Chapter 27 We must conquer our fear

第二十七章 我們必須戰勝恐懼

27. We must conquer our fear

The other day a young woman, one of my students, approached me. She was extremely distressed that by being asked to be a presenter, or Master of Ceremonies,1 at a speech contest, she was going to lose some of her friends: “How so?” I inquired. They felt that she had been duplicitous in order to achieve this position: the awarded seat apparently being the pinnacle of achievement for the English Language Class. Some had even begun to post disparaging comments on Facebook.

At first blush it sounds childish and ridiculous, a simple case of infantile jealousy. In fact, however, many of us have been subjected to the same misfortune. During our lifetime, the minute we begin to rise above “the herd,”2 we are pulled back into its fold. This begins with our parents and extends throughout the school system into our employment and our relationships. Conformity is what society thrives on. We fear to do our best because we must pay an unfortunate price: we will probably be alone – at least mentally – until we find a like-minded person. This may result in profound sadness – hence, for many, the comfort of the mediocre crowd is better than alienation. This is dangerous because our soul3 will suffer. And the soul knows who we are in those unfortunate nighttime moments of angst. Many adults cannot take this moment and seal it with drugs, alcohol or video games.

One solution to this frustration is mindfulness: to be totally in the moment. The eminent monk Thich Nhat Hanh speaks to this: “Mindfulness is being aware of what’s happening in the present moment; concentration is maintaining that attention. With mindfulness and concentration, we can look deeply into and understand what’s happening. We can pierce the veil of ignorance, see clearly the true nature of reality, and be liberated from the anxiety, fear, anger, and despair in us. That is insight. Mindfulness, concentration, and insight are the very essence of meditation. … Waking up this morning, I smile: Twenty-four brand-new hours are before me. I vow to live each moment fully and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.”4

If you are always in the moment, you cannot be hurt because the “now” is the most precious. It gives one the energy and the power to accept the realization that your life mission may produce isolation. If you, additionally, believe that you are part of the infinite universe, you are also comforted. I will always have my connectivity to everyone and everything.

So, if I return to this young woman, she must only realize that her uniqueness qualifies her for a lifetime of happiness: if she has been honest with herself and has been true to her values, she has nothing to be ashamed of. These are but immature, fair-weather friends. There must be moments of pain to balance the joy that is associated with life. Knowing both pain and joy allows a person to feel an attachment with the world. It is additionally important that our nemesis learns to put this kind of pettiness away. If you have a problem with someone, confront them and talk the problem out.

I often think, however naïve, that we are all basically the same. Whether we are white, black, pink, orange or blue, our blood, once exposed, is always red. We are all the same color inside. All that is left, therefore, is our family and our educational system to alter us in a positive or negative way. One can only hope that the Internet will be a deciding factor in bringing mankind together.

The great scholar and pacifist, the current Dalai Lama (b. 1935) gives us a great thought: “Today we face many problems. Some are created essentially by ourselves based on divisions due to ideology, religion, race, economic status, or other factors. Therefore, the time has come for us to think on a deeper level, on the human level, and from that level we should appreciate and respect the sameness of others as human beings.”

Mindfulness, though not easy to practice, suggests that we can all be thoughtful and peaceful human beings. It is up to all of us to make this concept a part of our collective world-wide reality.

27. 我們必須戰勝恐懼