"I will show you fear in a handful of dust."
–T S Elliot
“The fear of no-self is the mother of all fears, the one upon which all others are based. No fear is so small or petty that the fear of no-self isn't at its heart. All fear is ultimately fear of no-self."
Many years ago I was the lead presenter in a business situation. I did the hours-long thing, helped some folks, answered some questions. It went great. I wore my lucky suit. I was confidant, in command, capable.
Afterwards, I watched the video.
Wait, what was my face doing?
I looked afraid. For the entire recording.
That couldn’t be right. I wasn’t afraid! Well, not after the initial adrenaline nerves. Not once I got going.
But the darn face betrayed something else.
Oh no. Couldn’t I go back in time, get better control of my face and self, and pretend that video away?
Well since TikTok and YouTube weren’t invented yet, no.
Ever notice how much everyday, low-level fear humans drag around?
Constantly running in the background. An imperceptible hum. Familiar.
We’re used to it.
I’m not talking about the loud tonsil-showing screaming that happens when the fear-dial is ramped up to high. That, we do notice. That we name: nervousness, anxiety, terror, panic attack. We pay lots of attention to that.
No I’m talking about thousands of tiny daily micro-fears. Teeny unacknowledged jolts of “Ack!”
Every day. All day. Even asleep, in dreams.
We’re afraid of phone calls. Answering the front door. Rips in pants, bugs, losing a game. Being awkward. Bad posture. Spinach in the teeth. Zeros. An untied shoelace. Looking old. Being old.
We’re afraid our smoking will lead to early death, that heartburn is really a heart attack, we’re ugly, people are laughing at us. We’re afraid our yelling is messing up the kids, we said something stupid at the party, we blew the recital.
We’re afraid of not sleeping enough, sleeping too much, the dark, being wrong, reading the news.
We’re afraid of rain, empty streets, wasting our life, dying without getting enlightened, not knowing something, being late, forgetting a word, making the spouse angry.
I could go on and on.
So could you.
It begins to be clear that these human things are inherently afraid. All the time. Of absolutely everything.
But what for? There are no tigers around.
Could it be because the variable, contradictory, unprovable thing called “my self” is afraid that it … isn’t?
If that’s true then, by golly, effort to keep that hidden must never let up.
Which is also scary. Because who the hell knows how to do that?
We do try though.
Mostly by trying to overcome all those little fears.
With procrastination, meditation, therapy, inquiry, retreats, positive affirmations, exercise, and spirituality. With pot, alcohol, sex, shopping, and chips.
Never-mind that none of that actually succeeds at stopping daily micro-fears from continuing.
Because when fear is at the absolute core, the very center, of being a separate self,
well, that’s not overcome-able.
And certainly not by the separate self.
After all, that would be self defeating.
So at least maybe there can be some relief in seeing that anything that’s not-there, anything that’s nothing, actually has no need of protection or safety anyway.
Y'know, being illusion and all.
Whew. Nothing’s starting to look pretty good.
Maybe even better than answering the phone.
Ok but if we can’t eliminate fears, then what do we do with them?
Well, we live with them.
Like ‘em or not.
We live with the face-betraying unease, the worry about weather, the heartbeat that happens with the doorbell.
Because low-level or high, some degree of fear comes with the human package. It is built in. It is not going anywhere.
Luckily, it’s just fear.
It's just fear of fear.
It's just the self, afraid of being caught, being seen, as the wispy delusion it is.
No big deal.
Tigers can’t eat that.
Which is an absolute and true safety.
And there's nothing scary there
Click here to subscribe and get your Mind-Tickled every week.
Watch Judy on Buddha at the Gas Pump
Ram Tzu knows this. . .
The fear never leaves you.
It is part of you
As tied to your center as your breath.
Get to know it well.
As long as you are
It will be with you.
You want quit of it.
You push it away with all your strength.
But hear this. . .
It thrives on all the exercise
You give it.
It gets stronger when
You give it something to push up against.
Left alone it will wither and die.
But you know you can not leave it alone.
You must always fight the fear.
It is your nature to always fight.
Yet sometimes there is Grace . . .
You disappear into it
And there is no longer a battle.
The warrior is gone.
--Wayne Liquorman aka Ram Tzu