2021-05-02-The Four Practices of FEAR
1:36AM May 3, 2021
Good day, and welcome to this Dharma talk. And today I would like to talk about fear. And part of the motivation to talk about it is that it's a very common state for many people, for everyone at some point or other. And also because I'm finishing up a year long program that I'm co-teaching, which an experimental, it's kind of like an experimental program that just that we'll probably offer some more in the future at some point. And that's called path of fearlessness, where we spent seven months or so looking at fear and considering it practicing with it. And it comes to a conclusion this week. And so it's this, bringing this topic for this program to conclusion has it on my mind, and it's what I thought this is what I have to talk about today.
And so one thing too, it's very important to say it this way that that as people who meditate regularly, and really familiar with their acts, of meditating, being present for experience, and they're familiar with their themselves, so that all kinds of things, their life comes along when they meditate. So when they're upset, they sit down to meditate, and they feel the upsetness, when they're afraid, they sit down to meditate and their fears there. When they're angry, they sit down, they get to experience the anger when they're happy, or joyful, or peaceful or calm. They sit down to be with that. And sometimes as we sit, some of these things shift and maybe become calmer and more settled, more stable. And then we might be sitting there quietly. And then something suddenly appears out of nowhere and of thought and memory comes up and there's anger, memory comes up, and we're or remembering what's gonna happen tomorrow, and there's anxiety that comes up. And so over time, it's not a surprise when an emotion appears, while we're meditating. And, and there can be a phenomenal shift that happens when we shift from identifying with the emotion, to just recognizing that it's part of what's happening. So to identify means to define oneself by it. So if one's angry, to assume, well, I'm an angry person, people now are going to relate to me and as if I'm an angry person that's defines who I am and how people will judge me. And same thing with fear when when becomes when feels like I am afraid, Boy, am I afraid. And and when it's kind of leaning into the fear or, or being captivated by the fear so thoroughly, so fully it, we're kind of assuming it's all of who we are. Same thing with happiness and joy. But there's a shift happens in meditation that at some point, that rather than saying, Oh, I'm afraid now, the meditator will say, there is fear. Now. There is anger. Now, there is happiness now. And there's not an end. And there's no inclination, to define oneself by it, as if it's a well worn coat that we're putting on for another time. And it's just a phenomena, just a part and parcel of what's happening. It might be strong, and there might be coursing through the body even. But there is a stability of mind that recognizes there is joy, there is sadness, there is happiness, there is fear. And, and this ability than to, to just see it as a phenomenon, gives rise to a that's present, gives rise to a very important possibilities. And this is really when the mindfulness work, can really kind of begin becoming stronger, deeper, more penetrating, is a little bit hard to penetrate phenomena. If we identify it if we define ourselves by it, because it's almost like we're so fully defined by it. It's like we can't normally without a mirror, we can't see the eyes that see We see through the eyes, but we don't turn back and look at the eyes and see them. And if we're really defined by something by an emotional state, we might know it's there, we might recognize that I'm angry or sad or happy or afraid. But it's kind of like, it's the filter through which we see. So it's not really quite accessible for clearly seeing and really recognize, there it is. But when it comes a time, when we say, oh, fear is here, this gives birth to new possibilities. And, and so I'd like to talk about four categories of possibilities with how we can be with fear once we can just see it, that it's present, and not not defined by it or identified by it. And, and I, you know, I thought it was fun, maybe to come up with an acronym, with the letters for fear. And, and so the first thing we can do is now that it's become a verb, thanks to Facebook, I think we can friend or fear that we can be friends. And, and this idea of becoming a friend for our fear,
is a really powerful thing to do. It's the opposite of being afraid of fear is the opposite of being averse is very radically different than being aversive to fear and angry at fear or shame, the fear, or trying to fix fear or attacking fear, or trying to analyze it or, or figure out what's going on. It's, it's kind of like if you are with a friend, you don't want to do all those things with your friend. You want to be present for your friend and hear what's going on with a friend, you haven't seen the friend for a while and you want to hear what's happening, what's going on and, and be with them in a way that respectful and caring for them. And it's possible to do that with fear. It's harder to do it when we are defined by it. But it's easier to do if we recognize it that you're just there in a kind of way I'm here and fears there. If your appears