Three books on fear

Rosie the Riveter

Rosie the Riveter

I estimate that fear is the dominant problem in the world. Some wise people confirm that.

The three I have in mind are Pema Chödrön, Chögyam Trungpa, and Krishnamurti. The books are, in sequence, The Places That Scare You, A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times; Smile at Fear, Awakening the True Heart of Bravery; On Fear.

I will mention that Pema wrote the forward to Smile at Fear.

Dealing with fear, these teachers tell us, involves several challenges. My personal favorite is to smile at fear. Invite it to join us for dinner. Raise a glass to its consistent dedication to duty. Offer it a warm place to sleep.

Frightened people tend to generate fear in other people. This is intended, I suppose, as a defensive move. I’ll intimidate you before you do it to me. It explains the state of the world.

One of the great lessons these teachers impart to us is that we are not real. The self we try so desperately to protect does not exist. It is basically an idea, and we contribute to the definition of that idea.

The teachers invite us to choose a different idea to describe ourselves. The better idea is to be a warrior. Trungpa offers us this:

There is another way we could describe the education of the warrior, which is by looking at the development of ego and how the warrior works with fear and other problems that arise from a mistaken belief in the self as a solid entity.

The notion of working with fear is my personal highest priority. I want to redefine my notion of it, and I want to avoid causing you any of it.

Trungpa emphasizes that our problems are not really trying to destroy us. He explains, “The important thing is to be friendly toward our problems by developing what is called maitri in Sanskrit, or loving-kindness in English translation.”

He tells us not to turn this world into a battlefield. Doing that, he says, solidifies our view of the problems that seem to afflict us.

I welcome your comments on dealing with fear.

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