Thursday Thought: Fear

We are often told that fear doesn’t exist.
Yet when we consider so many of the great marvels of the world — the great works of art, the pyramids, the scientific breakthroughs — started with ideas and images in the mind.

Thus what occurs in the internal landscape seems as potent as what is manifested in the external. This is why hearing a scary story or seeing a frightening image can affect us in a visceral way even though we know it’s not “real.”

The mind has a fluid relationship with the external and is constantly creating from what we see inside.

So when considering the specter of fear, Although it may not have an external manifestation, it still feels as real as any positive dream for fantasy.

And so we must treat fear as a real experience that generates an outward response. We must commune with our body in mind and spirit to acknowledge it in honorate instead of trying to hide it away in a dark chasm.

One of my favorite stories comes from Tara Brach: following the night the Buddha achieved enlightenment, he was visited by the demon Mara.

“The Buddha’s loyal attendant, Ananda, always on the lookout for any harm that might come to his teacher, would report with dismay that the “Evil One” had again returned.

Instead of ignoring Mara or driving him away, the Buddha would calmly acknowledge his presence, saying, “I see you, Mara.”

He would then invite him for tea and serve him as an honored guest. Offering Mara a cushion so that he could sit comfortably, the Buddha would fill two earthen cups with tea, place them on the low table between them, and only then take his own seat. Mara would stay for a while and then go, but throughout the Buddha remained free and undisturbed.

When Mara visits us, in the form of troubling emotions or fearsome stories, we can say, “I see you, Mara,” and clearly recognize the reality of craving and fear that lives in each human heart.”

And so fear is not something we just get over. It’s not something to be turned away. It’s not something to be shamed.

But rather it’s something to be acknowledged, to be treated as a true bodily experience. To be breathed through, seen, and sometimes even honored for serving it’s purpose: often calling us to rise to be someone greater than we currently are.