The Places that Scare You

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Dear Still Water Friends,

This time of year is one of my favorites. Halloween is here, and Thanksgiving is coming. The reflexive urge to pull the covers tighter on cold mornings has returned. In case the trees’ fall colors aren’t convincing, this week’s weather leaves no doubt that fall has arrived.

I enjoy this time of year because we literally harvest the reward of a summer’s hard work, and we celebrate with festivals and gatherings. But this fall’s celebrations have been overshadowed as we are also seeing the results from other past deeds. We are experiencing unprecedented financial turmoil that is making many of us quite anxious and causing us to recoil in fear. Will we have enough? Will we suffer? Will those we love be safe?

This Thursday, we’ll come together to practice the Five Remembrances. Then we will discuss how we are practicing and coping in the face of impermanence and the anxieties of our times. We’ll discuss what the Five Remembrances raise for us. How does facing mortality change us or our perspective? Can we take ownership of our actions without losing ourselves in judgment and blaming? Is it possible to recognize and be grateful for the opportunity to practice presented by challenging times?

We’ll discuss these and other issues and share our practices as we consider what Pema Chodron calls “the places that scare you.”

I hope you can join us.

Scott Schang

The Five Remembrances

I am of the nature to grow older.
There is no escaping aging.

I am of the nature to have ill-health.
There is no escaping ill-health.

I am of the nature to die.
There is no escaping death.

Everyone I love and all that is dear to me are of the nature to change.
There is no escaping being separated from them.

I inherit the consequences of my actions in body, speech, and mind.
This is the ground on which I stand.

“Fear is a universal experience. Even the smallest insect feels it. We wade in the tidal pools and put our finger near the soft, open bodies of sea anemones and they close up. Everything spontaneously does that. It’s not a terrible thing that we feel fear when faced with the unknown. It is part of being alive, something we all share. We react against the possibility of loneliness, of death, of not having anything to hold on to. Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.

“If we commit ourselves to staying right where we are, then our experience becomes very vivid. Things become very clear when there is nowhere to escape.”

— Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times