Fear can be a wonderful servant, but a terrible master...
This week we're unpacking a topic with notable author and lecturer Dan Millman, where he debunks fear and why it's more than just an abstract emotion, but a visceral sensation that is quite literally part of the human experience we are all going through today.
He begins with a question: "How do you know when you're afraid?"
Your tells when you're afraid: Affected breathing pattern, level of tension, ability to act and move...
There are some people who are unable to experience fear, and they don't generally live long lives (I know, crazy, right?). For both man and animals (insects and even sea creatures combined), fear serves as a warning to avoid a situation. Fear helps us prepare well; to rise to an occasion. But what happens when fear becomes our master? We begin to automatically avoid any situation that makes us uncomfortable or produces anxiety, whether it's trying something new, or diving off the three-meter board, or speaking to a group, then our world grows smaller and smaller and smaller...
When do we listen to our fear and when do we cut through it? The answer is pretty straightforward: When our fear is objective—if it involves an action that could bring physical injury—then we can heed its guidance to prepare well (such as a gymnast on the balance beam) or even to avoid a situation (when someone is approaching us at night on a dark street and we get a bad feeling and decide to cross the street or go into a store). But when the fear is subjective—we're afraid of feeling embarrassed or of looking foolish--cut through it and do it anyway! Face your fear and charge through it!
Remember: Courage is not the absence of fear, it's the conquering of it. In fact, we can only demonstrate courage while feeling afraid.
Before Dan closed his talk, he told a fun little parable about the subject of fear, and it went:
Long ago, in Tibet, a ceremony was held every hundred years. Buddhist students, Tibetan priests and the Dalai Lama would line up and begin the ceremony by saying:
This is the Room of one thousand demons—a ceremony that occurs only once every hundred years. To help you decide whether to enter the room, here is what the ceremony involves: You open the door and walk in—the room is not very big.
Once you enter, the door will close behind you. There is no doorknob on the inside of the door. To reach the exit, you'll have to walk all the way through the room, find the door on the other side, open the door (which is unlocked), and simply exit—then you will be enlightened.
But be aware: The thousand demons will take the form of your worst fears as soon as you enter the room. If you have a fear of heights, it will appear as if you are standing on the narrow ledge of a tall building. If you have a fear of spiders, you'll be surrounded by them. Whatever your fears, they will seem very real.
No one can rescue you. If you enter the room, you must leave it on your own. Some people, paralyzed by fright, never leave; they die. If you wish to return home, that's fine. You are not obliged to enter the room. You can wait until you are incarnated again, perhaps in a hundred years, and to try again.
If you decide to enter, I offer two hints: First, as soon as you enter the room, remember that what they show you is only a reflection of your mind—it's an illusion. Few people can remember this basic fact. The second hint has helped some to exit the room and became enlightened—so once you enter the room, no matter what you see, no matter what you feel, no matter what you hear, no matter what you think, keep your feet moving. If you keep moving, you'll eventually get to the other side, find the door, and emerge into the sunlight.
Keep your feet moving and you will emerge into the sunlight and, perhaps, this is the best advice for facing your fears.
Huge thanks to Dan Millman for inspiring this week's Sage!
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