Fear + Breathing = Excitement!
Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.

Embarking on the spiritual journey is like getting into a very small boat and setting out on the ocean to search for unknown lands.  With wholehearted practice comes inspiration, but sooner or later we will also encounter fear.  For all we know, when we get to the horizon, we are going to drop off the edge of the world.  Like all explorers, we are drawn to discover what's waiting out there without knowing yet if we have the courage to face it.  Fear is a universal experience.  Even the smallest insect feels it.

It's not a terrible thing that we feel fear when faced with the unknown.  It is part of being alive, something we all share.  If we commit ourselves to staying right where we are, then our experience becomes very vivid.  Things become very clear when there is nowhere to escape.  We cannot be in the present and run our story lines at the same time!  When we begin our exploration, we have all kinds of ideal and expectations.  We are looking for answers that will satisfy a hunger we've felt for a very long time.

What we're talking about is getting to know fear, becoming familiar with fear, looking it right in the eye---not as a way to solve problems, but as a complete undoing of old ways of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and thinking.  The kinds of discoveries that are made through this practice have nothing to do with believing in anything.  They have much more to do with having the courage to die, the courage to die continually.  Sooner or later we understand that although we can't make fear look pretty, it will nevertheless introduce us to all the teaching we've ever heard or read.

So the next time you encounter fear, consider yourself lucky.  This is where the courage comes in.  Usually we think that brave people have no fear.  The truth is that they are intimate with fear.  The trick is to keep exploring and not bail out, even when we find out that something is not what we thought.

Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.  This is where tenderness comes in.  When things are shaky and nothing is working, we might realize that we are on the verge of something.

Life is a good teacher and a good friend.  Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it.  To stay with the shakiness is the path of true awakening.  Sticking with uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic---this is the spiritual path."


From When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron, Buddhist Nun

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