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I Fear, Therefore I am

An excerpt from My Buddhist Journal; A Year in the Life of a Buddhist

What else was I writing about yesterday? Oh yes, anger and fear. But something else cropped up this morning during sitting. This isn’t fully developed, but here it is; at some point I must have chosen to wake up. I must have seen how my stories, anger and fear were running me ragged. Taking up that stone to hurl through the window was a watershed moment. That may have been the final layer of the ego-onion being peeled away. At that point, I must have subconsciously decided, “Screw it! Enough is enough. This is unhealthy and someone is going to get hurt – probably me.”

And of course, here’s the link. We seem to have a biology that incorporates fear and anger in a way that alerts us to danger – either to ourselves or others endangering us. Fear is useful. Fear is good. Fear watches over us and informs us. To ignore fear is to be careless. To be careless is to be un-mindful.

Saturday, June 5

I was writing about fear, the other day. We are constantly trying to control how we relate to the world. We try to control how people see us, how we feel, how we’re thought of, etc. Fear is at the base of anger, depression, shame, obsession. In some way we’re trying to control the fear.

Just knowing you exist brings fear. “I am,” means there is a “you are,” creating duality. With any form of duality, there comes uncertainty and with uncertainty comes fear. I am, therefore I fear.

I noted earlier that fear is good, but not if it gets out of control and starts running everything. Fear of a past bad relationship will stop us from having other relationships, if we let it.

Sometimes, taking our hands off the controls that we try to manipulate everyday may be the best way to cope with our difficulties. I’m not advocating chaos, but a simple recognition that sometimes things are way beyond our control and rather than spend energy and resources trying to force things to bend to our will – just accept it.

Ajahn Khan tells a story which demonstrates how fear is very much part of pain. A monk who had a bad tooth, didn’t wish to have it removed with the use of a pain killer. He removed it himself with a pair of shop pliers. When they found him outside the monastery shop holding a pair of pliers and a bloody tooth, they asked about it he said something like, “My vow against the use of intoxicants meant the use of pain killers was not appropriate. I knew the tooth had to come out and that decision was not painful. I walked across the courtyard to the shop and that didn’t hurt. I picked up the pliers and that didn’t hurt. I cleaned the pliers and that didn’t hurt. I gripped the tooth with the pliers and that didn’t hurt. I wiggled the tooth to pull it out and that hurt for a few seconds. Once the tooth was out it didn’t hurt.” Just recalling and writing this, has probably caused me more pain than the monk doing the job!

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