Thursday, July 3, 2014

Dharma Series - Fearlessness

Teachings on fearlessness can be so difficult to grasp. While I didn't struggle to grasp the concept on an intellectual level, truly embracing teachings around fearlessness proved to be very challenging for me. 

The translations from Tibetan or Sanskrit become misconstrued and muddled due to a lack of an English equivalent, making overcoming the Western definition of 'fearlessness' half the challenge. Sometimes it's described as 'unconditional confidence', which I think can muddy the waters even more. 

But the idea isn't about being unflappable or untouched by the challenges of life. It's not some ideal of 'perfection' where you sit there with a beatific smile on your face and nothing bothers you in the slightest. 

It wasn't until I heard a particular talk by Pema Chodron that the concept began to make sense on a deeper level and it was because she talked about resistance to fear. 

I'm familiar with this but didn't realise it until I heard her explanation. Resistance to fear is about not being willing to feel an inevitable emotion. It's putting up walls or wrapping ourselves in a cocoon so the world doesn't touch us with anything that makes us uncomfortable. 

I had Panic Disorder for nearly seven years. Panic Disorder is an anxiety disorder whereby the individual experiences a constant sense of anxiety. Constant. Every single moment of every single day I felt an underlying feeling of worry that was higher than average and not healthy.

Anxiety is rooted in fear. I've come to learn that my anxiety is at its worst when I ignore that something in my life is not okay. The anxiety isn't caused by the thing that isn't okay. It's caused by my resistance to see what's actually happening. 

This seems like a great defence mechanism because it does shield us from painful things - but only in the short-term. 

We can only tell ourselves 'Everything is just fine and peachy keen!' for so long. Denial merely masks the truth and creates a ticking time-bomb. In my case that time-bomb went off and put me in hospital and on medication for the first time in my life. It also lead me to my psychologist and, consequently, to Pema. It taught me how to listen to my gut and trust it. It taught me the importance of this. 

Which brings me back to fearlessness and this particular piece, which features a Snow Lion. 

Fearlessness is not about putting on a brave face, ignoring the things that scare us or shrugging off life's challenges as if they don't matter. Fearlessness is about accepting that things will fall apart. The rug will be pulled out from under us and we will be let down, abused, hurt, sad, angry, disappointed and have to grieve. 

Fearlessness is seeing all of these things and seeing that, as difficult as they may be, we also know they won't last forever and we will survive them because we will take care of ourselves. We will allow ourselves to feel the emotions and let them run their course. We will give ourselves time and space to heal. We appreciate that part of the joy of being alive involves feeling these things, getting through them, and growing from them. 

Because we will also feel joy, happiness, love, elation, delight, amazement, awe, wonder and beauty. Life is rich and when we open up to it, all of it, we have nothing to fear.

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