There is a difference between the concept of fear and the actual fact of fear. We have to see what fear is in the precise moment it arises within us. We have to know our fear directly, not as a concept, not as a problem looking for a solution, but as it is before we react to it. This seeing of fear will liberate tremendous energy within us.
Have we ever tried to see fear at the instant of its conception, before we have named it? Will we know what fear is if we define it, explain it, and develop strategies for coping with it? Can we see it absolutely, as it is, without wanting to understand it?
Understanding is representational. It comes to us after the fact, as an abstraction, a thought, or an image. The thing itself is named and relegated to a fixed place in the library of our accumulated impressions. That which is most true and beautiful is without name, without representation
We have to leave ourselves behind and enter music in order to experience the truth of music. We must leave the listener behind. This doesn’t sound rational; nonetheless, we know it is true.
Seeing, distinct from understanding, has this quality. Seeing is a direct comprehension of something before it has become represented in the mind by labels, associations, and structures. It is witnessing the instant of creation. This seeing of fear will illuminate and eliminate fear.
What are we afraid of? That our money will be stolen? That we’ll get sick and die? That we’ll have no one to love or be loved by? That we don’t look like we’re supposed to? Are we afraid of what we’ve done in the past, or of our desires in this moment? Are we afraid that others will not respect and admire us, that we won’t be liked? Is there ever an end to fear?
We usually try to remove, solve, or placate the object of our fear. Our syntax is I am afraid of… If we conquer what we are afraid of, whether it’s public speaking or skydiving, does that put an end to fear, or have we just pushed it away with the strength of willpower and adrenalin, techniques and practice? Have we seen what fear is, and can this seeing eliminate fear from every cell in our body?
A few years ago, I was living in Austin. I remember one evening in particular. I was sitting on the steps of my front porch. The light was fading and shadows began playing through the trees, and what had been clearly visible in the light of the afternoon was now obscured. Suddenly, my whole body tensed and froze, my breath became shallow and rapid. I jumped up and back, my eyes fixing intently on a snake that had appeared on the brick walkway, just in front of my feet. In less than a second, automatically and without my conscious knowledge, all of the antipathy toward snakes that I had accumulated took possession of me.
When I had removed myself from harm’s way, I relaxed a little bit. I looked again at the snake, and this time I saw a large twig that had fallen from a tree. The “snake” had vanished and so did my fear.
Does fear live in the objects we name? Or is fear a projection from within ourselves onto the world around us?
Where is the source of fear? Is it outside of us, in other people, in circumstances, in objects? Is fear provoked by what we imagine? Does fear have a legitimate life, or are we deceived because we have never examined what arises behind the word “fear”? Don’t run from fear, don’t stay in front of it, don’t try to solve it. Turn within and face it, silently. If we can first see where the trembling begins, we can then look closely and see what it is.
Fear is the shadow of our own separate self trying to find a secure place in its world of false imaginings. Fear is the mind itself. The mind itself is always afraid, reactive, and self-protecting. Costumed in separateness, fear is our shadow. Feeling ourselves to be this body, this mind, the impressions of the past, we are vulnerable to everything beyond our control. In this vulnerability, our survival is always at stake. When our survival is threatened, fear steps forward. As fear steps forward, we can witness its creation. The birth of fear is in the womb of “me.”
In the realization of our essence, fear disappears. Who we are is not bound by conditions. Conditions exist within us, as clouds exist within the sky, and are constantly changing. We are not affected by the roiling of events. We are not affected by the turbulence of thoughts and imaginings. When nothing that happens affects us, there is nothing to be afraid of. When we discover our essence, fear ends. Our essential nature is like the morning sun to the night of fear. This sun hovers at the highest point in the sacred hub of the heart.