Building community in a changing world

April 27, 2020

Being With Fear

You’ll be hearing a lot about Jonathan Foust in this blog. I’m currently enrolled in his “Year of Living Mindfully” program – and he’s been my principal mindfulness guide for over five years. His dharma talks are remarkable, he’s a great storyteller and he mixes in plenty of humor with his practical teachings.

Recently, Jonathan gave this 45-minute talk about “Understanding Fear.” A timely topic for us all. Here are some of the points he made:

– What is fear? It’s part of life. A constant companion. Your fear inventory has three fundamental roots: survival, losing control and losing attention & love.

– How do you befriend fear? Sometimes it’s in front of you. Sometimes it’s below the line and you’re not fully aware of it.

– At the 12-minute mark, there’s a brief exercise to help you figure out your current state (ie. what’s between me & feeling free?) This exercise is useful because by naming your circumstances, there may be a shift. It may fade or become more activated. By naming it, you begin to sever your attachment to it and take its power away. How to be with it. Slowing things down so that perhaps you can respond to it and create that shift.

– Reacting when in a state of fear often produces results that aren’t desirable. No problem is solved in the state that it was created. See it for what it is. Be compassionate with yourself and ask “can I deal with this right now?” You may first need to calm, slowing down your breath often can produce that effect.

– At the 26-minute mark, there’s a 5-minute exercise to help you further explore your fear, including a somatic inquiry where you do a body scan.

– Fear of death is probably the greatest fear. When you are grounded in whole-hearted cooperation with reality, you free yourself from fear. Acknowledge that our body at some point will not be here – recognizing that everything is impermanent is a principal part of a spiritual practice.