Examples: Monday, today, last week, Mar 26, 3/26/04
Welcome home! Please contact lincoln@newbuddhist.com if you have any difficulty logging in or using the site. New registrations must be manually approved which may take up to 48 hours. Can't log in? Try clearing your browser's cookies.

Fear and the Illusion of Safety

BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
edited March 13 in Buddhism Today

I've been thinking of ways for me to stay involved in New Buddhist and I figured perhaps every once in a while I'll bring up a topic for discussion that is based in dhamma but "real world" enough for any level of practitioner to take part in the discussion.

So for this post I'd like to discuss one of my favorite topics : Fear, with the simile of the tent :)

https://bhikkhujayasara.wordpress.com/2017/03/02/tumblr-topics-the-tent-analogy-fear-and-the-illusion-of-safety/

**The Tent Analogy: Fear and the illusion of Safety
**
Continuing my string of analogies and similes taken from real world experiences, I bring to you the tent analogy. This is one that anyone who has spent some time out in the wilderness can understand.

Fear has always been an interesting topic for me, most likely for two reasons, having severe asthma and allergies as a child which gave me a fear of not breathing, and because of the intense fear I felt as a child each night starting from about age 9 when I started having dreams of being abducted by aliens and then couldn’t get to sleep until 3am. There are few mind states more powerful in it’s control of the mind then fear, and it stems from the root of many of our issues in life, having aversion or attachment to experiences. This is a core part of the Buddha’s teaching.

About eight years ago, even before I was “officially a Buddhist”, I made the decision to study fear, and I didn’t have to go far to do it! we are all case studies in fear, we all have it in us. I decided to start putting myself gradually in fearful situations.

Now I’m not talking about skydiving and parkour and all the stuff I did later on, but basic fears, the most basic after fear of death and public speaking, one that goes back to the earliest days of mankind, fear of the dark.

For years I have been enjoying the woods of Vermont with family. Being an avid woodsman, or at least a wanna be woodsman/survivalist in training, I always jumped at the chance of being in a tent. In Vermont I’d stay in my own little camp site down by the stream. I could just see a light from the main camp site up the hill but due to the rush of the stream I couldn’t hear it. I was essentially alone in the woods by a stream in the dark.

I started out with a tent and a fire, then gradually over time, testing myself, getting use to being out in the woods in pitch dark, I moved to the point where I was sleeping essentially out in the open with just a tarp over me and my sleeping bag for rain protection.

The first night I tried sleeping out with no tent, laying there in my sleeping bag, staring out into pitch darkness, was an interesting experience. Anything could of come up and grabbed me, dragged me away in the night! many thoughts entered my head to this regard(including my old friends the aliens!), but I made it to sleep.

What I’ve come to realize is that a tent actually offers no REAL security, no real protection. If an animal(or alien ;) ) wanted to get you, a thin piece of cloth would not stop them. In fact I’ve watched a video where a bear literally took a guy away in his tent. A tent merely gives an illusion of protection. It provides an “out of sight, out of mind” type of mental barrier from the pitch darkness on the other end of that paper thin cloth. Inside the tent we feel safe, outside we feel exposed, and yet the tent cannot give us the shelter and security we seek.

Just like a tent, so many things in life offer this illusion of security, of safety from what lurks outside(or inside.. like old age, sickness, and death). It is often very easy for this to occur because we so desperately want to avoid all this stuff and live in a safe, secure, world that we fool ourselves easily; but we are never really safe, we never could be, because everything is uncertain and ever changing.

We can choose to fight that, ever clinging to the next thing that comes along bringing an illusion of security and safety, but the only way to be free from fear… is to embrace the fear, to embrace the change and uncertainty that life, this is when we begin to leave fear behind, and that brings a freedom few ever experience in this life.

Remember you always have a choice!

========================================

So in an existence where everything is impermanent, unstable, undependable, what can we hold on to as some kind of protection? nothing I'd say.

What other things in life offer us the "illusion" of safety and freedom from fear? or what would you like to share regarding the topic?

