Little Fears Cast Big Shadows

Excerpt from "Exhilarated Life: Discovering Inner Happiness"

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Credit: Oliver Needham on Unsplash
Credit: Oliver Needham on Unsplash

The Dragon’s Teeth

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Do you feel the hot breath of self-doubt on your neck?

I am as passionate about the nature of business as I am about the nature of the body and spirit. For me, a card-carrying entrepreneur and risk taker, I devour books on business trends and strategies with equal pleasure as I do ancient spiritual teachings. I am as fascinated in how to develop a new market as I am in how to reveal the inner spark of creativity. Actually it’s all the same to me.

Over the years my business has taken me into boardrooms with very powerful and wealthy corporate leaders. I have prepared investor memoranda, participated in corporate mergers, and facilitated strategic plans for integrating acquired divisions into a new corporate whole.

I have witnessed a lot about business and learned even more about human nature. One thing in particular.

And what was that?

Everyone, and I mean everyone, has a dragon breathing down his or her neck. I am using the example of business because we in the West have a notion that the rich and powerful are somehow also imminently confident and self-assured. That as long as someone is at the top of the food chain, there is no social higher authority. No fear. No dragon.

Problems, challenges and disappointments aren’t dragons. In the dragon’s teeth, we are firmly gripped in the fear of exposure of our unworthiness, inferiority, humiliation, shame, and guilt. None of us is any different. It is just the degree of our public display as we grapple with our own beasts of self-doubt.

Often people in the public eye—be it in the world of entertainment, business, or politics—actively seek out power, wealth, and influence as an armor against the dragon. We may even believe that the dragon is “out there”—the shareholders, the CEO, the constituents—the ones we have to assuage. The ones we have to stand up to with bravado.

Never let them see the whites of your eyes, no fear, and no weakness.

We furiously brick up a fortress of protection, with walls high and thick—fame, wealth, reputation, status, authority, even deception and coercion—only to find that, oops, the dragon is inside.

We may not know it until we are about to go on stage, take the podium or meet the new chairman. The dragon snorts and the fire burns in our solar plexus. Our place of will and self-esteem. The fire spreads down into our gut and reaches up to set our heart drumming and sear our mind. In that instant—before we repeat the affirmation, take the pill, shoot the Stolis, or otherwise submerge the dragon, we are caught aware of our own incompleteness. But…so what?

Dragons wreak havoc. When they are awakened and come out of the cave, snorting fire and swinging their spiked tails, destruction and incineration decimates the landscape. Just look at the recent banking debacle. Who hasn’t been affected by that melee of greed and avarice? Dragons on a feeding frenzy. But how can dragons be on the inside and the outside at the same time?

Dragons start out small. A little piece of misinformation in the psyche. Something your mother said when she was tired that made you feel unloved. Something your classmates said to you because you were different and you felt humiliation. Your teacher made an example of you in front of the class and you felt angry and powerless at the same time. Your father shouted and hit your brother, and you knew fear. Someone you trusted touched you when you said no, and you felt shame.

Emotions. Potent electrical and chemical currents surge through the body, lodging in the cells, and recording in the brain. And, like tiny magnets of energy, they attract similar emotions. The event is over. Come and gone. Maybe not even witnessed by another. But its effect remains and gathers strength.

Shame, fear, humiliation, anger, powerlessness, unworthiness. Tiny dragons.

They wake you up in the night. They begin to feed on your happiness. When ‘feel good’ things happen, they eat them up and ask for more. More food, more things, more attention, more control. Even dragons hush when they feed. So we keep feeding them, trying to keep them quiet and under control. But in actuality they are just getting stronger and bigger until they burst the seams of your psyche and create a life outside of you as well.

Dragons poke you in your “wants” and drive you forward. “A bigger house and I’ll be quiet.” “A higher position and I’ll be quiet.” “A faster car and I’ll be quiet.” “A younger lover and I’ll be quiet.”

But of course, dragons are too clever to let you see them first thing in the morning, dirty scales, smoking nostrils and all. No, material avarice is not the only language of dragons. Dragons outside of you act through your wife, your boss, your children, the media. Dragons roar equally loudly through the morally superior, the pious, the self-deprecating, the intellectual. Here is the secret to reveal the dragon:

Anyone whom you feel the need to please is the voice of the dragon.

The caveat is that the voice of the dragon is not the actual inner dragon. It is the magnification of the dragon. Its projection on the big screen. The real dragon is still safe, growing teeth and scales deep inside your soul. It will remain safe while you are distracted with slaying the dragon of your outer world. While it grows unimpeded within, it will never, ever, be vanquished. Ultimately the dragon will lead you to the fullest expression of the seed that spawned it: humiliation, loss of love, shame, ruin. Just like the parasite it is, the dragon will feed on the host until the death of both.

To lead an epic life—worthy of heroes and heroines—is to slay the dragon forever. Once this predator of happiness, self-worth, pleasure, accomplishment, and creativity is gone and no longer a fearsome ruler, you can enjoy all that is truly meaningful to you.

Your light—the elements that make you uniquely you—will be revered and loved. The truth that you speak and the love that you share will be all you need to attract a life you truly desire. A life that allows you to share your wisdom, creativity, and knowledge—your joy and happiness. A life that may be expressed in simplicity or in grandeur.

You may be a monk or a king. A sculptor or a mother. A CEO or a courier. You might build a school in Malawi or a corporation in Silicon Valley. But you will do it from the heart.

For it is the heart that is imprisoned in the cave of the beast. A heart pulsing in full expression of love, light, and creativity dissolves the dragon. The damsel in distress is the frail self—our own innocent heart—beautiful, sensitive, loveable. The spark of Life itself; the promise of all that we can be.

How do I know this? Because yesterday the beast showed its face to me.

In outer appearances I have it all. A beautiful home, my own business, regard amongst my peers, a loving relationship, two amazing, creative sons, and a deep, spiritual life. But for all that I have accomplished and all that I enjoy, my default when I was tired or stressed was to anxiety, fear and self-doubt. There are no actual facts supporting that. So where was it coming from? And what is the gain in maintaining it?

There is no conscious gain. The dragon lives on unconscious acts. As soon as you begin to make conscious choices, the dragon is threatened. As light floods in, the dragon fades. Once the dragon is released from the heart we truly do live happily ever after.

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