I’m afraid. I’ve always been afraid. At least as long as I can remember. Perhaps there was a time in the deep innocence of babyhood when I felt safe, but I suspect not. I just can’t quite believe it.
It’s not the fear of a specific thing, it’s a deep primal fear; a fear for my own safety; my survival. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. Maybe we all feel that way on some level, who am I to know?
But it’s there: a tension; a stance; a readiness. In fact when I was younger I used to seek the oblivion of inebriation to escape it. It seems unbelievable now but I would place myself in vulnerable positions, almost – well not almost – actually inviting danger, risking my own destruction, just to be free from the fear of it. I understand why an animal would chew off a trapped leg. Others might find such a course of action surprising, even sickening, but I get it. I would too.
But alcohol is a temporary solution and no matter how much I drank the fear would come back usually in the most unpleasant of ways; smiling through the dread of having to wake up once again. We all get battle weary in the end I suppose. So a more permanent solution was required. The trouble with that scenario is at some point the very fear you’re seeking to escape switches over and becomes the fear that keeps you alive. The fear that keeps you from making that final slice, taking that extra card of tablets or doing anything to completely remove the risk of chance.
But somehow, without really knowing how, one day follows another. You get busy, life becomes more challenging in the mundanity of trying to get by and a small part of your fear gets channeled in more positive ways, keeping you conscientious at work for fear of dismissal, keeping you kind and polite to others for fear of rejection or criticism. Of course it also holds you back from getting too close, you don’t really want to let anyone in, whilst not appearing to push them too far away.
In time it’s easy to forget the fear is there but it never leaves. It might hide as the background anxiety of a busy life full of mortgages and children, careers and pastimes. Alcohol still lurks like a shadow within a shadow, watching, knowing its time will come. No one can stay busy forever and all these distractions will one day cease or diminish long enough for the fear to resurface. Or maybe the fear of losing it all will push it up to the level of consciousness. Either way it plays a waiting game its sure it can’t lose.
But I’ve always been resourceful. I didn’t entirely waste my time on distraction, trying to fill a hole as impossibly big as the stars. I sought, at least peripherally, a refuge. Like the Buddha of old I’d seen the fourth sight, the holy men and women who leave it all behind to take up robes and a different path. Could that work? Why not, after all, what is there to fear in a monastery?
But all refuges are illusory, nothing more than mirages invested with a desperate hope. The desert stretches on, unconcerned.
There are side stories to this main theme but who would believe them? I really don’t care if people do but in the interests of telling the tale properly I’ll share them in brief, but not more.
I walked in death. Several locations a number of times. I’ve seen those sleepers: soldiers dragging their wounded in a cavern, apparently unconcerned that their uniforms don’t match, still looking for the ‘enemy’. I’ve seen the forlorn and despairing on their tropical island, sitting, staring, because there’s nothing else to do and no way to get out. I’ve seen some better places, but I’ve seen much worse ones too. You think death is a way out? You wouldn’t if you’d seen what I’ve seen. Maybe that’s why I was shown. There’s always a reason to it, at least in hindsight.
So. No refuge. No escape. Now what? What else can be done? Several weeks of grey depression gave way to a small but well forged resolve. If I couldn’t be safe, if I couldn’t get out then all that I could do was try to figure this out; figure out this life, this place, this human experience. Try to see it clearly. It was the only path left, so I took it, not in any great hope or expectation of end or result.
Once the decision was made it was a surprisingly easy one. Months of looking followed, setting aside everything that I knew, every assumption and starting again from scratch. What is this? What could really be seen? Could anything be known? How was it known? What did it rest on? If it wasn’t on direct experience then it was discarded; a thought, nothing more. In this looking facts become enemies, knowledge becomes an anchor. Seeing opened vistas of not-knowing, ineffable, unconceived.
Deeper and deeper looking until all that was seen was an ever shifting, constantly moving moment comprising nothing in a beautiful dance, beginningless and endless, unknowable, unfathomable; a dance with no dancers, a movement from nowhere to elsewhere of no thing and no one… and, at the last as looking saw clearly no ‘one’ something indescribable happened. No ‘one’. No-one. Empty. Centreless emptiness. EMPTY.
Confusion. Yes, lots of confusion. You might think that this – oh just insert whatever phrase you like, to a greater or lesser extent I detest them all – would resolve all confusion, but the opposite was the case. There was no I to be confused. There was no knowing. There was no world in which to live and no one living there. No one awakened. No awakening happened. Use whatever words you like, none of them work, not this time, not for this.
That’s where this blog started five years ago. But before that it started with fear. And in case you’re wondering if the fear went away, it didn’t. The need to fix it did.
You can’t fix life. For all sorts of reasons: there’s no you to be fixed, there’s no life that’s broken, that’s just a position; a judgement and all positions are dualistic and therefore limited – truth is whole. This just is, actions appear to arise, results to follow – it’s not really cause and effect, all effects and causes coexist and cease to exist once you step back from that mode of perception.
But the more clearly we see, the more unbiased and unobstructed seeing becomes, the more that actions and responses flow from that clarity, rather than the conditioning that forms the basis for the personhood that was formerly believed to be ‘me’. Attuned action, we might say. It’s not a fix, don’t think of it that way. But it does flow, and as long as we’re not in that flow but are unborn of the flow, then we don’t find any contention.
Okay, that last bit might not make a lot of sense to some, or maybe it does, but I’m not really writing this as a way to explain things. I’m simply stating what’s seen and trying to do it as honestly as possible. Because that’s what’s seen, that’s how it appears. Is this truth? A view of truth? A version of truth? A rendering of truth? Can anything be true or not true? In the end what’s left? Except truth.
Beautiful, thank you