There is a story about a time the Buddha was out walking and Angulimala, a notorious serial killer, came upon him. Angulimala shouted for the Buddha to stop, but the Buddha kept walking slowly and calmly. Angulimala caught up with him and demanded to know why he hadn’t stopped. The Buddha replied, “Angulimala, I stopped a long time ago. It is you who have not stopped.” He went on to explain, “I stopped committing acts that cause suffering to other living beings. All living beings want to live. All fear death. We must nurture a heart of compassion and protect the lives of all beings.” Startled, Angulimala asked to know more. By the end of the conversation, Angulimala vowed never again to commit violent acts and decided to become a monk.
How could the Buddha remain so calm and relaxed when faced with a murderer? This is an extreme example, but each of us faces our fears in one way or another every day. Buddha was a human being, and he also knew fear. But because he spent each day practicing mindfulness and looking closely at his fear, when confronted with the unknown, he was able to face it calmly and peacefully. Ofcourse, I can practice mindfulness when asleep but I surely have learnt to acknowledge it now.
Most of us experience a life full of wonderful moments and difficult moments. But for many of us, even when we are most joyful, there is fear behind our joy. We fear that this moment will end, that we won’t get what we need, that we will lose what we love, or that we will not be safe. So even when we are surrounded by all the conditions for happiness, our joy is not complete.
We may think that if we ignore our fears, they’ll go away. But if we bury worries and anxieties in our consciousness, they continue to affect us and bring us more sorrow. We are very afraid of being powerless. But we have the power to look deeply at our fears, and then fear cannot control us. We can transform our fear. Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones.
The first part of looking at our fear is just inviting it into our awareness without judgment. We should acknowledge gently that it is there. This brings a lot of relief already. Then, once our fear has calmed down, we can embrace it tenderly and look deeply into its roots, its sources. Understanding the origins of our anxieties and fears will help us let go of them.
Is our fear coming from something that is happening right now or is it an old fear, a fear from when we were small that we’ve kept inside? When we practice inviting all our fears up, we become aware that we are still alive, that we still have many things to treasure and enjoy. If we are not pushing down and managing our fear, we can enjoy the sunshine, the fog, the air, and the water. If we can look deep into our fear and have a clear vision of it, then we really can live a life that is worthwhile.
When things are tough, we tend to get discouraged and do less than we’ve done before. Wrong! This is the worst time to slow down. The best cure for discouragement is to double our effort, so as to calm our fears and motivate us to keep going.
Fearlessness is not only possible, it is the ultimate joy. When we touch non-fear, we are free. But we should not wait for the critical moment to arrive before we start to transform our fear and live mindfully. Nobody can give us fearlessness. Even if the Buddha sat next to us, he couldn’t give it to us. We have to practice it and realize it ourself. If we make a habit of mindfulness practice, when difficulties arise, we will already know what to do.
It takes a lot of hard work to succeed. It’s sad to see people today constantly chasing the next quick fix, the next scheme that promises them a million bucks in 30 days. Because it won’t happen. As the wise said, nothing worthwhile comes easy. If we want success in our life, we have got to work hard at it…we have got to be positive no matter what hits the fan, we have got to believe in ourself and what we are doing.
Few years ago, I waited for opportunity to knock (like a chrysalis in a cocoon). I did not realize that I needed to hear “No” to get opportunity to open the door. We need to get sufficiently accustomed to hearing “No” so that we can move on to the next conversation with ease and enough curiosity to make necessary changes to get to “Yes”.
We spend a lot of time worried about what is happening to us. We focus a lot of attention on when things might happen. We ask a lot of questions about where we will end up. Often in life, the what, when and where are not going to turn out the way we want them to turn out. We don’t always get to choose those things, but we do get to choose the why. We may not get to choose what our future is going to be, but at any given time we do get to choose why we are living the way we do.
I am not saying that I make impossible possible but sometimes I feel like I can walk into the lion’s den with a string of raw meat hanging from my neck and come out a winner. But as we are warned, life is not easy. It’s not for people who give up, who listen to their fears, or who will not give their all.
Remember life from this moment is still a blank page…