The Issue is Fear

You know there is a story. I have probably told it before and here we are in this now beginning again to understand the fear in us. First: story!

I knew early on, long before I moved into the van in 1995 that I had been patterned by chronic fear. It was in my face during my childhood in the forms of my mother and her son, my younger brother. After I had left home and a marriage, it became time after more than enough years just learning from all the problems that came up in life.

One of my good friends (a brave and very wise man) nailed me one beautiful day and, against my better judgment began the process to show me how to disengage the irrational portions of the fear pattern. If you have ever faced the strong compassion of a friend, their brand of tough love is very effective.  He showed me a person I knew well but who was afflicted by someone else’s fear patterning that had been my childhood messages. It became especially clear when I fully recognized myself without threats or blame. At a time before there was any thing like the job my people gave me over a few days time, those clearings began the process of what was about to happen.

There was a day when I was roaming I-40 in northern Arizona, that I hit upon the idea to visit the Grand Canyon. Left turn off the highway onto a two lane road north to the canyon where I parked in the lot and strolled over to the canyon rim nicely marked by a very fine construction that jutted over the canyon walls. I went to the edge, like every good tourist, and looked over.

Well, I’d seen better videos, so I came back to the van and made lunch. Then: ready, set, go: turn on the key, fire up the engine. As the noise billowed out, rising up out of the bush alongside me were easily 18 to 20 ravens. They arose, lifting flapping noisily in a great circle together, and with startled cries, wheeled themselves round the van counter clockwise heading out east more or less along the edge of the canyon. I watched them with a big question: “Now, just where are you going, my several Raven friends?”

I am used to critters but, you see, Raven is “medicine.” Meaning surrounds her when there is a prompt, and when I pay attention, her medicine is for me.

I watched the flock, determining that I should be following their lead. So I rolled out of the parking lot and easterly down the highway, “I’m on my way, Raven!”

I drove the rim road until I saw a bridge across the canyon. It was obvious to make the second big left turn this day and proceed. On the other side were many Navajo people with silver and blankets each in their places at the end of the bridge and up the freeway. Much as their works are more than magical, it was not a day to admire artistry or to shop. On and on through the afternoon, I later crossed over to Utah and continued to drive upward into the hills in the south of the state.

Then, I spotted one of the Forest Service fire roads opening on the freeway and continuing up into the hills. As I looked at it from ½ mile away, in a few seconds, I determined that I should make that turn onto the road and follow it. It was getting late; I was ready for the end of the day and a small meal.

Forest service road building is very good in dry climate: they lay gravel on the ground and just let it settle in between the grasses to become a hardy track for heavy trucks should it be needed.

I drove 5 or 6 miles over the raw gravel road up and up into the deep of the forest. Our northwest rain forests are lush with a lot of undergrowth; this dry forest is sparse, sunlight reaches the ground and each tree is counted. There are only grasses on the surrounding ground. Soon I spotted the perfect parking place conveniently pointed out to me; I turned and parked, shut off the engine, got out and walked all around to take a look at a quiet serene and sunny forest. In a few short minutes, I noticed the sky deepening to coral and scarlet colors spreading across the sky and flowing downward to the ground.

Quite soon, it was very dark.

The fear was in my throat, my mind was in a panic, my body was rigid with anticipation for what I could not imagine. The fear enveloped me, captured me utterly, leaving me shaking and mostly immobile sitting on the step at the side door of the van. Rooted.

As you know, our rational mind takes a hike those instances when fear rises powerfully in us. These minutes are uncomfortable, without a hand hold anywhere, without any vision or sensibilities that in that now are well buried beneath the panic. There is no rational thinking happening. If you have been there yourself, you know that it’s best to take a deep breath and wait for brain and mind to come back on line.

The great moment of calm and reason does come: “You have been in the dark before. Nothing here can hurt you. No one knows where you are. You are not in danger. Just go to bed and sleep.”

When clarity appears, trust! I made the bed and crawled into it, and was soon fast asleep.

When I awoke well into the morning in the brilliant light of day, sun had found its way to the forest floor lighting up the tree trunks, the grasses and a few flowering bushes. It was glorious and so was I.

It was one of those ‘first mornings of the rest of my life: Fear free!’ It was palpable. I truly felt no fear. I got ready to leave, turning the key, retraced my path to the highway and continued on my journey through Utah, across to California from Salt Lake and northerly until days later, I crossed over to Canada. Whew!

It might also be that after a nice experience that can turn into a pretty easy story, but there really is more to it than that.

This was in some respect an ordinary camping excursion into national forest but it matured into a great deal more. This particular solo forest camp turned into a training of a warrior’s equanimity to face his world, sometimes her enemy, and hold the peace without fear to this day, and this time, 20 something years later.

This part goes something like this. Our local and the larger world are all laced and tied, bound and gagged, harried and harassed by fear. Probably from the womb experience with our mothers worried about their being pregnant all the way to where I am working at the 9th decade, we are faced with fear about everywhere. School: the bullies among the students and the teachers. J.O.B stuff in my high school days was horrific: ultra low pay, coercion and tyranny. The mean girls’ cliques and the boys’ gangs each had their own kind of perversions. Then we graduate to marriage and pregnancy and our first head to head with the medical profession that thrives on the idea hidden within it all is fear of death and dying.

These previous are details where the fear factor floats upward all around. It is so prevalent and so unwelcome an idea that much of the angst is quashed, ignored, drowned with alcohol or overpowered by the contents of a needle, sweetened by a pipe of weed deeply inhaled.

We really want not to feel afraid and the fear is everywhere. Seems that Raven’s plan was a much better option.

Now, we must understand, our fear for our physical safety is grounded in care and love: No, I do not wish to fall out of my wheelchair into the street! But, instead of staying in all the time, instead of someone accompanying me everywhere, I go out and about without fear in me. And I pay attention to the sidewalks, the holes, cracks, the curbs, the people, the dogs, the carts, the bicycles, the motor cycles, assorted drunks, stoned out and otherwise intoxicated men and women and the way I am going, relaxed and smiling, at ease.

The biggest fear of all is fear of death. In a world at war, death is understood only too well. Sickness from bad water, from bad food happening right here on the streets outside my window as on the streets in places in the middle east, central Asia, South America and elsewhere reeks of the silent fear of death. People here on our streets live short time or they leave soon.

But we cannot leave the single mind bank of humanity so that we share among us billions the collected experiences which generate the emotion in us of fear.

It seems there is nowhere to go. But this is not true. Let us move on to the next article and begin to explore an antidote to fear which begins with love.

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