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Book Discussion > Thoughts on Dealing with Fear for the First Mindfulness Training?

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message 1: by Alexa (new)

Alexa | 20 comments Hello everyone,

I was skimming through the first mindfulness training, Reverence for Life, for a second time, and it began to occur to me how important it is to reduce fear. But, I'm not sure if I know of enough good ways to be practical about it, and thought I would see if anyone had some good advice to share.

On the whole, I'm a very fearful person. I'm anxious about most activities in my days, and truly scared of a certain few; specifically, driving is terrifying to me, as well as walking between my car and home.

I need to drive to and from work, and although I have gotten used to it, I still don't like it. I worry about whether at the next street if I will have enough space to merge over, I worry about whether the cars around me will hit mine, I worry that the people behind me will get impatient and honk their horn while I wait to turn onto another road. I've been driving for the past six months about 5 days a week, yet these things still concern me. I also haven't varied where I go - besides work and my boyfriend's, I won't go anywhere unless it's an easy turn off of the roads I already take.

My second fear - and the one which concerns me the most in regards to following the first mindfulness training - is walking to and from my car. My car is parked in a parking garage a few blocks from my house, mostly due to the fact I don't know how to parallel park near my house and there aren't many places to park there, anyway. But I'm afraid of potentially being attacked by someone while I'm on my way, and this fear is only growing more as it approaches winter and I'm now walking in the dark in the morning.

Also adding on to this, is there is a man who makes me feel unsafe on my walks. I made what I now feel is the mistake of introducing myself to him one day out of friendliness, but he has since seen where I live (he was walking down my block one morning while I was leaving), and he's made comments about me "being later than usual" so I know he's aware of my schedule.

I walk with pepper spray in my pocket, and a self-defense key chain on my hand, because I'm scared that this man or anyone else may one day try to grab me. I want to be safe, but I also don't like all the negativity that comes with this fear. I live in what would be considered a safe neighborhood, and people tell me I'm probably safe, but I really don't know how to handle this.

Does anyone have any tips for handling fear, even if it's not fears like these? On the whole, I suffer from anxiety so any little bit that might help reduce fear could help.

Thank you, everyone!

message 2: by Jason (last edited Oct 26, 2014 07:46PM) (new)

Jason (jasonukim) Dear Alexa,

This is a very difficult topic. It must have taken some courage to ask for help in this way and perhaps re-trigger in you even more anxiety and fear.

I don't have the answer since I don't think doing any one thing will fix an issue that is systemic for all women in our society.

For example, you've already mentioned that you carry pepper spray, which is a reasonable enough solution at first glance, but that isn't a solution for you since you still fear for your safety. A better solution would be to create a world where women don't need to fear men, but that isn't going to help you right now.

What I would offer is this: next time you feel that fear or anxiety creep into you, say this to yourself:

"Hello, fear, my old friend. Please come in and sit awhile, and let me take care of you." As Thay says, treat your fear as a friend and welcome it with a smile. Smile at your fear. :)

Recognizing and noticing the effect fear has on us is the first step to reducing it. Eliminating it is not possible, or even desirable since you should care for your safety.

Second, I'd actually make your very specific fears the point of concentration when you meditate. Notice how fear enters you and leaves when you think about the scenarios you've outlined. Breathe deeply, and practice loving-kindness on yourself, then somebody you care about, then those that may cause you harm, then all beings.

If it's hard to extend loving-kindness to those that may harm you or to those that have caused you harm, wish yourself loving-kindness instead.

In Chapter 5 of "Survival Kit" there is a loving-kindness meditation, but here's a simplified one that is very easy to remember:

May I be happy.
May I be healthy.
May I be safe.
May I live with ease.

Then switch "I" to "my friends/those that have harmed or may harm me/all beings."

I hope this helps Alexa. May you be happy, healthy, and safe. =)


message 3: by Alexa (new)

Alexa | 20 comments Hi Jason,

Thank you for taking the time to respond! I really appreciate how thoughtful you were in answering my post.

This is in fact a very difficult topic for me. I think I've shied away from the idea of meditating on my specific fears, probably for the unconscious reason of not wanting to re-experience them since I feel them quite often as-is. But I think what you suggest here has merit, and I'll certainly give it a try!

I hope too that one day we can make everyone feel safe while they're out and about...not an easy effort, but I can still hope!

Thank you again, hope you are well!


message 4: by Eileen (new)

Eileen | 15 comments Hello, Alexa! I'm spending a bit of time today catching up with our reading sangha's posts, and was drawn to your beautiful story - beautiful in its honesty, in its vulnerability, in its connection with all of us and our fears. My times of anxiety are different in nature from yours, but as I read your words, I can feel that place of tightness in my gut. Jason shares so much wisdom in his words and the words of Brother Thay. I've found that if we strive very hard to get rid of or banish the feelings and thoughts that bring us discomfort, the discomfort becomes stronger - like we're battling a dragon while our minds are telling us that we will never win. Being gentle with ourselves - ah, that is the key - the gift of acknowledgement laced with self-compassion. And when we hand ourselves compassion, transformation begins, very slowly. Another strategy that helps me is strong awareness of my body. When I feel anxiety arising, or am in a situation that has been associated with past anxiety, I stop for a minute and pay attention to what I'm feeling in my body: are my muscles tight? Is my jaw clenched? Am I tapping my foot on the ground? Perhaps giving yourself just five minutes before you enter the car, before you start the ignition, before you walk from car to home, will be helpful. Sit (or stand) and scan your body. Relaxing the body often helps to relax the mind and its jumping monkey thoughts ;) And I always find it helpful to have a little Buddha smile on my face - that brings me closer to equanimity. As for your meditation, just sit, without an agenda in mind. When you practice sitting regularly, you will notice that discursive thoughts and fears and anxieties will arise from time to time, all on their own - no need, I believe, to bring them forth intentionally. They do have a way of walking through our doors without being invited ;)

I keep this sangha in my meditation prayers every day, and will think of you as the wee Buddha smile appears. With metta, Eileen

message 5: by Alexa (new)

Alexa | 20 comments Eileen, thank you so much for your reply! I truly appreciate it and all you shared with me. I love your idea on focusing on the body - I started doing a "body scan" meditation shortly after reading Thay's book Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm, but I haven't been doing them recently. I think I will try to begin again, and focus on how my body feels in time of fear. :)

Hope you are well, Eileen, and thank you again for sharing!

message 6: by SueM (new)

SueM (Sue0121) | 6 comments Thank you so much, as I walked around, much like a solider this morning. I wondered why my son was not responding to my request to get up from bed, my monkey mind had already taken over the day with thoughts of defeat.
A quick read and reminder from you to sit, stay, breathe, smile, and scan can do wonders for a fresh start. It's like having two mornings in one day ! Amazing the gifts we have for ourselves and to others.
Thank you!
Sue M.

message 7: by Parallax Press (new)

Parallax Press (parallaxpress) | 53 comments Mod
Eileen wrote: "I keep this sangha in my meditation prayers every day, and will think of you as the wee Buddha smile appears."

This makes me smile every time I read it. A wee Buddha smile for you, Eileen :)

message 8: by SueM (new)

SueM (Sue0121) | 6 comments Ahh, the wee buddha smile that does wonders, Thank you

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