In my spiritual exploration, I’m reading Smile at Fear: Awakening the True Heart of Bravery by Chögyam Trungpa. In the few first pages he offers ideas about what fear is and where it comes from:
“Fear is nervousness; fear is anxiety; fear is a sense of inadequacy, a feeling that we may not be able to deal with the challenges of everyday life at all.”
Fear “comes from basic bewilderment … [which] comes from being unable to harmonize or synchronize mind and body … When you don’t feel grounded or properly seated in your world, you cannot relate to your experience or to the rest of the world.” 1
Many years ago as a mother of a teenager, I was pretty anxious, nervous, and definitely lacked confidence in my ability to deal with – mostly imagined – challenges. All those qualities of fear were creating a barrier between me and our son. I had experience being a teenager, but I did not have experience in parenting one. I went to a few parenting workshops, had an Elder Woman Friend as a mentor, and a circle of mom friends – often a supportive circle, but with an edge of competition that was probably yet another manifestation (within me) of the sources of fear Trungpa describes. There was certainly bewilderment.
How do we harmonize or synchronize mind and body to decrease our bewilderment and fear? The Buddhist path for this is meditation. Other traditions offer similar practices. I think the core practice that connects body and mind is mindfulness, whether one is meditating, practicing Qi Gong, Tai Chi, Yoga, or other body/mind practices. These help us build our “awakeness” systems – seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and touching. We become more aware of where and how our body, and our mind, are being at any moment.
What I’m learning – mostly in theory and increasingly in practice – is that practicing being awake to my deep connection with earth and sky allows me to tune in. When I imagine the top of my head connected with the sky, and the rest of my body focused on my connection with the earth, I can feel their energy coming together in my heart center. A sense of connection, compassion, confidence, and courage clicks into place.
Fearing less allows me to practice Courageous Love: Love that endures and holds us when we engage with our most difficult conflicts, relationships, and personal challenges.
I am growing in my capacity to call forth this connection when I am feeling anxious, nervous, lacking confidence, or overwhelmed by any strong emotion. I’ll be practicing this as a Clergy Election Defender on November 8, a potentially very anxiety provoking endeavor. Mindfulness practice creates space to fear less and love more. I do believe every being (including you, and even me) has inherent worth and dignity. I extrapolate that to mean every being is worthy of love and compassion. I’m taking this Courageous Love to the polls.
~Rev. Jan Taddeo
1 Trungpa, Chögyam; Smile at Fear: Awakening the True Heart of Bravery. Edited by Carolyn Rose Gimian. Shambhala Publications, Inc. c.2009 by Diana J. Mukpo. Page 4.