part of me, and but it's not quite me so I can look at it. Without it kind of being a filter through which I see. And the value of becoming a friend to It is similar to it's not quite just jumping around a little bit. But if you know, if a young child is afraid, we don't get angry at it. We don't run away from it. We don't get all flustered and confused and running around in circles when the kids sitting on the floor being afraid. You don't berate the kid. You sit down with the kid and maybe put to get a small enough you put the kid on your lap or your hold it and you're there with it. So there's all these ways we say that when once we kind of kind of identify recognize that fear is there, we want to first friend the fear. And one of the great values of friending it is that the fear feel safe. The fear doesn't feel like it's being shamed or pushed away or denied or unwanted. And which is hard, just like would be hard for a little child. And it's one of the fascinating and wonderful tasks of mindfulness is to help our fear, feel safe. And it's a little counterintuitive, you know, some people never thought about helping their fear, feel safe. And, and if we are afraid if we were defined by like, then it's hard to offer anything to the fear. But when we come to that point in practice, when we can recognize fear is present. And we're not so inclined to say I am afraid then we have something we can offer the fear. And we become the one who offers safety or for stability, who offers kindness who make space or to be there. And, and, and start to listen and look more deeply what's here. And that's the E of fear. And that's to explore the fear. So rather than recoil from the fear, it's to step in a sense towards it, to, to explore it, to be with it to feel it more fully. And, and one of the first things we can do in exploring it is we can try to assess whether the fear is appropriate or not. We can try to see Is this appropriate fear to have? Or is it not? Is it a real fear? Or is it not? Is it a healthy fear to have? Or is it not healthy? Or my favorite pairing? Is it helpful fear? Or is it not helpful. And some fear clearly is helpful to have. It protects us. And, and sometimes we need protection. If we there are times when I'm driving my car, or I'm walking on a street, where I feel a little bit afraid, there's a little bit of fear there. That's kind of kind of inseparable in inside of me from a sense of caution. And the you know, that's something sometimes it is a little bit scary, maybe, if I was different than who I am, I wouldn't be afraid of certain kinds of traffic situations. But I don't think it's necessarily wrong, because there it's death can be instantaneous, in some of these crossing, some sidewalks or some some crosswalks, the way some drivers drive and, and so the fear protects us. Look, before you walk across the crosswalk or something,
and, and so and so in Buddhism, one of the appropriate fears is a fear of doing something of oneself doing something that injures one's own integrity, that in injures one's own sensitivity, to compassion, to kindness, to honesty, once to harms one sensitivity, or one's orientation, to live a life that doesn't cause harm to anyone else. And enter into when we feel like we're in the danger of saying something to someone that's very unkind and hurtful to feel that fear No, this is dangerous, I don't think I should say this, I should be careful here. The mood that I'm in right now is not a, this is a little dangerous mood I'm in, I could easily snap at someone, and later regret what I've done what I would have said, so I'm afraid of myself a little bit because of this mood, I see what I've done before. And so I'm going to be cautious. Remember not to learn to hold my tongue. Or maybe I'm maybe even going to avoid certain stressful situations when I'm in this mood, if I can avoid them. So the idea of, we have something to protect here. Also, we're afraid to hurt people. And the simple fear of not wanting to hurt others is a very healthy, I think fear to have. And, and, and so this kind of and they say in the ancient world, in the teachings of the Buddha, that people are practitioners have fear for causing the slightest fault for the slightest harm. And, and hopefully this is not seen as a debilitating fear of fear, which diminishes who we are, but actually is a fear that protects what's the best at us and allows it to grow. So Buddhism recognizes healthy fear. But there's also unhelpful fear. The fear that is debilitating, the fear that does frees us in a way there, or inhibits us or keeps us from living a full life or engaged properly in the world. Sometimes it's fear that causes us to harm others. Sometimes it's fear that causes us to harm ourselves. Because it's, we're so afraid of the alternative. And so we, we keep ourselves in check and close down because of it or collapse. So as we explore fear, we can recognize when it seems helpful, and when it seems not helpful. We can and even when it's principal, fear can be helpful. The strength of the fear or the way that we engage in the fear or take in the fear can be debilitating can be limiting. And so to this idea of exploring the fear, what's going on here? What's happening here, for me, is a wonderful stance, wonderful kind of sense of inner strength that begins to operate from the stability of practice of mindfulness. What is this? What's going on here?
And one of the things we can ask is what we're afraid of. So this question of the city of exploring fear, I see it as a movement of respect, that we respect the fear. We're not belittling fear, or letting ourselves because we are fear. And I like to think that off, every fear that we have, should be respected. Because it's a messenger. Sometimes it's a messenger that there is, in fact, the danger. But sometimes it's a messenger, that something inside of us feels threatened. And it's possible to feel. And so sometimes it's important to look and see what's the real danger, Explorer, is there a danger right now. And sometimes in the here, and now, what we're afraid of is not present. And that's a fascinating thing to realize that what we're afraid of is partly a product of our imagination. And some people have said that anxiety is completely an issue of imagination. It might be a real imagination, but it's imagining what's going to happen in the future. It's predicting something, sometimes it's a wise prediction. But then it has a kind of live anxiety kind of lives. It doesn't simmers inside, that. But some people have chronic anxiety, that it just kind of almost stands, they've learned, there's been so much pain and so much danger for them in their life, that it becomes kind of habitual, and to be expected, that's always a threat, always something's going to happen, that's dangerous. And we don't know what it is. There's nothing concrete right here and now. But in that sense, it's imaginary, it's potentially something here. So to so we can see clearly know that it did, and to see there's no present, maybe can give a breathing room, that here and now maybe it's not as not as dangerous as we thought, and there could be some relaxation. Also, we can look at. So we can look at what's what we're afraid of. But for Dharma practice, a very significant exploration of fear is to look and see what's being threatened. What is it that's really going on here, with inside of me, and that I'm afraid that's going to be hurt or damaged or what's what is it that feels threatened. And sometimes what's being threatened is real enough, integrity is kind of real enough, important enough to protect, but sometimes what's being protected, doesn't really have. So such a strong, real basis, sometimes what's being protected, what's being threatened, are the constructs that we live under the constructs of self, the ideas, the, what we had, how we identified us how we've constructed our idea of who we are. So for example, if a person that constructs the idea of themselves, as they need to be wise and funny all the time, then anything that that if they feel fear, maybe it's because they're there, how other people see them, is being threatened, that their idea their identity is being of wise and funny person is threatened. But that the idea of being a need to be a wise and funny person, that's a constructed particular notion, idea. Without that idea, there's that can't be threatened. The idea that we have to be someone that everyone likes, we have to be someone who we are someone always what's being threatened is that we're somehow an undesirable person. And so we're constantly being threatened by everyone because we're afraid we're going to be pushed away by people or rejected by people. And so it gets a little more complicated when the what's being threatened is a little bit of a imagination, a concept, an idea, a construct, and it maybe doesn't quite exactly have to be there. Maybe we're stuck on some idea that doesn't have to be there. Like I know when I was younger, I thought it was a life and death matter almost, you know, whether someone liked me or didn't like me and so I was had a lot of fear. Urban,
social fear about, you know, is constantly assessing and wondering and hoping that people would like me and, and it was a big revelation to me to realize that everyone, everyone doesn't have to like me, it's okay if some people don't like me. And, and I don't have to constantly be concerned about it and to see that begin to kind of shed and drop away, create a lot more peace inside of me social peace and ease. And, in fact, sometimes people don't like me. And that's okay, they're there, they're allowed to do that. And sometimes people do, and that's nice, too. So this idea of exploring, there's a whole series of things that can be explored, around fear, but, but the important principle is to not be caught by the fear. So that we can't, and one way not to be caught by it, is to explore it, take the initiative that gets us to this, discover what's going on here. And there's all these different ways of discovery, and you can have your own way. And we just keep looking and feeling and getting to know the A of fear is, is to really allow it to be there. The more we can discover it more we can explore it. And then we really allow it. And, but not allow it to run us and tell us what to do and how to see things. But there's really no continuation of this. There is fear here. I'm not the fear. But there is fear here with me, in me. And so, and then to discover how it expands out to know and discover it, how it appears physically, what's the physical manifestation of fear, and then allow that physicality of fear to be there, almost as if you get out of the way from it. And sometimes it's best to do this. in shorts, bouts, especially when there's a tear are very strong, a very strong fear that is connected to all this, it's better not to explore it and be with it very long, which is a touching into it for a while, and then pull away and come back to another day. And slowly, slowly kind of befriend it slowly get to know it. But at some point, the beautiful art of mindfulness is to really allow it to be there and allow it without our reactivity around it, without our needing to be different. So it's just a little bit an extension of befriending the fear. and allowing it and part of the value of that is that our inner life, knows how to take care of itself knows how to unwind knows how to release, knows how to morph into what needs to happen next. And so if we can learn to learn the art of just allowing the fear to be there, it's so impressive what can happen. And that's also a hard skill to learn. When we when the habit is we have to analyze it or we have to engineer a change, or we have to fix it or something like that. And to learn how to allow it. And meditation is a wonderful skill. Because some fears maybe we maybe we can't get rid of it, there will always be with us. But with the art of allowing it, befriending it, knowing it's there, exploring it and allowing it can mean that we might be able to have the fear be present, but not be inhibited or limited by it. We bring it along, it sits on our left shoulder, and it's there with us. We know it's there. But we're not going to stop what we're doing. It's not going to get us to cower, shut down or not live the life or life as we want to live it. But we allow that the fear comes along and accompanies us. And it's there, we recognize its present. But we know how to allow it so that it does it can just be there and not interfere. And then the the our of fear is to is to release as that's the freedom part of fear. And, and that has different different sides of release. Sometimes the fear is released and it's no longer there. That especially if the underlying thing that was threatened, I know, no longer is there,
or that realize that what was threatened doesn't really exist that doesn't has no real kind of substantial existence. And, and so, the constructs of self and the self definitions we have when we learn to be at peace without a self definition. Be at peace without a self construct, return build up Defend or protect or hide from people, then that fear that that thing that there's nothing there threatened around self identity. And so people all kinds of things people can do, they might, you know, they can't hurt that identity, because we're not holding on to that identity. We're not defining ourselves by that. And it just goes right through. And so we're free of it. And sometimes what's being released, is not the fear, but rather is the, our, our clinging or attachment or selfing, or identification with the fear. And we release ourselves from the fear. The fear is still there, but we are released from it. And then it's much easier to have the fear be present, and, and just live our life as we want to or as is appropriate. So to friend, the fear, to explore the fear, to allow the fear and to release in relationship to the fear. These are four things to explore. But the emphasis for this talk is this is meant for people who have a capable of having some this identification, from fear, not disassociation from it. But this identification, the sense that they don't define themselves by their fear, but they're able to sit, be quiet and breathe easily, perhaps, and recognize Oh, there is fear. Fear is present. I'm not the fear. But boy is their fear present. That fear is strong. But you know, I'm not the fear. And then what that allows for this interesting phenomena. Interesting practice of friend, the fear, explore the fear, allow the fear, and release the fear. And then fear has become a fourfold practice that we engage in. So next time you feel fear, you might remember that fear is an acronym for a practice that we look fear, where we respect the fear by getting to know it. Well, it's a messenger. Do we understand what the message is? So thank you very much, and may you explore your fear and discover the wonderful place inside where there is no fear? Because it's a place that cannot be threatened. Thank you.