Site icon Sam Bartko, PhD

Concerning Fear

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Fear is interesting. Fear is something that keeps people in line, keeps people doing the things they are told to do, keeps people within the “norm” of society. Fear motivates the drive to the job that’s killing one’s soul every morning, fear holds our tongue when we would like to tell it how it is, fear makes us calculate the costs of our actions and the consequences. Fear is ever-present for almost everyone. But it can be ended. A lot of fear is unecessary and if we trained ourselves sufficiently then one can lose all fear , even without saying anything about insight.

Over my trip into the desert and back I confronted and processed some fear – but fear seems like a mirage – was I afraid of falling to my death on a steep rock – yes – so what do it anyway – was I afraid of sustaining a spider bite having a tarantula in my tent- yes, but I’m not gonna kill it- so I will wish it find lots of other insects to eat and we can live in cooperation. Was I afraid to sit all night and stare down any pain and discomfort? Was I afraid to lose my career? Was afraid to be ridiculed and discounted? All these things have superficial fear and most people are controlled by their fears. But not being controlled by fear gives you more options.

Fearlessness imparts a person with options that are not available to a fearful person. Options that are not constrained by societal blinders and mirages. The powers that be do not want you to overcome fear – it is their bartering chip to control you. So having this attitude combined with nothing to lose, well I see lots of options forming and associations between ideas that previously had barriers of social conditioning built into them.

One thing that builds fearlessness is virtue. A virtuous person is fearless, and I’m investigating for myself why that is. Building a virtuous life is sort of like protecting yourself from internal fear. Because if we are not causing problems for ourselves, and living in a virtuous way, there is not need to make a self-other out of anything. We live 100% transparently- no reason to lie or steal or hate anyone, because it’s not necessary to do so. We learn through virtue that our good deeds are our protectors – Buddhist philosophy has a lot to say about this. Good deeds and good intentions for the good of others actually form a protective shield around the practitioner.

There are stories of monks meditating in the jungle and among the beasts and predators. And a yogi whose mind is filled with metta- all the beast and predators will not sense any fear and thus they will come down and lie down next to the meditator and make themselves at home- there is no threat. When you actually go out to the desert, meditate in the sun and with mosquitos biting your face and insects landing on your head, and you get close to rabbits and chickens and you become a part of the ecosystem- this is especially magical and has some kind of effect on the fear mechanism. There were these wild Havelinas which are wild pigs that live in the desert- they would come toward my tent when I was meditating, and they would seem to behave differently once they got in close proximity. The birds and rabbits when we were meditating outdoors would come close and actually linger and hang out much closer to me than they typically would.

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