What is fearless? What does it mean to be fearless?
Does it mean to be without fear? Clearly not, since fear – and emotions in general – is not something we can chose to experience or not. They live their own life. They are guests, coming and going.
I may see it as pushing the fear away, setting it aside, or distract from or ignore it. That works to some extent, but it’s still there and not really examined or addressed.
I can also acknowledge the fear, allow it, feel it, and do something anyway. I can learn to act in spite of fear. (Mountaineers and others often talk about it, and use their activities as a way to explore and practice this.)
I can dialog with fear. Get to know it. Listen to it. Hear what it has to say. Explore how we relate to it. Learn to acknowledge and listen to it and treat it with respect instead of ignoring or mistreating it. We can listen to its wisdom, take it into account, and act from being informed by the wisdom of the fear. In one case, fear may say, “don’t ski down that hill so fast”, I listen and slow down. In another case, fear may say “don’t speak up, you’ll make a fool of yourself and they won’t like you”, and I still chose to speak.
I can examine the fearful thoughts. What are they? What are the underlying assumptions? Is it true? Can I know for sure it’s true? What happens when I believe it? Who would I be without it? What’s the validity in each of the turnarounds? (The Work.)
I can notice and allow the fear. I can notice the sensations and associated images and words. I can feel the sensations. I can notice the space around and inside of my body, and around and inside of the sensations of fear. I can notice any resistance to the fear, and feel those sensations too. (Natural Rest.) This in itself can be helpful, and also sets the context for further inquiry.
I can examine how my mind creates its experience of fear. What sensations are there? What imaginations (images, words) are associated with these sensations? How does my mind create its experience of the fear its? Of the threat? Of the command to be afraid or not be afraid? Of the command to not do something because of the fear, or so something because of the fear? Of the command to do something in spite of the fear, or the command to not do something in spite of the fear? (Living Inquiries.)
Through the four or five last ones, my relationship with fear changes. From seeing it as an enemy and a problem, I may come to see it as a friend. I may befriend it. It’s not a problem anymore, and not something that needs to go away. My struggle with it is reduced or ceases, and that makes a big difference. My struggle with it is what creates stress and discomfort. It’s what may make me act on it automatically, or feel paralyzed by it. When I explore it, I can relate to it in a more intentional way.
Often, there is a mix of many of these. Sometimes I do one, other time something else. And over time, I may shift into doing the four or five last ones more habitually. The more I do it, the easier and more natural it becomes.
Personally, I shift between all of these. Sometimes, I act on or feel paralyzed by fear. Sometimes, I try to ignore it or distract myself from it. Sometimes, I act in spite of it. Sometimes, I examine my fear-inducing thoughts. Sometimes, I rest with the fear while noticing what’s there. Sometimes, I examine how my mind creates its experience of the fear.
- (a) suppress, push away, set aside, distract from, ignore
- (b) Acknowledge and do anyway, learn to act in spite of fear (and follow the advice of fear other times, depending on the situation)
- (c) Dialog w fear, explore
- (d) Examine fear – how does my mind create its experience of fear, the threat etc. + examine beliefs about fear / what appears threatening (change relationship with it even more, befriend, see its innocence)
- b,c,d – change relationship with fear, relate to it more intentionally, explore, examine, see what’s really there, shine sunlight on the troll