Fear is part of the human experience. Obviously, looking at my fear is frightening. I don’t recreationally look at fear; unless forced to or having something at stake, I won’t casually inquire, “You know what? I think I’ll look at my fear.” Not at all.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, “The only thing we fear is fear itself.” That’s bullshit. Jonathan Moreno, Professor of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania, and Werner Erhard discussed being useful in the face of our fear. Jonathan described fear as the biological phenomena. Fear is always present. Fear is inevitably what it is to be human.
We don’t explore fear on a whim. In fact, fear discovers us all. So how am I going to be useful in the face of my fear? Francis Bacon said, “Nothing is terrible except fear itself.” We all get what fear is.
Fear sources from our physiology, associated with the survival centers of our brains. Fear is essential to the human design.
Werner asked, “What is it that frightens me, reminds me of? And how do I complete this?” Becoming present in my fear, and completing my experience of fear as a young boy liberates: I can choose the more appropriate response.
Much of my fear is the reminder of my unresolved past. I was terrified at 8 years-old hearing my parents fight from my bedroom. I woke up from an afternoon nap scared finding no one at home when I was 6 years old. Fear is real.
My experience of fear is the reminder of those unresolved experiences. I rigorously work with therapist Lance to recognize and identify my sources of fear, so I too can choose my appropriate response. It takes practice. It takes time.
The key of martial art mastery is Mushin, “the empty mind”. Sensei Dan taught me, “Mushin. Mushin.” “If you think about having an empty mind, you don’t have one.” I’ve practiced over the years, having no mastery in this. I get mushin in periods of Aikido training. Mushin is an access to discover peace within me.
How do you train to be in the presence of fear? Empty your mind. Mushin is like being in ‘the zone’. Yeah, it’s fleeting and requires dedicated training. Mushin ain’t natural for any of us. Our minds are wired to have an opinion on this as well. You can even hear it now.
Sensei instructed in class, “Everything natural.” Natural translates to years of dedicated practice, demanding all of me.
I experience mushin infrequently in Aikido training with multiple people attacking. I don’t think about what to do. I just do. Mind, body and spirit unite. I let the attack come to me. I match up with the attack. I throw the attackers, one at a time. Dan would tell me, “Make it work.” Mushin is being present. Mushin is creating from nothing in the face of my fear.
Fear arises with what might happen in the future. Fear can remind me of what frightened me in the past.
Perhaps, fear doesn’t exist in the present? Is fear the story I create about the present from my frightened past? Is fear my story about the unknown future that has yet to occur? Probably so on all counts.
Bruce Lee said, “Empty your mind. Be formless, shapeless like water.” Be like water in face of fear. Accept fear for what it is. Offer no resistance to fear. Awase – blend with fear.
Bruce Lee said that we all need to learn the art of dying:
Like everyone else, you want to learn the way to win, but never to accept the way to lose. To accept defeat, to learn to die is to be liberated from it. So when tomorrow comes, you must free your mind and learn the art of dying.
Sensei Dan always said, “Just train.” No, don’t train to get anywhere or be anything. Just train to train. Put in your time. In the face of my fear I train to empty my mind. We’re all greater than we know. We just have to train ourselves to become.
Originally published on Goodmenproject.com