You just might have noticed that there’s a lot of fear showing up in our world right now. And since for almost all of us fear is the enemy, the tiger padding along behind us while we try very hard to pretend we don’t hear it, don’t smell it, can’t feel its hot breath on the back of our neck—and since running away hasn’t seemed to help—maybe it’s time to try a different approach.
Some years ago I read a beautiful parable about fear, told by Jon Mundy in Awaken to Your Own Call. He speaks of a dream he had:
In the dream I was with two other young men. We were walking and came upon a peninsula with an amusement park on it. On the edge of the park was a tunnel, like a tunnel of love -- only this was the tunnel of fear. One of the young men was particularly anxious to show us the inside of the tunnel. Though the other young man was very resistant to going through the tunnel, for some reason the two of them went through while I walked around on the outside. When they came out at the other end, the hair of the fellow who had been resistant had turned white. He fell on the ground in a fit, foaming at the mouth.
After a while, the young man recovered and my companions proceeded further onto the peninsula, but I decided to stay behind. I climbed onto the top of the tunnel through an attic or loft-like door, much like the one on our barn when I was a boy. It was my intention to expose the inside of this place and show that it was just machinery that had caused my friend to become so fearful.
When I entered the loft, I found that indeed the place was filled with demonic creatures, just as one would see in a book on demonology. I looked at them and proceeded to walk into the room. As I did, they started to back away respectfully. I realized that as long as I was not afraid they were powerless over me. For some reason, however, I was not afraid and kept moving forward. They kept moving back. Finally I stopped, and one of the larger and more human-looking ones approached me. She asked me if I would like to see the devil himself. I said I would, and she led me into a side room.
The devil himself was a little boy sitting in an aluminum lawn chair, with his arms resting regally on the arms of the chair and his head bent down to his chest as though he were pouting about something. I walked over to him, knelt down beside him, put my arms around him and said, “I love you. I love you.” As I said that he began to shake violently and started to scream “No. No. You can’t say that!” And pouf! he disappeared like so much gas. At that very instant, I awoke.
The dream was a clear reminder that in the presence of love, fear is absolutely powerless.
So what would it look like if we knelt and put our arms around the little-kid devils in our lives? What would happen if we let our fear, our anger, or our grief come up inside? If instead of running from it or locking it down in our inner dungeon we opened our arms and said, “Come ahead, I embrace you, I welcome all of you” and just felt it? Not shutting it down. Not acting it out. Not wandering off on the path of avoidance. Just feeling it: letting the inner rush of chemicals we call an “emotion” rise and then fall, as it will do very, very swiftly when our fear-driven mind stops reaching out and grabbing it with story-hooks.
For there is magic in turning to face the “horrible” emotions we have demonized: the lurking fears, rejected anger, unwelcome grief that our mind is trying to explain, project outward or shut down. That magic shows up, pouf! each time we stop running and turn to face our own most-feared emotions. When we have learned and practiced the skill of just feeling, then we are willing to embrace our feared emotion as it comes upon us, passes through and leaves us shining in the freedom revealed in its very core.
For when we move willingly to embrace our demonized emotion, gently giving it room just to rise and fall, we bring the presence of Love itself. Often the fear kicks and screams for a little while as we embrace it, then just as in Jon Mundy’s dream, it goes “pouf!” and is gone like vapor, like the unreality that it is. And in its place—peace. Love. And freedom from the endless blackmail: “Do this, avoid that, project this onto someone quickly or you might have to feel…”.
If we truly do want peace and love to prevail in our world, where’s that going to start? At the ballot box? In the halls of power? By decree or at gunpoint? Let’s deal with the dreaded devils inside us first, the ones we banished to our shadowed inner dungeon long ago.
What if every single time we feel that niggling sensation in the gut and hear the words, “I just don’t feel like attending that function / giving that talk / calling that person / completing that task / (you fill in the blank) today”—what if every single time we were to ask, “If I DID do that, what feeling would I have to face? What would I have to feel if I followed through with that?” And then, what if we just allowed that feeling to come up right now?
What if in that moment we turned and faced the tiger that’s been padding along behind us? After all, we know what happens when we do that, don’t we? Yes, the fearsome tiger does eat us. We do feel the intensity—for a few moments. And then, who are we? The tiger that chased us. Life, that loves us enough to keep chasing us down until we turn, face it, and surrender.
What if we became the tiger, every time, by letting our fears go ahead and eat us up, every time? By bringing Love to fear, every time? And by receiving, every time, the gift of Truth in the core of fear, panic, terror? Who would we be then in our heart of hearts? Who would we be then in the world? What could be accomplished, fulfilled, brought to fruition through us?
Feelings turn into blackmailers when we fear to experience them. Then we pay, and pay, and pay, doing our endless and painful dance of avoidance at the edge of the abyss where that tiger waits. We pay personally in the coin of depression, anxiety, stagnation, illness. We pay nationally and internationally in the coin of violence, hatred, division, planetary rape and neglect.
We may not feel we can do much about what we see on our screens and all too often in our own city, our own neighborhood. We try; we vote for this person or that, we protest against this outrage or that inequity. Yet doesn’t it seem that despite all our good intentions and even the actions we do try to take, we are all being swept willy-nilly down the tunnel into the devil’s playground?
The tiger is right at our heels these days. What if we turned to face it?
Is this the time to face your remaining fears about being “out there” in some way, about being “on your own” in business or in life, about moving from thinking and discussing into real, practical action? Or your fears about what this world is coming to and where we’re all going?
Not sure you want to? Try asking “If I DID do that, what would I have to feel?” And then, just as an experiment, as that very feeling arises in response, try closing your ears to any mind-stories for just a moment. Try feeling that emotion rush through your body without words of reaction, stories of opinion or explanation; try falling into it and through it to find the gift, the peace, in the heart of it. And if there is not peace in us, how can we expect to find it reflected in our world?
What would happen if we really did learn to love the real demon that bedevils us —not whatever “devil” we have projected onto the world stage, but the demonized emotion stuffed into in our own shadow? Would it, do you suppose, go “pouf”? And then what would the outer fear-fed devils do?
What if it’s really true that “in the presence of love, fear is absolutely powerless”?
How will it feel, do you suppose, when an ever-growing number of us know from experience that there is nothing here but freedom, peace, love? And when there is love and peace, truly and irrevocably, in our own hearts, how many devils enthroned on the world’s outer stage will go pouf? Shall we find out together?
In my experience, facing that tiger takes practice, lots of it. If you email me, I’d be happy to send you a link to download my CD Making Friends With Feelings in mp3 form. No charge, no strings. In fact, if you find them useful, here’s written permission to pass the files along to anyone else who’d like to have them. My only request: please do pass along the entire CD, all 11 tracks; they’re a unit.
Given some getting-in-shape time, the graduated emotional workouts on that CD will change forever our relationship with the demonized, banished, and projected emotions we have all worked so hard not to feel or acknowledge. The workouts take less than a minute each. And my experience says that if we want our world to change, here’s a place to start.