Alright, I’ll start right off and say it: the main thing is, we never have to be afraid. Believe it or not, it’s really true — all is well! Now, some of you may think, “Hey, I’m not afraid.” Of course, it’s a trick of certain minds to believe in their essential fearlessness, but that doesn’t make it true. Everyone is afraid. If you are born, you are afraid. In fact, fear is hard-wired into the human genome. Fundamentally, it’s there to keep the system alive. The program is always running, though it’s known by another name — the “survival instinct”, and no doubt it serves a purpose.
In any case, humans do not much care for change, even though everything changes. Everything changes, and so we fear what might happen when everything does. Maybe we won’t get what we want, and maybe we won’t like what we do get. Most intimidating of all, maybe we will die. Based on the unavoidable evidence (which we’d really rather avoid considering), we will surely die, survival instinct or not, so what’s with the claim that all is well?
Death is always stalking us, and so we are always anxious, even when things are going along pretty well. We might make all sorts of efforts to avoid that fact, acquiring fortunes, relationships, pleasures, and distractions of every kind, but we know at some essential level that we are not going to make it, no matter what.
The fact is, the body comes with an expiration date, and that makes us very nervous. Every aspect of our life and relations is infected with this fear, whether consciously or subconsciously, and so in reaction we might turn to strategies that promise some form of longevity (like health regimens), or even some variation on immortality (like religion).
In other words, perhaps it’s appropriate to be fearful right now, but if we can manipulate our concepts and dredge up some kind of hopeful faith, maybe somewhere down the road (if we follow the instructions that come with our faith), we eventually won’t have to be afraid. Thus, relief is projected sometime out into the indefinite future, based on the implementation of a pre-fabricated scheme.
On the other hand, there may be those who say, “The hell with it — let the chips fall where they may, we’ll grab what we can!” That is, if we are going to die anyway, why not savor every kind of indulgence, challenge every social convention, worship at the church of egotistical self-interest while ruthlessly trying to control the chess pieces, and thus avoid our fear by exploiting all the possibilities of experience until the curtain crashes down? Whatever harm we may do to ourselves and others in the process, of course, can be chalked up to being “just part of the game . . .”
Nevertheless, neither strategy – that of the hopeful believer, nor that of the nihilistic hedonist – can truly succeed in quenching the fear, because real release is neither a matter of working up some kind of enthusiastic idealism, nor does it consist of the raw exploitation of experience, both of which are ultimately mere distractions. Even the intellectual effort to rigorously deconstruct it will typically fall apart when confronted by the visceral quality of living fear, because fear is stronger than reason.
When all other options are at last discarded, the only way we’ll find to skillfully address fear is to sit right in the middle of it, open-eyed and awake at the heart, recognizing that which is both prior to its inception and likewise present after the dissolution of all fear – our true nature and condition. However, on one hand, as long as we are identified with the body-mind-self complex, it is virtually impossible to experience a direct insight into who and what we really are. On the other hand, we may suspect that such a discovery requires a kind of death to all that we currently take to be ourselves, and so the fear of letting go and losing that image of ourselves which we cling to and cherish stymies us. Indeed, all we are ever really trying to protect and defend is some image of ourselves.
In order to resolve this dilemma, it would help mightily to take a big step back, turn our vision around on itself, and sincerely ponder the mechanics of our appearance. If we are able to do so from a posture of equanimity, we can observe how fear chronically rules our lives, informs our thoughts, poisons our relationships, and sabotages our aspirations. Even when things seem conventionally agreeable, we are still afraid of losing what we imagine we possess, not to mention the conditions of real and imminent threat which prevail on much of this planet and bedevil so many of its inhabitants. It certainly seems that fear runs the show and calls the shots.
If we continue to diligently inquire into the matter, however, there is something else we can recognize. That is, there have indeed been times when the fear has been transcended, perhaps only for a brief moment, but nevertheless, it has happened. What stepped in at that time, causing our fear to shrink and recede? Upon clear inspection, we must realize that it is only love which is stronger than fear. It is love which draws us out beyond our reluctance, beyond our resistance, beyond our self-absorption, and beyond our suit of emotional armor which we have clothed ourselves in to defend against the fearfulness of embodiment.
Indeed, more than anything else, we can recognize that love is the reason we took form here, just as it is only love (or our failure to love) that we take with us when we move on. The more profoundly we allow love to rule our life and relationships, the more effectively the fear will be seen through and released, until “all is well” is no longer just a hopeful slogan, but the actual perception of how things really are, and how we really are, as unique expressions of love itself.
Love makes it possible to appreciate this human experience in whatever form it comes, without having to run away in fear of life into fantasies of escapism. True and complete fearlessness can only be the case when we let love live us, and so that’s the main thing – to be Love, and not at some fictional time when everything else falls into place, but here, now, and always.
I’ve heard it said that our ultimate desire is to be free of desire itself, yet here in this moment, heart to heart, it’s clear that all we really want is to love and be loved. This yearning for deep intimacy is at the core of all, in this and any possible worlds as well. Our self-consciousness holds us back, but love will exceed such fear.
Everything is only Love seeking for itself, and finding itself in everything. Nothing is at last immune to Love. This recognition will crack every heart shell open in its own sweet time. Why wait, when there’s an open invitation now? Even the burden of our fearful intolerance is but Love’s teasing play with itself for the joy of intolerance dissolving in Love.
Mystery begets Love for the sake of its own enjoyment, expressed as the infinite forms of you and I and everything. It is the simple innocent truth of our being, prior to any adventure of knowledge or experience. We are Love, and we are here to know and be it –hearts and souls together. The illusion of separation is just that.
Love will always outshine any fear, though some might imagine otherwise, as a way to test Love. What remains when imagination is itself surpassed by Love, but Love? All that we truly have is what’s here, now — this is everything, this is all the worlds, appearing and disappearing simultaneously with us in Love.
When we are humbled enough to relinquish our resistance to what is, what is reveals itself as Love. The awesome mechanics of the universe forming itself into the unique expressions of each one of us is beyond human comprehension, yet at the heart, Love is no mystery. It’s what’s most true of all of us, and ever so shall be.
“Leave alone whatever arises in the mind.
Do not seek to change or alter anything.
It is all perfect as it stands.”
~Chogyal Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche