Excerpt from "Perfect Just as You Are" with Pema Chodron
Excerpt from Pema Chodron's "The Fearless Heart"
In this wonderful transcribed exerpt from Pema Chodron's talk on "The Fearless Heart: The Practice of Living with Courage and Compassion", Pema tells us how we may begin to work with fear by not shutting down or running away from it, as is our first inclination, but by going into the fear.
This morning I wanted to begin with a short teaching on working with emotions that comes from Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and if you would like to write this down, the name of the teaching is “The Lion’s Roar” and it appears in the March 1997 edition of the Shambhala Sun, which had a picture of me on the cover. So maybe there is some way you can locate that article and read it.
This is a teaching that has influenced me a lot over the years, and I was re-reading the article last night and I thought that I would begin this morning with this instruction that comes from Trungpa Rinpoche. One of the opening sentences is that enlightenment is not just for pacifists,
So, even talking about abiding in the experience of discomfort, abiding in the experience of fear or any other kind of discomfort, fear as it manifests and how it manifests in many different forms. And in some sense it doesn’t really matter what the energy is or what the emotion is. The instruction is on abiding in that experience without believing in the judgments and opinions about it. This is very important because it is quite predictable if you were to do a poll of the entire human race, what you would find is that when energy arises that is uncomfortable, it triggers our conditioning and we forget about any kind of rational approach at all. We go sort of nuts. So this is to say even very wonderful people such as us who perhaps have been listening to this kind of teaching for years and trying to apply it and something happens in our life. It might be a phobia; perhaps we have strong fears that are phobic. Fear of heights -- that has been one that I’ve worked with in my life. Fear of flying, fear of elevators. There are different kinds of fears that we have. And when the phobia hooks in, we somehow just shut down and the last thing that occurs to us is to go into the fear.
People who work with phobia, they actually encourage this approach. Not to necessarily have to get up on top of the highest, you know, walk across a tightrope across the Niagara Falls if you are afraid of heights, but to get used to the feeling of fear that arises with heights or with flying or elevators or spiders, snakes, whatever it might be, space -- there are a lot of phobias. And many of us have them. So the approach is to go into the feeling and to do it in a situation where you are not right on the spot, on the brink of the Grand Canyon, or going down the Grand Canyon on these donkeys. If anyone has ever done that who is afraid of heights, it is a very uncomfortable experience. The donkeys get very close to the edge and the bottom is a long way down. So going into the fear like, getting in touch with the feeling and going into it, abiding in the experience without feeding it with our opinions and judgments about it.
Excerpt 2 from Morihei Ueshiba's "The Art of Peace"
This transcribed excerpt from Morihei Ueshiba's The Art of Peace stresses the utter importance of practicing peace every day, in every moment, and in that practice, we find can begin to live in true -- and peaceful -- warriorship.
Daily training in the art of peace allows your divinity to shine brighter and brighter. Do not concern yourself with the right and wrong of others. Do not be calculating or act unnaturally. Keep your mind focused on the art of peace and do not criticize other teacher or traditions. The art of peace never restrains or shackles anything. It embraces all and purifies everything. Train hard. Experience the light and warmth of the art of peace and become a true person. Train more and learn the principals of nature. The art of peace will be established all over and it will have a different expression in each place it takes root. Continually adapt the teachings and create a beautiful environment.
In good training, we generate light, that is, wisdom, and heat, that is compassion. Those two elements activate heaven and earth, the sun and moon. They are the subtle manifestations of water and fire. Unify the material and spiritual realms and that will enable you to become truly brave, wise, loving, and empathetic. Practice the art of peace sincerely and evil thoughts and deeds will naturally disappear. The only desire that should remain is the thirst for more and more training in the way. Those who are enlightened never stop forging themselves. The realizations of such masters cannot be expressed well in words or by theories. The most perfect actions echo the patterns found in nature.
Day after day, train your heart out, refining your technique. Use the one to strike the many. That is the discipline of a warrior. Face a single foe as if you are facing ten thousand enemies. Face ten thousand enemies as a single foe. The way of a warrior cannot be encompassed by words or in letter. Grasp the essence and move on toward realization.
Excerpt 2 from Chogyam Trungpa's "Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior"
This powerful excerpt from Chogyam Trungpa's profound work Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior addresses fear -- and our desire to escape from it -- head on. Trungpa also addresses the true notion of fearlessness, and the importance of seeking a true state of fearlessness in our day to day lives.
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In order to experience fearlessness, it is necessary to experience fear. The essence of cowardice is not acknowledging the reality of fear. Fear can take many forms. Logically, we know we can’t live forever. We know that we are going to die, so we are afraid. We are petrified of our death. On another level, we are afraid that we can’t handle the demands of the world. This fear expresses itself as a feeling of inadequacy. We feel that our own lives are overwhelming, and confronting the rest of the world is more overwhelming. Then there is abrupt fear, or panic that arises when new situations occur suddenly in our lives. When we feel that we can’t handle them, we jump or twitch. Sometimes fear manifests in the form of restlessness: doodles on a notepad, playing with our fingers, or fidgeting in our chairs. We feel that we have to keep ourselves moving all the time, like an engine running in a motorcar. The pistons go up and down, up and down. As long as the pistons keep moving, we feel safe. Otherwise, we are afraid we might die on the spot.
There are innumerable strategies that we use to take our minds off of fear. Some people take tranquilizers. Some people do yoga. Some people watch television or read a magazine or go to a bar to have a beer. From the coward’s point of view, boredom should be avoided because when we are bored we begin to feel anxious. We are getting closer to our fear. Entertainment should be promoted and any thought of death should be avoided. So cowardice is trying to live our lives as though death were unknown. There have been periods in history in which many people searched for a potion of longevity. If there were such a thing, most people would find it quite horrific. If they had to live in this world for a thousand years without dying, long before they got to their thousandth birthday, they would probably commit suicide. Even if you could live forever, you would be unable to avoid the reality of death and suffering around you.
Fear has to be acknowledged. We have to realize our fear and reconcile ourselves with fear. We should look at how we move, how we talk, how we conduct ourselves, how we chew our nails, how we sometimes put our hands in our pockets uselessly. Then we will find something out about how fear is expressed in the form of restlessness. We must face the fact that fear is lurking in our lives, always, in everything we do.
On the other hand, acknowledging fear is not a cause for depression or discouragement. Because we possess such fear, we also are potentially entitled to experience fearlessness. 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.