Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What Are You Afraid of?

Yesterday, our class had a short discussion about snakes. A few of my students had the idea that there aren't any snakes in Minnesota because they hadn't seen any. Living in the city can do that to you. But mostly, what was interesting about the conversation is how we ended up talking about some very large snake from Burma that seemed to scare a fair number of people. Things got detailed when discussing this snake - hand gestures to show size, comments about how it can swallow a buffalo - which got me to thinking about how we humans get about the things we fear.

Now, I'm not so afraid of snakes, but that storytelling I experienced yesterday certainly reminds me of favorite approach to fears. Namely, to get lost in exaggerated stories.

What am I afraid of? Well, I still haven't been liberated from good old fear of death yet. And I still have a fear of failure more often than I'd like. And there are days when I get the feeling that I'm completely afraid to fully step into my life as it is.

Life as it is. I've been contemplating the fact that when things aren't going well, I believe stepping fully into them will somehow prolong the misery. This is a curious negation of all I have learned on the path, and yet I can see myself doing it daily when it comes to my current job, and what I need to do to get to the next one. I find myself saying things like "If I just accept everything here," I'll never leave here. Or I'll only leave here if someone pushes me out."

It's a story. I don't know what would happen if I completely accepted things as they are at work because I haven't done it yet. What's interesting is that I've tried everything else I can think of. I've stopped arguing about every last thing I disagree with. I've done zazen on breaks. I've done metta meditations for everyone I work with, even the few people who I really clash with. The list goes on and on. But I have never truly, fully accepted where things are at.

When it comes down to it, I think all fear is tied in some way or another to death. Not just death of the body, but also of parts of our life that have become familiar, comfortable, loved, or even hated. And I've found that when you get to stage where something, or someone is on life support, all sorts of stories arise that can get in the way of letting death come. The roller coaster rides of the end for both of my grandfather's certainly taught me this, if nothing else has.

So, can you let the stories just be stories? Can you accept them too? I say this to myself, but also can imagine you all who are reading this have your own stories to work with.

What are you afraid of anyway?

*Litho of Edvard Munch's "The Scream"


A Green Spell said...

"When it comes down to it, I think all fear is tied in some way or another to death. Not just death of the body, but also of parts of our life that have become familiar, comfortable, loved, or even hated."

You hit the nail on the head there. Beautifully said and completely true!

Algernon said...

It is fascinating how stories can remain compelling or even intrusive, even when we know they are just stories. There is a sensation like trying to emerge from an unpleasant dream. I get this way with my stressors, especially around money and time. Afraid of things? Mmmm. I frequently check around where I'm sitting for scorpions just in case, but not always.

Was Once said...

I am afraid of not being appreciated, so I will harder on appreciating others.
I really appreciate all the thought and work that goes into your blog.

Nathan said...

Was Once,

I have shared the same fear as you, and I have been trying to be more generous with my appreciation in response. It seems to be helpful.

Thanks for sharing with me and the others on here.


spldbch said...

The stories we tell ourselves are so powerful. If we believe them to be true then they are true, at least for us.