WrauneShoshin

Comments

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    What other things in life offer us the "illusion" of safety and freedom from fear?

    Dharma?

    • think I went wrong again . . . must be a trick question. o:)

    How does refuge fit in here?

  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
    edited March 13

    @lobster said:

    What other things in life offer us the "illusion" of safety and freedom from fear?

    Dharma?

    • think I went wrong again . . . must be a trick question. o:)

    How does refuge fit in here?

    I've thought about this, what exactly are you taking refuge in? the truth that the world is permanently impermanent, unsafe, unstable. There is nothing you can cling to, depend on, that won't slip through your fingers, like a person stranded in the ocean desperately trying to find a piece of debris that will keep them from drowning.

    So taking refuge in the triple gem is essentially accepting the truth about reality and the understanding that there is a way out, if you so choose to take it.

    It doesn't protect you from impermanence, it strengthens your mind with the truth and knowledge of a better way of handling this nature, and freedom from it.

    karastilobster
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @BhikkhuJayasara said: What other things in life offer us the "illusion" of safety and freedom from fear?

    Actually, probably all or any 'safe havens' you could think of.

    "Tornado Alley" and the Twin Towers immediately spring to mind...
    What we presume to be impregnable and impenetrable, is as far from the truth as it could be.
    The term 'safe as houses' is a blatant lie, as anyone who has ever experienced or witnessed a natural or man-made disaster, will testify. @Shoshin recently posted a thread on a freak and violent storm which hit the island she lives on, and mud-slides and flooding had disastrous consequences.
    I have often said, I take High Tea with our good and lifelong friend Lord Yama, every day.
    I swear, I take nothing for granted.

    I hear about Death every day;
    A previous Sales Assistant at my place of work (I never worked with her; she had retired before I joined) came in the other day to tell my colleagues with whom she HAD worked, that her husband had died the previous week. He had been retired but a fortnight, and they had been planning so many things together; a holiday to Australia to visit her sister; the purchase of a camper van to go rambling round the UK; a new extension on the house, and overhauling the garden... and she left the house for an hour to do some grocery shopping, came back home, and he was dead in his armchair. Heart attack.

    Yesterday, a lady came with her daughter to purchase some black trousers and a black top. For a funeral. Not for herself, but for the body of her father, who had died a few days previously. he had lost so much weight... Unknowingly, I handed her the receipt and advised her of our 35-day return policy.... when she explained that it was highly unlikely the clothes would ever be returned....
    So, I actually have conquered any fear of my forthcoming death. I watched my father, die. As things stand, I will probably do the same with my mother. It happens every day. And one day, don't know where, don't know when... It will come for me.
    My only concern is the method, and being in the "Right" Mind-set....

    I have ordinary, mundane, common-or-garden, bog-standard 'fears'...
    I hate needles. that is to say, injections.
    I dislike the thought of driving on the London Orbital Motorway, otherwise known as the M25, or at times, 'the world's biggest parking lot' due to continual and frequent roadworks on some point of it or other.....People drive like stupid maniacs - sorry, no other term for it; they're either totally unfamiliar with M'way driving and a paralysed with fear and drive abysmally, or they're so familiar with daily driving, they could do it with their eyes shut, and apparently do so, much to the consternation and danger to other road-users....

    So 'fear' is a tricky concept because while much of it is in the Mind, some of it does depend on the interaction, cooperation and contribution of others.
    I guess I fear the uncertainty and level-headedness (or lack of it) of others.....

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran
    edited March 13

    Being an avid outdoors woman myself, not only can a tent be a false sense of security but pretending you are safe in it can be an actual hazard. Almost every year, a few people die here while camping because they seek shelter from thunderstorms in their tents...and never see the trees before they fall on them. It seems that might be an apt analogy for life, too.

    If we spend too much time hiding from our illusory fears then we are narrowly focused and not seeing the big picture and you never know what is going to smack you from behind because you were too busy paying attention to your narrow fears. Didn't do much good to be afraid of the rain or lightning when it was a tree that got you. Just like it does little good to be terrified of public speaking, bats, or random kidnapping and murder when you are vastly more likely to be taken out while driving to the store for dinner. I know runners who run with concealed weapons, including guns, because someone was randomly killed 2000 miles away. But they think nothing of the 30,000 people a year who die in cars while they drive to the running path.

