I was talking with a friend – well messaging via Whatsapp actually rather than talking – yesterday and this morning. This friend is an amazing man and always makes me think more deeply about myself and my life. He is the one who introduced me to Buddhism in the first place so has witnessed a lot of my growth, frustrations, my journey. He knows me very well, better than anyone in some ways. Anyway as we were messaging I began to realise how much fear has played and is still playing in my life. I knew that it was there (as discussed in Part 1 of this [possibly grandly named] mini series; but I hadn’t fully experienced how deeply seated it is.
In embracing Buddhism I have had to look deeply into myself and face what I am, how I have got to be how I am and accept it; not only accept it but to try to feel compassion and love (Metta) towards myself. There is a lot in that which I won’t unpack completely here – it would take a book or two! But what is relevant is this: Buddhists believe that there is no set self as such. The self is ever changing. I might repeat the same behaviours, feel the same things etc over and over again but that is not because I am a set self. When I studied the Self at University all of those years ago, the idea of a set self seemed prevalent and that is what I believed at the time: I am who I am; I may be able to tweak myself but I cannot fundamentally change. I seem to remember writing a few essays on the subject all with the same conclusion. But now I see that I am who I am because of conditioning and how I have reacted to situation and events. This means that I can change. Just saying “that’s who I am; I cannot change” does not cut it any more.
Back to the fear thing! I think that fear has manifested itself and continues to try to manifest itself in many ways. Fear of looking deep inside myself and facing what I might find; fear of doing something that is not conventional / not normal; fear of doing something new; fear of being someone new; fear of being alone; fear of doing things alone….. So many ways in which fear has played a part in my life. So many times I have moved towards a more authentic life, a life more suited to me – and so many times fear has played a part in pushing me right back on the same old path.
But not this time! Now is the time when I accept the fears. Accept that I am afraid. Now is the time to confront those fears and to question them. Look them in the eye. I have made steps this year on my journey down this different path. And I know that I need to rest here for a little while to do what I need and positively want to do now. I need to work on myself, learn more about this Buddhist path that I am on and to reflect. What I don’t need to do is to give in to my fears and go back to the same old well-trodden path to which I have always returned.
I have mentioned the fears involved in facing myself and what I am at the moment. It means taking a long hard look at my reactions to events and situations over the years. It can be so extremely uncomfortable to do this! My past behaviours, actions and emotions were often so flawed, so unskilful. And yes – they often still are; I am just slightly better at using the gap between the event and my possible reactions to it.
Yes – fear has definitely helped to keep the bird in its cage. I may have stepped outside of it a few times in the past but fear has pulled me right back in. Now is the time to step outside and look around. Ready for flight.