Nondual Zen Article:


nondual title

by Kathleen Sutherland

This month I have been practicing fearlessness. I am not practicing courage, which is the willingness and strength to face fears. Rather, I aim to eradicate fear itself, so that the virtues of strength, fortitude and courage are not needed. I needn’t be armed for battle. I can simply abide in peace.

I remind myself each morning that I am not afraid to face the day, not any part of it. Anxious feelings and thoughts arise anyway. But this is not My fear or anxiety. The fear can arise. There’s no need to meddle with that, which would likely only draw me further into it. Rather, I simply don’t give it credence as having any factual foundation. I refuse to believe, for example, that I am anxious because my foot hurts today and the last thing I need (in my opinion) is another physical limitation or source of pain. I notice the anxiety that arises, but then I see that this comes from a story of future. Without the story, the feeling is not fed, and soon fades away.

If, even as the witness, I still feel vicariously wrapped up in Kathleen’s worries, then I take another step back. I can witness the witness who watches over Kathleen with worry. The “witness-once-removed” has a smooth brow. She has stepped back far enough to watch the scene with interest and equanimity. She relaxes with a cup of tea. All is well.

When the mind returns to ruminating on troubles, I remind myself that I cannot think myself out of the relative world problems that trigger my fear. I cannot think myself out of chronic pain, try as I have, and so often continue to do. So I do my best, when worries arise, to think of my True nature instead: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all else shall follow.” This takes vigilance, a persistent redirecting of thoughts.

To focus on my true nature rather than the “problem,” I employ the mantra: “I am unborn, unbound and untouched.” Anxiety can rise and fall, but I notice that none of it touches me. I am pristine. I am safe.

Then the subtle fear of not being afraid arises. Is it safe for me to sit here at peace, unafraid? Dare I truly believe that I am unborn, unbound and untouched? I am so habituated to chronic anxiety that releasing it feels unsafe. Attention is needed to get through the day, admittedly – but not tension. In fact, I will probably live more skillfully, and certainly more pleasantly, without chronic tension.

Knowing that I only need do this today also helps. I can practice being at ease today, and reclaim my worrying tomorrow, if so desired. I surrender the fear only for today.

When witnessing and contemplating my true nature are not enough to lift the fear, I find prayer also helps. I ask God to take the burden of fear from me. This allows me to let the fear be, to sit with the feelings, knowing I am not alone.

I notice that my fear level vacillates greatly with mood. Yet I also know that I am untouched by moods. I have no preference for good or bad moods, for high or low energy, for headache or a lack thereof. And so I have no preference for the presence or absence of fear. It’s none of my concern. Let it rise and fall; it’s all the same to me. The extent to which I feel that it is important, that mood or fear is making or breaking my day, is precisely the extent of my (mis)identification with the character. So I remind myself again that I am fearless. This helps me to relax and even get on board with my True Self, the fearless one. This is a better place to be, as far as the character is concerned, but of absolutely no concern to Me. I am untroubled by whether Kathleen is afraid or not because I know she will eventually see the light. But if she turns to Me for help, then I do my best to guide her.

All that manifests in my personal world is consciousness expressing itself in this unique location, through this unique conditioning. I, the pinpoint labeled Kathleen, am a sentry for Oneness, assigned to experience what arises here. The clearer my mind, the more pleasant and interesting the experience. To serve God/Oneness best, I must cultivate clarity. Releasing fear is an essential part of this, as the dark future painted by fear casts a deep shadow over Now.

So I endeavor to fear nothing that arises, to recognize it as the luminosity, the natural radiance of Mind. I notice my fears are not of What Is, only of what isn’t. Fear picks up threads of past trauma and weaves them into stories of the future. I am fearing fantasy, my own imagination. Stay with what is, here and now. Here and now I am safe. This moment is my refuge. It is clean and clear, effulgent and eternal. Its content will change, but I will never have to deal with anything beyond this moment.

I was moved recently by Wendi Sagesse, in a YouTube video on her journey with cancer, relating how her 16-year-old son told her that she needn’t be afraid of death: “Right now you’re not dying, and when you’re into that future where you’re dying, you’ll be okay then. But you don’t have to worry about that now; that’s not happening now.”

We are always safe now. Sometimes that’s obvious (as I sit here in peace typing); sometimes it’s not, as when we’re in a crisis, or at the end of our lives. But the now always resolves. And the Self cannot perish. It remains unborn, unbound and untouched. And it is absolutely, always without fear, simply loving what is, loving its very Isness. “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” I John 4:18.

I have enjoyed feeling less anxiety this month. I need not fear Myself. Sometimes that takes trust, faith that I am always safe. Other times it seems quite obvious that I, the changeless one, can never be harmed by this play of light around me. It flashes brightly, casts shadows and darkness, glows warmly again, then sparkles with color. It is intriguing and beautiful. It is Me.