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Thursday, August 28, 2008

What are We Afraid of?

Pathway to Happiness II
I continue my meandering exploration that was started by my predecessors millennia ago.
What are People Afraid of?

People are afraid of losing. Period. It could be loss of dignity, loss of comfort, loss of good health, loss of respect, loss of life, loss of money, loss of security, loss of friends, loss of face, loss of acceptance, or the loss of a loved one. When some say they are afraid of God, what they fear is the loss of that picture of paradise or heaven that they have grown to cherish, or loss of eternal life. One can argue that people are afraid of making mistakes. But we know that no mistake can diminish who we actually are. And we know that we can learn as much from mistakes as much as we can from success. So why the fear of making a mistake? Because of how others will judge us? Because a mistake could result in loss of one thing or the other. Such losses make us experience pain and we seek to avoid experiencing the pain that is occasioned by the said losses.

What this boils down to is that people are afraid when they are attached to one thing or the other. This has led some to say that there is nothing as dangerous as a man who has nothing to lose. The realization that attachment to things and people can cause pain and fear led oriental thinkers like Buddhists, Taoists and Zen masters, to exhort their followers to empty themselves of all attachments to things, people and experiences. Susan Jeffers exhorts readers to “throw away the picture” in Feel The Fear and Do it Anyway. The picture is something we desire, or want so badly to happen: something we are attached to. Indeed detachment may be the foundation of stoicism and ability to bear discomfort. Most ancient thinkers believed that a state where one is not attached to anything would yield happiness.
Let us sample some of sayings that have been made regarding detachment.

He who would be serene and pure needs but one thing, detachment. Meister Eckhart - German Writer and Theologian (1260-1328).
If you look carefully you will see that there is one thing and only one thing that causes unhappiness. The name of that thing is attachment. What is an attachment? An emotional state of clinging caused by the belief that without some particular thing or some person you cannot be happy. — Anthony de Mello
Attachment is the great fabricator of illusions; reality can be attained only by someone who is detached. — Simone Weil.
The moment you place your happiness in the fulfillment of any want or wish that is outside yourself, outside the Way, in anything but the thing as it is, as it is becoming, at that moment your balance is lost and you fall straight from Heaven to Hell. — R.H. Blyth.
Attachment to the results of love's labor destroys it all. - Swami Sai Premananda.
A man is a slave to anything he cannot part with that is less than himself - George MacDonald.
It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything. Tyler Durden, Fight Club (1999)
Losing all hope is freedom. Tyler Durden, Fight Club (1999)
Hope kills courage - Source unknown
The Master doesn't seek fulfillment. Not seeking, not expecting, she is present, and can welcome all things. – Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching
The sage rests, truly rests and is at ease.' This manifests itself in calmness and detachment, so that worries and distress cannot affect him, nothing unpleasant can disturb him, his virtue is complete and his spirit is not stirred up. Chuang Tzu, Chinese philosopher and Taoist The Book of Chuang Tzu (Arkana S.)
To spare oneself from grief at all cost can be achieved only at the price of total detachment, which excludes the ability to experience happiness - Erich Fromm, German born American social Philosopher and Psychoanalyst.
Love is an attachment to another self. Humor is a form of self-detachment - a way of looking at one's existence, one's misfortune, or one's discomfort. If you really love, if you really know how to laugh, the result is the same: you forget yourself. - Claude Roy There is no pain endured without hatred or lying unless detachment is present too. Simone Weil - French Philosopher, Mystic and Activist (1909-1943).
Living in solitude, eating lightly, controlling the thought, word, and deed; ever absorbed in yoga of meditation, and taking refuge in detachment. Bhagavad Gita
Love consists not in feeling great things but in having great detachment and in suffering for the Beloved. The soul that is attached to anything, however much good there may be in it, will not arrive at the liberty of Divine union. For whether it be a strong wire rope or a slender and delicate thread that holds the bird, it matters not, if it really holds it fast; for until the cord be broken, the bird cannot fly. - St. John of the Cross
Just think of the trees: They let the birds perch and fly, with no intention to call them when they come and no longing for their return when they fly away. If people's hearts can be like the trees, they will not be off the Way. - Langya

To my extreme happiness,
My Lord has come to tell me
That from now on
I must stand apart from my actions,
Divine and undivine.
He alone is the Doer;
I am a mere observer.
Sri Chinmoy : Gaia Explorer. Quoted from Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees, by Sri Chinmoy
Centering prayer is a training in letting go. Thomas Keating, Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel
If you are pained by external things, it is not they that disturb you, but your own judgment of them. And it is in your power to wipe out that judgment now. - Marcus Aurelius
Prosperity knits a man to the world. — C.S. Lewis
The fear of loss is a path to the dark side. … Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed, that is. Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose. -Yoda, Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith

From the above, we can see that attachment is regarded by many people as a cause of unhappiness and debasement of the human spirit in form of enslavement to attachments like wealth, drugs, a lifestyle of other people.
But our subject is fear. Not attachment so let us redirect even as we appreciate that attachment can cause fear.
Fear is not a bad thing. In fact, fear is an essential survival instinct. Fear helps us avoid pain and suffering. It is a primal emotion that drives our instinct of self-preservation in the face of danger. You should be afraid when you see a lion coming at you because it can have you for dinner in short order. You should be afraid when you are in a dark alley in a dangerous neighborhood. People who feel no fear when a speeding car is coming straight at them will soon be dead. Over the ages, individuals that use their fear to avoid danger end up survive and end up producing offspring. Which is why normal people must feel fear. So fear, on the one hand, is a basic survival tool and is an integral emotion in the human condition.
But negative fear can also paralyze us, enslave us and keep us from experiencing happiness and our fullest potential.

How do we deal with this kind of negative Fear? Can we use fear to our advantage? We cover that in our next installment. After all, it is getting late and I am afraid that if I don’t leave now, I will be late in reaching home.

August 28, 2008

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