Being Present With Fear by Mary Pat FitzPatrick
Fear, the Buddhists teach us, is the cause of much of our individual and societal unhappiness. It may restrict us from doing things we would like to do and from saying things we feel we should say. It may keep us from standing up for ourselves or others.
Our fears are legitimate. We may be afraid of the loss of health insurance, loss of a loved one, or loss of financial stability. There are innumerable things of which we can be afraid. Sometimes, we manufacture fear by clinging to wanting things to be other than they are right now. We obsess about the future, analyze our circumstances, have expectations, or dwell on possibilities that do not exist. In so doing, we abandon the present. We protect ourselves from fear by projecting thoughts, judging, moving, examining, and finding ways to entertain ourselves. We try to cover up that deep place that may be called the essence of our existence. However, if we can remain in the moment, recognizing that “it is what it is,” we can rid ourselves of most of our fear and grapple with the actual problem. Those of us who have been transported as a casualty in an ambulance know that there is no fear in the keenly focused here and now. By remaining in the now, we address the deep place where our fears start.
As we meditate or center before a yoga class, we may notice a feeling in our abdomen or other parts of the body. We may explore that feeling and ask, “When did it arise?” We may feel it as a knot in the stomach, a lump in the throat, or a lift of the chest. We can examine and thoroughly experience what has been revealed. We can acknowledge the thought or sensation and then simply let it go. Of course, this takes practice. However, once we have the skill, we can do the same with fear or any other thought, emotion, or sensation. Slowing things down to the present may help us see things as they are. We may realize we are microcosms in the universe, the entire ocean in a drop. We are connected to one another.