Knowing Our Fears

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Dear Still Water Friends,

This Thursday evening, we will begin our program with arecitation of the Five Mindfulness Trainings and focus our discussionon the First Training, Reverence for Life:

Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to condone any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my

In our program, we will discuss how we could better protect life andwhat keeps us from doing it. We will begin with answering for ourselvesthese questions:

  • What bold step(s) could I take so that my actions, speech, and thinking are more in accord with reverence for life?
  • What keeps me from doing it? What are my doubts, uncertainties, or fears?

In the excerpt below Pema Chodren tells a powerful story about a youngwarrior who learned from the embodiment of fear how not to becontrolled by fear.

You are invited to join us for our meditation, our recitation, and our discussion.

Also, this week only I will be attending the Sunday night Still Watergathering in Columbia (beginning at 6:30) and we will have the samerecitation and discussion. You are welcome to attend even if youhaven’t attended there before. Directions are on our website.

Warm wishes,

Mitchell Ratner
Senior Teacher

From When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron:

Once there was a young warrior. Her teacher told her that she had to dobattle with fear. She didn’t want to do that. It seemed tooaggressive; it was scary; it seemed unfriendly. But the teacher saidshe had to do it and gave her instructions for the battle. The dayarrived. The student warrior stood on one side, and fear stood on theother. The warrior was feeling very small, and fear was looking big andwrathful. They both had their weapons. The young warrior roused herselfand went to fear, prostrated three times, and asked: “May I havepermission to go into battle with you?” Fear said: “Thankyou for showing me so much respect that you ask permission. “Thenthe young warrior said: “How can I defeat you?” Fearreplied: “My weapons are that I talk fast, and I get very closeto your face. Then you get completely unnerved, and you do whatever Isay. If you don’t do what I tell you, I have no power. You canlisten to me, and you can have respect for me. You can even beconvinced by me. But if you don’t do what I say, I have nopower.” In that way, the student warrior learned how to defeatfear.

This is how it actually works. There has to be some kind of respect forthe jitters, some understanding of how our emotions have the power torun us around in circles. That understanding helps us discover how weincrease our pain, how we increase our confusion, how we cause harm toourselves. Because we have basic goodness, basic wisdom, basicintelligence, we can stop harming ourselves and harming others. Becauseof mindfulness, we see things when they arise. Because of ourunderstanding, we don’t buy into the chain reaction that makesthings grow from minute to expansive. We leave things minute. They staytiny. They don’t keep expanding into World War III or domesticviolence. It all comes through learning to pause for a moment, learningnot to just impulsively do the same thing again and again. It’s atransformative experience to simply pause instead of immediatelyfilling up the space. By waiting, we begin to connect with fundamentalrestlessness as well as fundamental spaciousness.

The result is that we cease to cause harm. We begin to know ourselvesthoroughly and to respect ourselves. Anything can come up, anything canwalk into our house; we can find anything sitting on our living-roomcouch, and we don’t freak out. We have been thoroughly processedby coming to know ourselves, thoroughly processed by this honest,gentle mindfulness.