Series on Fear-l: Fear & Survival
(marty is scheduled to present @ this conference) Introduction:
Since the fear of terrorism is so much in the forefront of today’s stressful living, I have decided to publish a series of writings having to do with my experience of fear, especially as it surfaced around the trauma event of my auto accident in July of 2000, the account of which is presented as the first part of my book Soul Dancing.
In the article below, the first depiction of fear as it existed in my life then, comes a full year and a half after the accident. When I wrote this piece I had retreated from the stressed-out city hustle of Santa Fe to a remote place deep within the ponderosa forest of New Mexico. Even as I knew I had felt fear for a long time, it is only here that I could begin to put my fear into any coherent piece of writing.
Fear exists in many forms and can be couched behind things like ‘hoping against hope’ or being ‘afraid of one’s shadow’. Stress is an effect of fear, and along with it comes with the appearance of anxiety, apprehension, lack of confidence, hesitation, restlessness, trepidation, mistrust, palpitations of the heart, a cold sweat, dread, despondency, horror, panic, terror, cowering, quaking, shaking and shrinking.
Honestly, I can attest that I have been visited by all of the above. Learning to work with them in a deliberate choice to not demean them or deny they exist has been a most challenging and yet also most rewarding period of my life. The event of my accident provided further opportunity for me to utilize Mindfulness as a daily practice to promote peace within and to self-manage the effects of stress. That practice, which I strongly relied upon throughout my post-accident recovery also allowed me to go even deeper into the exploration of fear as it invaded my life.
Today, fear in all its shapes and appearances still visits me; the difference being in the way I can now work with this powerful energy. Here is my first written accounting of the fear I lived with.
Fear and Survival
It was in the early 90’s when I first became aware of the combination of fear and survival as a backdrop in my life. I mean viscerally aware of them as my constant companions at a time when I was in the extended process of a divorce. Then, much of my attitude and behavior about fear was still sourced in denial, and had it not been for the fact that I had begun to train in Mindfulness practice, I almost missed the underlying foreboding energy that was ever-present.
After all, I was a very intelligent mature woman who at the time also had a secure job and held a degree in science education. It was so strange that I should also be apprehensive about my ability to make it on my own. Now that my access to income had just been diminished by about two thirds, and faced with the fact of living alone for the first time in my life, I had grave concerns about how I was going to survive.
The subject of fear that lingered in the wings of my awareness was a by-product of my survival concerns. I was quite successful keeping it at bay by planning into the future to study for a master’s degree. According to accepted statistics at the time, the level of my potential and future income would raise by virtue of the mere fact of procuring an additional degree. That potential never became a post-degree reality, because just as I was searching for a location to set up a professional practice, I had an auto accident.
Since that accident of July 2000, I have lived in the presence of abject fear [ed-time of writing is 1-13-02]. Each time, as I sit in meditation, this figure of fear sits directly in front of me: face-to-face, knee-to-knee. It does not go away. It is this fear form that I feel forced to finally pay attention to. It manifests internally as an energy that grips my insides, and painfully holds on. In terror, I cling to every semblance of who I am.
I am aware of this nebulous form of fear all the time. It permeates my existence and never lets me off the hook. I have lost the ability to make a living, as I cannot work where I am expected to perform systematically on a regular basis. Due to the concussion and subsequent closed head injury from the accident, I can never rely on the condition I am going to be in when I wake up in the morning. Abject fear is a major factor in my life and I know I have to address it by at least acknowledging it.
It can be a positive step to investigate and know what fear feels like, so that when it shows up it can be recognized. This knowledge can be used to inform me that I am in a circumstance where it is/is not appropriate to feel that there is some danger present, real or perceived. With this understanding in hand, I may move forward and make suitable decisions regarding my safety.
Fear shows up in instances such as today when I again question my decision to have left Santa Fe and come in retreat to the land near Taos and heal. All types of fears are here today, principally in the form of questions such as,
“But how can I leave town for such a period of time? Everybody will be getting ahead of me!”
“ I will lose valuable contacts if I go away.”
“My friends will desert me.”
“People will forget all about me.”
These considerations run through my mind and bring up an immense amount fear about the wisdom of my decision to leave town and retreat to the country. ‘Retreats’ even spiritual ones do not provide points on a professional resume.
As I continue to listen to the messages from my body—the mind of my cells, it is clear that I will have to face this fear provoked by the cultural-based competition of keeping up with the Jones’, and the knowledge that professionally someone may get ahead of me. It is simply peer pressure in another form, and it all comes from within myself, although admittedly my environment has also shaped the standard for my performance. The point at hand asks, “Which am I going to listen to?”
One day back, after living here in the ponderosas, beneath Basket Mountain for about a month, I went into town for a seminar presented by my medical doctor who had last seen me more than three months previous. When she greeted me at the seminar she exclaimed how different I looked: grounded, radiant, complete, whole — she went on and on about how I was hardly recognizable. At the time it was the verification I needed to remind me that I was on the right track.
So what is it exactly that I am afraid of? Am I afraid of dying or am I afraid of living? Dying represents a loss of all that I am and who I have been in the past — who I am now and the promise of who I may become. Fear of losing these identities is directly proportional to the amount of invested interest I have in being known as ‘somebody’. My attachment to those identities is what has me cling to life. The interesting thing is that when I spend more of my time securing what I perceive to be my position in life rather than living my life, I am not happy.
Looking at it in another way, my fear of living is based in the fear of being overwhelmed by the presence of my relationship with my Creator/Creatrix, the one who some might call God, Allah, and other personified names, but which I experience as beyond these connotations. The enormity of being in touch with the orgasmic aspect of ‘union’ with Creator/trix pushes a lot of my Puritan-based buttons that has to do with morality, sexuality, and more. How can I be orgasmic with that awesomeness? How much joy do I have the capacity to experience? How much can I expand to house it?
So momentarily, I am presented with my choice: life or death, and I either experience the fear of surviving, or attempt to fool myself into believing that it does not matter and deny that it does not even exist.
Consciously, I know that I have decided as a professional to allow myself to explore whatever the accident has provoked. Grateful to the Mindfulness practice I have cultivated now for the past ten years, I choose to tune into my breath and the feelings of fear to further discover what it has to teach me.
>>> Until next time, when I relate a discovery of the Buddha of Fear — walk with Peace. <<<
Con molte Amore,