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Can our fear come to an end?

The sunshine invited one into the woods. A newly planted rose bush had begun to flower, bathing in the sunlight, its petals bright pink at the edges and lighter near the stem, glowed in the soft morning light. The leaves too were beginning to unfurl from the hard shells that had protected them on chilly spring nights.

There was a feeling that all was as it is: the trees, the ducks, the people, even the limping goose, that suffering too was as it is, that even it need not be otherwise. This perception of seeing everything as it is, instead of reacting, or desiring to change it felt like the right action, one that cannot be willed, but one that can only arise naturally. Only after such a seeing of what “is” can an order arise naturally beyond any ideas of order we may have previously conceived.

The question of fear is alive. How do we approach the matter of fear?

“One can practice managing fear when it arises, and with more practice, one can deal with episodes of intense fear without spinning into an abyss every time.”

What does it mean to manage fear?

“It means to find relief from it so it does not completely consume us from functioning in our daily life.”

Does this relief imply an ending of fear or a temporary relief from it?

“I am not sure if it is an ending of fear, because fear keeps arising again and again.”

If that is so, shall we not question this approach? We can see that managing fear implies that fear is not really coming to an end but only being suppressed temporarily to come roaring again in the future. So, how else do we approach fear?

“Are you saying that trying to find relief from fear may have something to do with it coming back again?”

Yes, it looks like we are generally more concerned with escaping fear than understanding it, and therefore it never comes to an end.

“What does it mean to understand fear?”

Yes, how do we understand fear? Can we understand it if we are always trying to move away from it when it arises?

“No!” Yet, when fear arises, we have an immense tendency to try to escape it.

“Yes, because we fear we are going to be stuck with fear forever.”

Right. It is this tendency to imagine a future that carries fear into the next moment. But once we see this tendency, and understand the fact that in order to understand fear, we must meet it right now, we come to understand that right now is the necessary place for our attention.

So, when fear arises and we stay with it because we clearly see that what is happening now is the right place of our attention, the tendency to make assumptions about the future comes to an end. Therefore, we are not practicing a particular method or a practice in the hope that we find relief from fear in the future. What may happen in the future is not at all our concern. Our only concern is what is happening right now.

“I can see that the idea of practice does imply that with more practice, we will find greater relief, but I also see that when we meet fear directly, we are not concerned about relief: we are just trying to see what it is, right there, right then.”

Yes, and in that seeing, we are attending to it, tending to it, as a mother tends to her child, which is an act of love. Love simply is an act of tending. In this tending, fear reveals its story, something it could not have done previously because we had always tried to relieve ourselves of this immense feeling. But how can we relieve ourselves of a feeling we do not truly understand? This desire for relief is a natural tendency, a tendency to escape, and this escaping may suppress fear in that moment, but it keeps fear alive in our being, and gives it a reason to arise again, for it has not been dissipated. But meeting it, not moving away from it one bit, not escaping it, begins to dissipate the energy of the feeling.

Seeing and observing fear is not a practice, just like seeing a mountain is not a practice: when you see a mountain, you can’t help but stare at it because it stands in front of us with all its immensity. One stares at a mountain not because it is a good practice to look at a mountain and with more practice, one can become better at seeing mountains. You stare at the mountain because what your eyes behold is an immensity beyond words. It is that simple. So the question is, can one observe one’s fear, not to find relief from it but simply to peer into its depths?


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