    It is interesting how well we justify our fears and yet justify not being afraid of the things that are more likely to be actual problems. I think that's true on a larger scale, too. We are afraid of death but we eat junk diets that are likely to bring death sooner, and with more suffering as well. Etc.

    Edited to add: I think it was Chogyam Trungpa who said this (the first time I saw it anyhow) and it seems to be true. Fear has little to do with the things we are afraid of, and entirely to do with our trust in our ability to handle the outcome of it. For me, that is 100% true. I worry about my kids constantly, for example, but when I really look at what I worry about it's my ability to handle whatever happens. I worry about dying in a car wreck, but it's really a lack of trust in my family to handle everything I do if I am gone, or handling a major injury that require months of hospital stay etc etc. Fear really is a lack of trust in oneself whether we are talking base fears or the deeper fears.

    Dhammikaperson
  • NamadaNamada Veteran
    edited March 13

    Its many diffrent ways to approach your fears.

    -You can focus on something else, for example bring your attention to your heart/body (my arm is never afraid).
    -You can meet your fears/phobias in smal steps, until the mind can really feel its nothing to be afraid for.
    - You can stay close to people, which are grounded and trustworthy when you face your fears.
    - You can eat a chocolate cake and focus on a pleasent feeling at the same time.
    - You can use your awarness and see that you are afraid, and just calm yourself down, "this mind its just riddiculus".
    - If worst case scenario really did happen, then you can seek friendship with other in the same situation and your family and try to not let the dark side eat you up, but practice metta.
    -You can prepare yourself for the worst case scenarios, so you are familliar to the situation when it happens.
    -You can practice metta meditation everyday, and then you are in a better shape to handle difficult things when they really happen.
    -Write things down in a jorunal, you can then laugh about what you was afraid for last year.

    There are no places that are really safe, so your wisdom has to be your real protection

    lobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    @Namada said:
    There are no places that are really safe, so your wisdom has to be your real protection

    Phew. Thanks @Namada (and Manjushri) good post. Personal wisdom or ones internal Manjushri/prajna/insight and the good companions of Sangha, the inspirational and their kin might be our best hope ...

  • pegembarapegembara Veteran
    edited March 14

    This passage speaks powerfully to me. The image is unmistakable.

    “For those standing in the middle of a lake,” said venerable Kappa,
    “when a fearful flood has arisen,
    for those overcome by old age and death, speak about an island, dear Sir,
    you must explain an island to me, so there will be no more after this.”

    “For those standing in the middle of a lake, Kappa,” said the Gracious One,
    “when a fearful flood has arisen,
    for those overcome by old age and death, I speak about an island, Kappa:

    “Having nothing, no attachment, this is the island with nothing beyond,
    this is called Nibbāna, I say, the end of old age and death.

    “Knowing this, those who are mindful, who are emancipated in this very life,
    come not under Māra’s control, they are not servants to Māra.”

    SN 5.11

    Verse 277: "All conditioned phenomena are impermanent"; when one sees this with Insight-wisdom, one becomes weary of dukkha (i.e., the khandhas). This is the Path to Purity.

    Verse 278: "All conditioned phenomena are dukkha"; when one sees this with Insight-wisdom, one becomes weary of dukkha (i.e., the khandhas). This is the Path to Purity.

    Verse 279: "All phenomena (dhammas) are without Self"; when one sees this with Insight-wisdom, one becomes weary of dukkha (i.e., the khandhas). This is the Path to Purity.

  • kerancekerance Birmingham, UK Explorer

    Hi @BhikkhuJayasara, your mention of the fear of death caused me to think of a social psychology theory called Terror Management Theory. Sorry if I get any of this wrong, I'm no expert and just trying to summarise it in my own words.

