one based on openness and acceptance - regardless of how we might show up.