In my last post I mentioned the four words my teacher, Miao, has suggested to guide us as we confront challenges in our lives: courage, trust, faith, surrender. I’m thinking about how they support us to be fearless: to release our attachments and to embrace the impermanence which is inevitably a reality in our lives.
As I opened my journal this morning, a paper given to me long ago by my friend, Nancy, falls out. On it is the following quote entitled, “Giving up the Struggle,” from Gloria D. Karpinski’s book, Where Two Worlds Touch.
“During surrender, we eventually give up the struggle itself. That my be the hardest release of all. We know how to struggle, how to survive by forcing ourselves to cope, and push through odds. What we don’t know is how to relax, to trust, to allow the universe to carry us.”
For me, much of the struggle is about fear. I want to control the outcome because I am afraid of what might happen if I am not in charge. It’s admittedly tricky. Drifting through life with no plan may not be the best course, but I know that when I get hyper-focused on forcing a particular plan into reality I miss other possibilities which might have presented themselves along the way.
A wonderful teacher of mine used to say, “The universe is not a place of scarcity, Susan, it’s a place of abundance.” When I remember that, it’s easier to give up the struggle and to be more fearless.
Since I’m getting ready to send out an announcement that my book has been published, I decide to Google my book and see what comes up. I’m shocked to see that it is being advertised for sale by Langton Services in England for $38.70. Eventually I have the presence of mind to Google THEM and find that there are a million reviews about it being a highly suspect operation that just sends any order they receive in to Amazon and then they pocket the difference in price.
But what is relevant here is what instantly arose for me when I saw my book being sold in England. Suddenly the reality that I had really put my book out there where anyone anywhere could read it hit me. And immediately a whole compartment opened in my brain with a very old fearful program: had I revealed too much truth about myself? Would I now be judged harshly? Should I have protected myself more? What was I thinking when I wrote so openly about my vulnerabilities?
And once that compartment was opened, there was a whole cascade of fearful material. What would my conservative relatives across the country think of my “alternative” leanings? Had I just embarrassed both my deceased parents (not to mention myself) by revealing who I truly am? How had I forgotten what I put together growing up in the 50s in a small midwestern town – that it is safer to not be too different and if you are to not be too revealing of those parts of oneself. Would former friends across the country now be writing me off as a California crazy?
My mind began to relentlessly review what I had written, searching for the revelations that would bring on the imagined (or real) judgments I was now certain would come my way.
When I wrote the book, I wasn’t censoring for an expected audience. It was easy to sit, curled up on my cozy couch with a cup of tea and my laptop, trying to tell my story as honestly as possible – so easy that I wasn’t aware I was fearlessly breaking an old rule – keep the parts of you that are controversial or different or outside the box hidden and you will have fewer problems. I was emboldened by years of being a psychotherapist and encouraging people that the only way to have true intimacy is to courageously be real. So easy to do curled up on my couch – so challenging now that my book is out there for public consumption.
So how does one follow “The Fearless Way” when risking being real? I think it goes back to Miao’s teaching, “Letting go of grasping is letting go of attachment. Without attachment a natural fearlessness develops.”
I have to try to not be attached to how people view me or to my ability to control how people respond to who I am. I have to let go of my need to protect others by trying to be who I think they need me to be. I have to not be attached to any identity I think I have out there in the world. I have to let The Fearless Way take me on an adventure guided by four words Miao suggested to guide me on my way: courage, trust, faith, surrender.
Now that my book is out there, I have a posse of readers noticing how much is being written about change, uncertainty and impermanence. It’s a pretty hot topic – one no one can escape. Oh yes, as a psychotherapist I was trained to never say never or always, but in this case………………can you really think of anyone who doesn’t have to deal with change?
So, I open my email this morning and my dear friend, Nancy, has sent me an article from The Daily Good, entitled, “How to Get Good at Uncertainty.” I pass it on to you here because it seems pretty practical – just some simple, practical suggestions for Finding Peace With Uncertainty -by Leo Babauta.
My book has been published by Phoenix Century Press! AND it has a new title: The Fearless Way: Mudras, Mantras and Chemo – How Learning to Let Go Saved My Life. For several years (yes, I admit to taking years to write this book) the working title was Mudras, Mantras and Chemo. I liked that title because it communicated the essential elements of an Eastern world/ Western world connection, and that there was something about cancer involved, but I kept feeling that something essential was missing.
There were many late night discussions about whether this was really a book about a cancer journey, or was it a spiritual search story, or was it a book to empower others in their own challenges with change (impermanence for those of you who identify with that word). Everyone felt that the essential message was applicable to a broader audience than cancer survivors – though sadly, that seems to be becoming a pretty broad audience.
My good friend David came up with the tag line, “a spiritual search and cancer happened along the way.” That seemed to capture something important, but spiritual is such a loaded word, and I still felt there was something important in the book that I knew could be universally helpful.
Then last July my teacher, Yuan Miao, led a 4-day retreat in the mountains outside of Santa Cruz. One day she talked about being fearless, but she wasn’t talking about being macho and trying to “man up” or “woman up” as the case might be. She wasn’t talking about inappropriate risk taking. She wasn’t talking about denial. She simply looked at us at one point and said, “Greed.” Just that, “Greed.” And then there was a long, long pause while she let us think about that. Then she said, “Letting go.” Another long pause. “Letting go of grasping is letting go of attachment. Without attachment a natural fearlessness develops.”
And then I had the title for my book I had been searching for: The Fearless Way. How do we humans manage the challenge of caring deeply about people and things in our lives and still know that impermanence (change) is inevitable and be prepared to let go gracefully, allowing transformation to happen? My book is the story of my journey to develop that kind of Fearlessness, and my hope is to empower those of you who read it to become more fearless in your own life which I know inevitably calls on you to respond to change.