In the Hebrew scripture It is written, “Fear is the beginning of wisdom.”
You will also find a passage where Jesus said, “Fear not.”
At first look, these two things may appear to be contradictory, however they are not.
What we have here is actually a very important paradoxical truth which can explained
with one simple statement:
HEALTHY FEAR KEEPS THE DOCTOR WAY, BUT UNHEALTHY
FEAR IS THE GREATEST OBSTACLE TO SPIRITUAL GROWTH.
It as been said, “We have two choices in life, either to love or to fear.” I’m not
sure where I first heard that, but it always stuck in my head. One reason it stuck
was because I’m not sure I agree. Okay, yes we can choose to act out of fear or
act out of love, but in reality we don’t. That is to say we don’t choose, was just
act out (without knowing why we are acting out).
In life, I have found it is most often after the fact that we stop to think.
We operate on fear or love by default depending on many different factors.
Maybe we don’t think about it because we don’t want to think, don’t like to
think, or were never encouraged to think. Whatever the reason, most people
just operate by default and not by choice. People may love or they may
fear, but it is seldom a conscious choice at the time. More often than
not people are driven by their moods (even if they deny it).
The default programming of our social conditioning does not require us to do
any thinking. Most people are blissfully unaware how the opinion of a personal
hero, celebrity, cultural personality, or religious leaders deeply influence their
own world view. Too often, people listen to the opinions of others and it directly
effects their own beliefs and behaviors without any critical thinking taking place.
While most people would deny it, there is a lot of repeating going on. This
repeating seems to take the place of thinking. Rather than think, rather than
reserve their own opinion until they work it out, people will just repeat what
they heard another person say. Maybe it was said with conviction, and because
that person held a strong belief it seems valid and therefore worth repeating.
Sometimes people will throw out the ideas and opinions of others as if it were
their own just to test the waters, as if to get a reaction. Then, based on that
reaction (from people they respect) they decide to keep or drop that view.
It is a kind of short-cut for the non-thinking person. I think this is what most
people mean when they say they like to debate. What they really mean
is they like to repeat nonsense to get a reaction from others. Live has a
way of dealing with that kind of stupid–it’s called the school of hard knocks.
Yes, we’ve all been been there and done that haven’t we?
My point is this: we all suffer for a lack of self-awareness, which is another
way to say our suffering is self-inflicted. How many times have you heard
someone say, “Wake up!” Maybe we’ve said that to others, but the only
person we need to wake up is the person in the mirror. We need to wake
ourselves up. That means we need to stop repeating and start thinking.
We need to wake up and doing that takes courage. Namely, the courage
to question everything. The courage to leave no belief unexamined.
Courage is the key to waking up, without it there can be no self-awareness.
It has been said, “Courage is to feel the fear and do it anyway…” and that
is a very good definition. Fear is their but it doesn’t keep us held down in
a state of inaction. Courage is doing something, taking action in the face
of our fear. So, then, if that defines courage, it begs a question:
What is Fear?
Simply stated, fear is a form of suffering. Specifically, it is that which holds
us back from loving. In other words, when we love, we find the courage tor
overcome our fears. One might even say that courage is a defining quality
of love, and without courage love loses all meaning.
Some say the opposite of love is hate. Not true. The opposite of love is
indifference. Some people say fear is always bad. Not true, fear keeps
us from being foolish and doing restless things. A little healthy fear is
a good thing–we need that, but there is a line where our memory of
the past can not only cause us to suffering, but can also cause others
to suffer with us. This when a little guilt become unhealthy shame,
or when we obsess over what someone else did to hurt us.
Okay, now let’s dig a little deeper. No one fears the past, or do they? Now
ask yourself why that is…. why is that no one fears the past? The answer
upon reflection, is quite obvious. The past is done, finished, over, kaput.
For this reason, no one in their right mind would fear the past. Yes, they
might feel some measure of guilt or shame with regard to past events
but that guilt and shame isn’t the same thing as fear… or is it?
All fear is based in our expectation of the future, that is to say our anticipation
of events which may or may not happen. Our fear of the future based solely on
our memory of the past. Certain events in our past, you know, those unsettled
things we often play over in our heads–yeah you know what I’m talking about.
As we all know, history has a way of repeating itself. Personal history is the
same way. Perhaps this is due to the fact we can’t stop thinking about
whatever the issue is.
Things we fear come to pass because they are not yet in our past. We keep
them alive by thinking about them. Someone once explained it to me this
way: “When you worry, you are praying for what you don’t want.” I think that
sums up the problem very well. That which we fear in our future is often just
a unresolved issue from our past.