    Apparently, we are all looking for ways to avoid the impending doom regarding our death & if we do not fight against our death then we will be paralysed with fear.
    Cue a lot of self -preservation tactics; plastic surgery, fitness and health fanaticism - these acts will boost self-esteem and in turn make us more confident which helps to deny links to lesser minded animals, I suppose it makes us feel more valued and in control of our death.

    I wonder how a Buddhist way of dealing & accepting death would fit in with that. Maybe this is just all wiped out and a practising Buddhist wouldn't care for anything that boosts self-esteem?
    I know that's probably totally off topic, hope someone can give me their thoughts on it.

  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
    edited March 14

    @kerance said:
    Hi @BhikkhuJayasara, your mention of the fear of death caused me to think of a social psychology theory called Terror Management Theory. Sorry if I get any of this wrong, I'm no expert and just trying to summarise it in my own words.

    Apparently, we are all looking for ways to avoid the impending doom regarding our death & if we do not fight against our death then we will be paralysed with fear.
    Cue a lot of self -preservation tactics; plastic surgery, fitness and health fanaticism - these acts will boost self-esteem and in turn make us more confident which helps to deny links to lesser minded animals, I suppose it makes us feel more valued and in control of our death.

    I wonder how a Buddhist way of dealing & accepting death would fit in with that. Maybe this is just all wiped out and a practising Buddhist wouldn't care for anything that boosts self-esteem?
    I know that's probably totally off topic, hope someone can give me their thoughts on it.

    I have read about TMT before and it makes some decent points. To answer your question though, just like in psychology, especially related to treating PTSD and the like, you get over your fear by facing it in small doses over time.

    part of the Foundations of Mindfulness training is contemplating and developing awareness of the body in various ways, from the arising and passing of the breath, to postures, activities, examining various parts of the body, internally and externally, and contemplating that this body will one day be devoid of life and will decay according to it's nature.

    the more you face the inevitable, the more you make yourself aware and comfortable with it, the less your fear will control you and you can then get down to the business of doing the best you can with the time you have left, which could be the next 10 seconds, or 10 years.

    lobster
  • kerancekerance Birmingham, UK Explorer
    edited March 14

    @BhikkhuJayasara said:
    the more you face the inevitable, the more you make yourself aware and comfortable with it, the less your fear will control you and you can then get down to the business of doing the best you can with the time you have left, which could be the next 10 seconds, or 10 years.

    Thank you for taking the time to get back to me. I have been looking into lamrin meditations so have started on the journey to make myself aware of it. Slowly does it tho :)

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    In general I'm not fearful of many physical or psychological things like heights or spiders or death (I don't think). I do have a strong fear of meeting new people in social situations though, I'm fine in meeting new people professionally it's just socially. I think the difference is that professionally I'm confident that I have something to offer that they will value. Socially I've been on the outside much of my life and don't have the same level of confidence that others will accept or value what I have to offer.

    Trying to face it I don't avoid social situations anymore but I still am not any good at approaching people or breaking the ice.

  • upekkaupekka Veteran

    we are afraid of death
    www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.004.than.html

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    @BhikkhuJayasara said:

    part of the Foundations of Mindfulness training is contemplating and developing awareness of the body in various ways, from the arising and passing of the breath, to postures, activities, examining various parts of the body, internally and externally, and contemplating that this body will one day be devoid of life and will decay according to it's nature.

    <3

    Mind fear, anxiety, yo-yo emotions, invisible trump-daleck-attack phobia :3 etc are difficult to soften and dissipate as and when they arise ...
    However as soon as we say, 'what are the associated physical sensations?' we have:

    • agitated breath to lengthen and soften
    • knots in the hara (stomach) to relax
    • tension in the face, shoulders and neck to let go, loosen
      etc.

    We may not 'be this body', ultimately we are not this mind or fear.

    One who has gradually practiced,
    Developed and brought to perfection
    Mindfulness of the in-and-out breath
    As taught by the Enlightened One,
    Illuminates the entire world
    Like the moon when freed from clouds.
    (Theragatha 548)
    http://breathmeditation.org/the-buddhist-tradition-of-breath-meditation

    We haz plan!

Sign In or Register to comment.