be not afraid, curious, end of life, fear, Hafiz, human, Meg Wheatley, perseverance, positive, present, spiritual tradition, Sufi, The Sophia Center for Spirituality
As often happens lately on Friday mornings, I sit down to write and wonder where the week went. Time seems to pass more quickly as we get older. People have told me that for years and I accepted it but now I know it from the inside. As a consequence of that thought, next comes a wondering about the stretch of life before me. How long will I be here? What will be my experiences, accomplishments, abilities? Will I maintain the health I have been blessed with? How will I face the end of my life?
To be honest, I rarely worry about the answers to those questions, primarily because I am trying to live in the present and because I trust that, whatever happens, divine grace will accompany me. I raise the topic today because of conversations I have had with older friends and with frequent reports of accidents and illnesses of others. As well, I opened Meg Wheatley’s book, Perseverance, this morning at random and the page that stared back at me was a reflection entitled Fear.
Normally I would shy away from talking about what are considered negative emotions because I prefer to stay in a positive mode of thinking, yet given the state of our country and my awareness of all the fear that is manifesting in personal and communal encounters lately I decided to read Wheatley’s comments and pass on what I found to be of value. As usual, I could just copy the entire entry – Meg Wheatley has a way of making good sense – but even the first few lines will do, I think. She says:
Fear is just part of human life. It’s so common that every great spiritual tradition includes the injunction: “Be not afraid.” If fear is this fundamental to being human, we can expect that we’ll feel afraid at times, perhaps even frequently. Yet when fear appears, we don’t have to worry that we’ve failed, or take it as a sign that we’re not as good as other people. In fact, we’re just like other people. Fear is simple evidence that we’re human. What’s important to decide is what to do with our fear…(p. 71)
The author suggests moving toward our fear, being curious about it, not asking why we’re afraid but rather investigating the feeling itself which can often dissipate the strength of the emotion in the process. Whether or not this is the way to proceed, my intent was simply to bring the topic to our consciousness for examination in our own lives, having been reminded that fear is, in fact, just part of living on earth. To conclude, I do want to add the quote that is a standard feature of every topic in Wheatley’s book, this one a short word from the 14th century Sufi poet Hafiz. It made me smile. He says:
Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would like to see you living in better conditions.