It is like our mind is trying to fix the problem. There is guilt in the past but
when we give life to those past events by thinking about them, then they
become a toxic shame in our present. Our mind is a great tool for solving
problems–that is it primary function–but when has no problem to solve it
like to go dig up crap from the past. If left unchecked the mind will even
go so far as to recreate the some conditions as before, setting the stage
as it were, to relive the pain from the past. Why? Because the mind is
doing what it does best–it is trying to solves a problem.
Being self-aware is the first step to recovery, but seeing the mind doing
what the mind does is not enough. In addition to being aware one must
also train their mind to drop whatever it happens to be obsessing over.
This is no easy task and take years of focus effort. Self-awareness and
the self-control require to train one’s own mind to unlearn old patterns
is rare discipline in this world. If more people could let go of their negative
thoughts and drop obsessive thought patterns as they happen–there would
be a lot less suffering in this world.
Indeed, I would go so far as to say all emotional suffering in this world is
the direct result of two things: what we tell ourselves about the past and
what we allow ourselves to be told about the future. In the end, these
two things are really the same and is all has to do with what we believe.
What we believe effects everything and it allows ourselves to be told
anything–especially when we the ones who are doing the talking.
Think about that. How do we anticipate the future if not by our Self-Talk
based on a memory from the past? Our fears are always rooted in our
memory of past events (as distorted as they memory may be). This means
that the future which should be open is often closed due to our own memory.
Moreover, by our undue concern and worry we actually bring that which we
fear into being. So then, the question becomes one of unlearning.
– How does a person learn to drop their old unresolved issues?
– How does one learn to stop thinking about painful events from the past?
– How does one let go of negative memories that keep haunting them?
There are no easy answers. We all have to figure it out for ourselves, but
one thing is for sure: Dropping our issues is easier said that done. It is
difficult because the painful experiences from our past cry out to be fixed,
or be resolved in some way. Without closure it is not so easy to let go of
an obsessive thought.
We can’t no more turn off our memory then we can turn off our brain,
but what we can do is move on, change our focus of attention. Think
about this: without memory there would be no guild, no fear, and no
emotional pain… but it would be doubtful that the human race would
have survived. We needed our pain to survive as a species, but now
you have to ask yourself if you still need it as a self-aware person?
If your pain is no longer serving a useful purpose–drop it. If you feel
you need your pain, by all means keep feeding it, but whatever you
choice to do, let it be you who choices.
With practice your will find that you don’t need half the weight you
carry on our shoulders, and you’re learn to drop it without being the
least bit guilty. Some might call that forgiveness. In the end,
what we find is our suffering is self-inflected and we only drop it
when we learn to forgive ourselves. What follows this forgiveness
is amazing grace… a peace and joy that was here all along but
thinking oursleves unworthy, we just choose not to accept it.
Here are the spiritual principles:
COURAGE IS MORE THAN GOOD INTENTIONS, IN THE
SAME WAY THAT FAITH IS MORE THEN MERE BELIEF.
FAITH OVERCOMES BELIEF, IN THE SAME WAY THAT
COURAGE OVERCOMES FEAR.
The unexamined life is really not worth living, says Socrates, the wisest man in ancient Greece. His credo has become the basic tenet of the philosophical quest.
At his trial in 399BC by the citizens of Athens, Socrates declared that from his incessant questioning, he found his contemporaries spend their lives pursuing various goals — money, ambition, pleasure, physical security — without asking themselves if these were important. Unless they raised such a question and seriously sought the answer — through careful reflection, alert observation and critical arguments — they would not know if they were doing the right thing.
They might be wasting their energy, time and money in useless or even dangerous pursuits.
How do we believe what we believe? How do we arrive at our underlying set of beliefs (which includes assumptions, prejudices and convictions)? It is important that we examine the process to determine if we have acquired the correct set of beliefs because they influence our thinking and motivate our action.
The Buddha says:
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts from an evil thought, suffering follows him as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the carriage.
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts from a pure thought, joy follows him as his own shadow that never leaves him.” Dhammapada 1, 2
Time out: So, instead of merely possessing an unorganised mass (and mess) of opinions and assumptions, we take time out to scrutinise, re-formulate and organise them into a coherent, meaningful and practical system of right views. In the process, we discard those that are patently false, immoral and dangerous. From such a deliberate process we frame our world view, set our goals, and conduct our lives. — Francis Chin