Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Moment With No Fear

"Fully Alive"
-a desert sunrise-

A sizable number of older people live in the various desert cities out here in the Coachella valley - lots of people make their way out here to retire. So I suppose it is no wonder that  many local ads and TV commercials would be geared to an "aging" demographic. 

I find it rather entertaining to watch the advertisements featured on the local evening news - pills, elixirs, vitamins and lotions with the promise of making you look 10 years younger, reconstructive surgeons with the promise that with a lift here, or a "nip and tuck" there they can almost reverse the aging process, making you look and feel "like a kid again," - they even have "before and after" pictures to prove it. 

I wonder, "Do people really believe you can stop getting older - reverse the aging process?" And more than that, why would you want to do that?

Yesterday after watching one of those many ads promising older people that they won't have to get old, I went and re-read part of Buddhist monk and teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh's book about dealing with "fear" on the journey of life.

When we are not fully present, we are not really living. We're not really here, and if we are not really here then where are we? We are running, running, running, even during our sleep. We run because we're trying to escape from our fear.

Maybe that's what all the mad rush to the fountain of youth is all about- people are "running, running, running," to escape their fears of getting older and getting sick -  to escape the ultimate fear of dying. 

I've been thinking a lot about running to escape our fears - I hardly think that older people are the only ones who are running away nowadays. In some sense "fear" is the energy that seems to fuel much of contemporary life.  People are afraid of lots of stuff everywhere, every day- afraid of terrorism, afraid of flying on an airplane, afraid that Ebola will infect the West, afraid that the earthquake or the tornado will hit, or that the economy will fail or that they will lose a job or not get the job they want. And so lots of people are "running" away-  hiding in their busyness, numbed by addictions, lost in cyberspace. 

But "fear" of any sort is always a response to "ideas" - human constructs. People become fearful when they "think" about a past that no longer exists, "I was so attractive and vibrant back then when I didn't have all these wrinkles." And people become even more fearful when they conjure up "ideas" about what they "think" might possibly happen in the days to come. 

The "running" away from fears is a running away from "ideas" about a past that no longer exists and a future that they only imagine might happen -how silly is that? 

Thich Nhat Hanh suggests that the present moment is "our true home." - where we are is where we belong. Mindfully aware, paying attention to the present moment, freed of all those ideas about what was, without the clutter of all thoughts about what might possibly be.  The present moment is always a place where there is no fear. 

Master Hanh offers a simple yet beautiful breathing mantra that I have been trying to employ not only in my quiet meditation time but also in my daily routine, especially in those times  when I find myself "running, running, running." I breathe in and out, grounded in the place where I am and say:

I have arrived, I am home.

When I am fully present, I know that I "belong" to it all, to everything and everyone, all the many in the ONE and the ONE in the many - not a hint of fear and I feel fully alive.   

I have arrived, I am home. 

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