a couple of weeks ago

I am afraid

I am afraid of future discomfort. I am so afraid of future discomfort that I make myself uncomfortable now in the idiotic attempt to protect myself against that future discomfort.

I tense. I squeeze. I contract. I shift my eyes. I clear my throat. I swallow. I sigh.

I analyze. I judge. I blame.

All in the moronic attempt to protect myself against future discomfort.

I’m afraid of being cold. I’m afraid to be cold even for a few minutes. I’m afraid that I’ll never be warm (i.e. comfortable) again. Even when I have no good reason to believe that I will never be warm again. Even when I have a warm place to go to. Even with access to multiple warm places, I am afraid.

I’m afraid of being judged badly by others. I’m afraid of being held in low esteem by others. I’m afraid of the judgements and low esteem of my own conditioned mind. In other words, I’m afraid of imagination and thought.

I am afraid of being afraid. I am so afraid of being afraid that I vaguely imagine all kinds of future scenarios that could be terrifying. Losing my mind. Being locked up. Starving. Suffocating. Being homeless – truly homeless. Physical pain.

You’d never guess it to see me, of course. I exude a false sense of confidence. But it’s all habitual fakery. (And consider this for a moment: how does one even know what authentic confidence looks like? Does it even have a look that distinguishes it from non-confidence? And how would we even know that?) Underneath the thin veneer of false confidence, I’m afraid. Shaking in my boots afraid. Peeing my pants afraid. Deeply afraid.

Unconsolably afraid. Unreconcilably afraid.

Unconditionally afraid.

I’m afraid REGARDLESS of conditions.

That’s the important key that I overlooked for much of my life. I thought that my fear was conditional.

I thought my circumstances generated the fear. I blamed conditions for fear.

So I ran. I hid. I worked hard. I fought back. I tried. I fixed. I calculated. I imagined all kinds of possible remedies.

But my focus was always on the conditions that I imagined were the cause of my fear.

I was wrong. I can see that now. I see it because I look honestly.

That’s it. Just honesty. I haven’t developed some super powers. I am not a more successful human. I haven’t overcome.

I’m just looking honestly. And what I see when I look honestly is that I am afraid.

Period.

I am afraid.

Not “I am afraid because“. Not “I am afraid of“.

Just “I am afraid”.

When I see this, I see truthfully. I acknowledge that this fear – or what I call fear – is unconditional. It is not caused by any conditions. It is not dependent on any conditions.

I am afraid. I am not afraid of anything. I am not afraid because of anything. Fear of something and fear because of something are lies. They are distractions, misdirections. They are slights of hand; “Look over here at these conditions that are to blame for your fear and unhappiness and misery,” is what they say. Meanwhile, if I look in that direction, I am overlooking what is closer and plainly obvious.

I am afraid.

When I look honestly here now at this direct experience that I call fear, I begin to see clearly what is rather than what I imagine is.

What is obvious is that I am presently indulging the habit of fear.

To me this is an enormous key. It is so simple and so unassuming that it is easy to dismiss. But it is one of the most important insights I’ve encountered.

I am presently indulging the habit of fear.

When I look honestly, I can’t find an actual object called fear. I can’t find something that can produce this state within me. And neither can I find anything that I can actually identify as.

So “I am afraid” reveals a deeper truth, which is that I don’t know what I am. I know that I am afraid, but I don’t know what fear is. There is no thing there.

As I continue to look honestly, I see that I am imagining this thing called fear. I am imagining some separate entity that can cause me problems and harm. I imagine some force that causes my fear.

If I blindly believe that wrong imagination, I continue to act out my moronic habits. I continue to indulge the habit of fear, which is to say the habit of suffering.

At this point I am seeing truthfully. So I have a choice. I can remain true, or I can start to lie.

If I start to lie, I know what the result will be. It will be more of the same. More fruitless blaming of circumstances. More anxiety. More misery.

That is the “devil that I know”. I have taken false comfort in the habitual often enough to know that it always results in misery. It is a lie. It is FALSE comfort. In other words, it is no comfort at all. It is like a wolf dressed in sheep’s clothing; it LOOKS like what I THINK that comfort looks like, but underneath the thin veener, it is misery.

Not just misery, but endlessly hungry misery. Like a wolf that is never satisfied no matter how many sheep it eats. When I believe the lie and narcotize myself with false comfort, I continue to feed the wolf of endless appetite.

Telling the truth is not “easy” in the common sense of the word “easy”. Though it is actually the easiest thing because it requires no effort. It is simply to see what is. But it is not “easy” in the sense that it necessarily feels the way that I THINK that “feeling good” should feel.

In fact, it is typically the opposite of that. Typically I THINK that the way I feel is bad, wrong, scary.

Now I’m getting closer to the heart of it.

I am afraid. And I justify that fear because of the way I feel.

And the deeper, closer truth about the way I feel is this: I don’t feel very well.

And that seems to be the core of the “problem”.

It’s not that I don’t feel GOOD. I may think that is the problem. But when look honestly, I see that I don’t know what good is. I think that being cold for a few minutes is bad. I think that my wife expressing unhappiness is bad. I think that not having confidence that I can buy my way to safety and security is bad.

But the real, honest truth is that I don’t know what is good or bad. I only judge based on my habits.

And I justify and defend those habits as if they were truth. I make those habits my god. I worship that false god by defending my ideas of what is good and bad.

By tensing. Furrowing. Biting my tongue. Swallowing. Turning away. Closing my eyes. Imagining something else. Trying to figure it out. Etc.

Meanwhile, the deeper truth is that I don’t know what is good or bad.

And the real problem is not about good or bad. It is that I don’t feel WELL.

What I mean is that I don’t feel clearly. I don’t feel truthfully. I don’t feel purely.

Instead, I stop short of the purity and clarity of feeling – which is neither good nor bad, but simply is. I stop short by tensing, swallowing, thinking, reading, imagining, arguing, etc. I stop short by working hard to generate misery.

There is another option, though. This other option is that I can stop stopping short. I can stop indulging the habits. I can stop trying. I can stop avoiding. I can stop making all the habitual, unconscious effort.

And the way I stop is to look. I have to see what I habitually do to stop it.

Maybe a better phrase is “not do” rather than “stop”. Because if it is already happening, I can’t stop it. But I can see the impulse and rest from the unnecessary effort of causing misery.

When I “don’t do”, I discover present peace. I discover that present peace is not separate from or different than what I called fear.

This is the shocking thing. I was fighting against an imaginary demon. I worshipped a false god to fight against he imaginary demon. But it turns out, the imaginary demon never was a demon. The real nature of the imaginary demon is peace.

I can’t know that in a meaningful way until I am willing to stop fighting. When I put down my weapons and actually allow myself to sink to the very core of the demon – the wolf, whatever you want to call it – I find that I was simply wrong. Wrong about everything.

And what a relief to be wrong and found out. No more pretense. No more pride. No more false confidence necessary.

Joey Lott

Joey Lott is the author of numerous books, including The Best Thing That Never Happened and The Little Book of Big Healing. He lives in southern Vermont with his wife and children.

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