As I listen, read, and look at the news these days, I’m served a steady diet of panic and fear. Freaking out is assumed to be the appropriate way to deal with threats to our security, but Buddhism rather sees it as an opportunity to not be so hung up on our security. Even in evolutionary terms, humans did not get to the top of the chain, so to speak, through their powers of freaking out. It’s rather through resilience and adaptability. Things are changing rapidly. Guess it’s time to do some changing.
Business reporters in particular have a knack for spreading fear. And there is never–and can never be–a hint of humor or relaxation. Government spokespeople respond to the lugubrious reports with confident reassurance and the promise of bold saving-the-day action. As I begin to bounce up and down and back and forth with the alternating panic and reassurance, I find it helpful to remember that fear provides a tremendous opportunity to find what some teachers call our “original mind,” the one that is alive and well without regard to conditions. The Sun has published many pieces over the years on fear and fearlessness. One of the most recent is based on a seminar we sponsored at Omega Institute. The first piece is by Judy Lief, and it begins:
It helps to explore how we can work with fear from the point of view of the path, the student’s journey. How do we walk the path of fear? Fear is not a trivial matter. In many ways, it restricts our lives; it imprisons us. Fear is also a tool of oppression. Because of fear, we do many harmful things, individually and collectively, and people who are hungry for power over others know that and exploit it. We can be made to do things out of fear.
Fear is a very tricky thing.
Sometimes we put up a pretense of virtue, but really we’re afraid of being bad. Are our good deeds true virtue or just fear? Fear also stops us from speaking up when we know we should. Fear is often what causes people to leave the path of dharma. When things start to go deep, beyond self-improvement, they encounter fear and say, “This path is not for me.”
The essential cause of our suffering and anxiety is ignorance of the nature of reality, and craving and clinging to something illusory. That is referred to as ego, and the gasoline in the vehicle of ego is fear. Ego thrives on fear, so unless we figure out the problem of fear, we will never understand or embody any sense of egolessness or selflessness.