Seeing the Big Picture 2:2
…continued from Knowing What You Want
Fear can be one of our biggest obstacles as we move through life. It can loom so large that we actually avoid much of our life, or at least the aspects of it that give it color and meaning. Often we are unaware of just how much fear rules our life. Generally, all our fears stem from a self-centered place, from the big fear that something bad will happen to us, that we will somehow be hurt or, worse, embarrassed. Many of us also fear that we will not get what we want and will lose what we have. So we protect ourselves and build up our defenses so much that we limit our lives.
Some of our fears are based in reality but then move into other spheres, infecting our vision, our behavior, our attitudes. Say, for example, you were bitten by a dog as a child. This might have caused you to shy away from all dogs at that time and to see all dogs as threatening and potentially evil, which caused you to avoid areas where dogs might be. Because you were able to arrange your life to be free of dogs, this fear could be forgotten. But in living with this fear you missed out on the joy and love that being around dogs can engender. And maybe as an adult this fear influences you in such a way that you don’t jog in unfamiliar neighborhoods even though jogging is your latest passion. You make excuses and let this fear, which may no longer even be connected to the dog bite, determine your movements. Your world gets smaller and smaller, your range of motion limited by this fear.
While this example may not apply to you, it serves to illustrate how powerful and far-reaching our fears can be. We will look at our fears in more detail later on, but for now just begin to become aware of what scares you. We will learn that the only way to conquer fear is to face it. And we will see that, once faced, no fear is as scary as our imagination makes it seem. We will also learn that some of our richest and most spiritually rewarding moments come when we’ve looked into the abyss of fear that we’ve been ignoring.
Although the dictionary tells us that courage is what allows us to face difficulty, pain, and danger without fear, it also takes courage to face our fears. They are not easy to look at, let alone approach, but if we don’t face them they will continue to control our lives. And by facing fear I don’t mean jumping into the deep end of the pool if you’re afraid of water. Simply admit this fear into your consciousness and then maybe take swimming lessons. Gradually, if you move closer to what frightens you, it will appear smaller and less threatening, and you will pick up tools along the way that will help you manage your fear. All of this takes courage. And at some point you will move through the world with little or no fear left, and the word courage will be used by others to describe you.
When you hear yourself being referred to as courageous, you won’t quite understand at first because the actions you are taking in your life, for the very first time, will feel normal, natural, and right. Then one day you will realize that those calling you courageous are still swimming in fear and that somewhere along the path you have lost yours. So muster up the courage to face your fears and this will lead you to a life without fear, where you will face all the pain and difficulty that life sends your way, fearlessly and with great courage.
I have never scuba dived, but I dreamt about it one night. The whole idea of strapping an oxygen tank onto my back and diving deep into the fathomless ocean terrifies, yet also excites, me on a gut level. In the dream, each time I was about to submerge myself and plunge into the depths, I would hold my breath as though I were simply ducking my head under water with no air supply other than my previous breath. I kept forgetting, and was gently reminded by a gentle soul who was with me in the dream, that I did not have to hold my breath, I just had to continue breathing normally. I was carrying my air supply on my back and could simply breathe as usual. This image is a good one to remember whenever we are about to plunge into a depth that arouses fear.
Whenever we find ourselves holding our breath, it may be that we are unconsciously fearful.
No need to hold our breath. No need to worry. We will be fine. We have all the tools we need. We must simply continue to breathe normally and pay attention to the scenery. Fear is okay. Not breathing is not okay. So strap on your air supply each time you are frightened, and jump in. Your breath will guide you and see you through.
Do you recall your dreams after waking each morning? Or do they slip away unremembered? Do you often have the hazy sense that you’ve dreamt something but can’t quite grasp any of the details? We all have dreams, whether we remember them or not, and they can be important tools for honing awareness and getting to our true, uninhibited, authentic self.
If you have trouble recalling your dreams, each night before going to sleep say to yourself: “I want to remember my dreams.” Say this three times. You will be surprised how effective this simple exercise is. You will begin to remember your dreams. It may not work perfectly and may not work always, but it will work often enough.
Then begin to jot down your dreams, or the fragments that you remember. And to your nightly chant add: “I want to write them down.” Three times. This will help you to remember to pick up your pen before you do anything else.
Keep a pad and pen next to your bed, and write about your dreams as soon as you wake up. Don’t even get out of bed. Otherwise, you may risk losing them. It doesn’t take much time, and you may be surprised about your inner, subconscious world. Once you start this you might notice images and words popping up in the middle of the day from one of your dreams. Quick, write them down. Later we will talk more specifically about how these dreams can inform your spiritual practice. For now, just dream away and treasure them by recording them.
To be continued…