Facing Our Fears

Facing Our Fears

Discussion date: Thu, Aug 05, 2021 at our weekly Thursday evening practice

Silver Spring, Maryland, Community Online on Thursday Evening
August 5, 2021, 7:00 to 8:45 pm
Open to all Online on Friday Evening
August 6, 2021, 7:00 to 8:45 pm

Dear Still Water Friends,

Over the course of this summer I’ve become aware that more parts of my body are not working as well as they once did. Although none of these recent changes are drastic — I still consider myself fortunate to have good health — I don’t like them. At the same time I recognize that deeply accepting the inevitability of my old age, illness, and death can help me live my life more fully and die more gracefully. It was just such a turning, from denial to investigation, that set Siddhartha, the Buddha to be, on his spiritual path.

According to legend, when the Buddha was born, a seer foretold that he would grow up either to be a great political and military leader or a fully realized spiritual being. His father, King Shuddhodana, wanted his son, Prince Siddhartha, to be like him a warrior king. The king reasoned that if his son were not exposed to the inexplicable sufferings of the world, he would not be drawn to the spiritual life. Therefore, he tried to create for Siddhartha a world in which old age, sickness, and death did not exist. When finally, in his late twenties, the young prince first saw an old man broken down by age, a severely ill man, and a corpse being taken to the funeral pyre, he was deeply shaken. When the prince next saw a serene wandering ascetic, he vowed that he, too, would take up the spiritual path, in order to understand and transcend the suffering of the world.

As the story of Siddhartha and his father illustrates, denial brings us a temporary respite, at best. Only by opening to, naming, and accepting that which we fear can we work with it and transcend it. Many of the guided meditations in the Buddhist tradition encourage us to acknowledge in our own lives the old age, sickness, and death that King Shuddhodana was trying to keep from his son. Or perhaps better said, the guided meditations encourage us to identify and re-evaluate our ideas of old age, sickness, and death so that we can transform our fears and more fully appreciate the vibrancy and preciousness of our lives.

This Thursday and Friday evenings, after a shorter initial meditation period, we will practice together a guided meditation based on the Five Remembrances, a set of recollections on old age, sickness, death, loss, and mindful living that the Buddha encouraged his students to bring to mind every day.

In our Dharma sharing we will explore together the experiences we have had when we have endeavored to face our fears:

  • When has facing our fears helped us to open more to life?
  • When have we been challenged facing our fears?
  • How has our practice of mindfulness helped?

You are invited to join us.

The text of the guided meditation is below.

Many blessings,

Mitchell Ratner

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Impermanence: Looking Deeply, Healing
From Blooming of a Lotus: Guided Meditation Exercises for Healing and Transformation by Thich Nhat Hanh

Knowing I will get old, I breathe in
Knowing I can’t escape old age, I breathe out.
Getting old.
No escape.

Knowing I will get sick, I breathe in.
Knowing I can’t escape sickness, I breathe out.
Getting sick.
No escape.

Knowing I will die, I breathe in.
Knowing I can’t escape death, I breathe out.
No escape.

Knowing that one day I will have to abandon all that I cherish today, I breathe in.
Knowing I can’t escape having to abandon all that I cherish today, I breathe out.
Abandoning what I cherish.
No escape.

Knowing that my actions are my only true belongings, I breathe in.
Knowing that I cannot escape the consequences of my actions, I breathe out.
Actions true belongings.
No escape from consequences.

Determined to live my days deeply in mindfulness, I breathe in.
Seeing the joy and the benefit of living mindfully, I breathe out.
Living mindfully.
Seeing joy.

Vowing to offer joy each day to my beloved, I breathe in.
Vowing to ease the pain of my beloved, I breathe out.
Offering joy.
Easing pain.

in: Dharma Topics
Discussion Date: Thu, Aug 05, 2021


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