SMILING AT FEAR

I once read a book called “Smiling at Fear” by Chogyam Trumpa. I don’t remember a word of it. But the title somehow remained in my memory banks, as it spoke to my own experience many years ago of meeting the existential abyss of emptiness — the annihilation of a core sense of self as a separate “me” — with curiosity and gentleness. From that moment on, fear never had the same hold on me as it had throughout all of my life.

Fear stopped being the enemy and started to reveal itself as love in disguise. “Smiling at fear” meant no longer meeting fear with more fear, no longer trying to banish fear or overcome it with egoic force. It meant there was no ego to be concerned with upholding itself as the one who could conquer the beast. Instead, there was an ongoing mini-death of self every time fear was kissed gently by the breath that moved in me, by the sky of awareness that was the container of my experience, by the softness of my surrender into whatever unknown energy lurked inside the cloud of fear.

And every time — yes, every time — I smiled at fear instead of running as fast as I could in the opposite direction, fear smiled back just a touch more glowingly. Until eventually all that was left was a huge smile beaming back at me, like the eternal sun that bestows life on earth. And then even that faded away. And all that remained was the deep acceptance of love — an unconditioned and unconditional love, without cause or effect. Just a total OK-ness with what is.

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Since then, there have been many challenges in my life — from the dramatic death of my mother, to moving continents and starting life anew at the ripe age of 55, to learning an incredible number of new skills in a very short time, to becoming a “spiritual teacher” and dealing with all the unexpected projections, to a series of unexpected physical ailments, injuries and discomforts, and too many other minor (and not so minor) circumstances that invited a step into the great unknown. And yet throughout all these, fear has never been a problem. In fact, fear as it used to be known is no longer a visitor. Fear is seen as a dream of the mind, a story that pulls us into an imaginary future, a phantom that has no basis in the bare reality of what is here now.

I have fallen into presence and now there can be nothing else but this presence. And in presence there cannot be an enemy — because in presence there is no rulership by thought, there is no ghost of the imagination, there is no commentary on what is experienced. In presence, every experience is friendly — even when it is intense or uncomfortable. In presence, everything is a doorway to love — because in presence, I am that love.

What freedom there is in life — to no longer be afraid of fear, to no longer avoid or reject anything that life offers, to simply be the sky within which it all appears! This is not detachment, but a deep intimacy with what is. An intimacy that is permeable and transparent, without any hard edges or tight boundaries. I call this the infinite openness of true nature. I fell into this infinite openness in a nano-moment of surrender, one day a long time ago — and I’ve been falling open ever since.

  • Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash

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