Hindrances: Fear

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So, good morning, you don't have to say anything, I'd rather actually that you'd be so still inside that there wouldn't be really anything to say anyway, when there really is profound, there is profound silence all around anyway, but when we are in touch with it, we really are still very heart open, not even happy, just available.


So, here we are again, sitting, I don't know if you can tell, but I love this practice, just walking in here and doing the Domo forms and the Domo chant, and then just seeing the shaft of light, you know, through the window, stopping long enough, being stopped long enough these seven days to be able to just appreciate life is such a gift, you know, it doesn't really matter what we do with it, whether we have a good time or a bad time or this kind of time or that kind of time, it's just a gift. We've given ourselves a gift, each one of us and for each other, a gift of being able


to just simply stop all of the extraneous, anyway, distractions as much as possible and give ourself a moment after moment after moment, opportunity to simply be alive. What a relief, after all that. So, there are many approaches, we make up many approaches, Zen does, Buddhism does, as well as in our own minds, we make up things to keep us interested in wanting to give up


being busy for a little bit and pay some attention to our own life. So, some approaches to simply being present are working with koans, being involved in concentration states, investigating the teaching, you know, contemplating the teaching, excuse But it is kind of funny, don't you think, that we human beings need to be coaxed, you know, need to be interested, need to have some carrots put in front of us simply to notice the miracle of our existence. It's just that we make it so complicated, so unnecessarily complicated. So, anyway, at this time during Session, I often talk about the hindrances because


it is the hindrances that get in the way initially, anyway, of our simply being able to be present. And the hindrances, the traditional hindrances are, did you just repeat them yourself in your own mind? I hope you did. I hope you're that familiar with them. Greed, grasping after something, grasping after, you know, the answer to the koan or the particular mind-state or whatever it is, aversion, criticizing yourself and everybody else who does things the way they do them, sleep, you know, torpor, just another way from preventing us from being present and awake, restlessness, being, you know, excited


about the practice, even. And the other one is doubt. That's my favorite one because that was my biggest hindrance, so I know something about it. It's very, I respect it, it's a very respectful hindrance if you have that one. Of course, all of them are. We flow through all of them, just some of them are kind of, we major in certain ones usually. I majored in doubt. But there's another one that actually I keep, I always say when I mention the five hindrances, I always slip this one in, it's not really one of the traditional ones and I've never really talked about it, but I always mention it because I actually think that it's underneath the other hindrances and it's the one thing that we really, it's down there all the time


and we don't really ever talk about it. It's not sex, which we don't also ever talk about, but, and it's not power, you know, although we should talk about that one more. It's fear, basically being afraid. I've been living off of liquids, you know, the past seven days or something like that. They're great. Fear is really interesting and it may be for you one of the things that this week or today or, you might take a look at it, it might come up for you or in fact it might be hidden but actually in there somewhere because if you have the hindrance of greed or of aggression


or anger in particular, what is underneath that very frequently is fear, fear of being hurt. So, maybe for you, anger, hurt, fear, based on the delusion that we're separate, of course. Now, usually, when we talk about fear, we talk about, I am afraid of commitment, I am afraid of sushin, which is a good thing. I am afraid of failure, I am afraid of blah, [...] whatever it is. And then when we study, we usually study the object of the fear. In other words, we study the content of our mind rather than the process. So, I would like to take us a little bit away from the content, whatever it is you think you're afraid of,


and settle down and look a little bit at the fear itself. Like, you know, Roosevelt said, it's something about, something about, it's only... But fear itself, yeah, that's very good. We have nothing to fear but fear itself. That was very good. We are even afraid, actually, of being present. It's true. We're afraid of being present. We're also, fundamentally, many of us, afraid of being who we are. Two big ones that I didn't mention, but actually, they're huge. And so, some things about fear. Well, the main thing about fear is, is that it keeps us stuck.


Because what actually happens when we're afraid? When we're afraid, what it means is that we've come right up to something that we think is, of, is, of, of, is. We think of as, anyway, our edge. And over that edge is something that we don't know about, which our mind, in the future, says, it's probably, maybe we're going to, maybe, we don't even know. Maybe, or maybe we do know, we're going to get hurt. Anyway, we don't know. Fear is always of the mind, and fear is always in the future. Always. Those of you who have actually had something to really be afraid of, will know that when you're really face-to-face with something that you really need to take care of, like, you know, a dog that's coming at you, or something like that, you are not thinking that, in the future, this dog is going to bite me. No.


You are actually involved with taking care of not being bitten by this dog. Then, later, you're just panicked. You know, later, you're really afraid. Fear clicks in after. Or, like, if you're afraid of dogs, and you walk down a street, you may think, oh, yeah, I know a dog is five houses down, and it's in a fence, but as I come close to the fence, I'm really, you know, my heart starts pounding, and so on and so forth, because, in the future, I may be bitten by the dog. So, it's like future or past, but it's never really present. It's of the mind. So, when we walk up to what we're afraid of, we're walking up to what is unknown. But it is actually this unknown that is the womb of our rebirth.


So, for example, there is a stage of practice when we want to let go of all of, or a certain part, anyway, of what we're studying, some kind of behavior that we know leads us to something that causes us suffering. So, we meticulously study that by being present and watching the pattern of that. Am I making sense? I don't think... We meticulously study that, and then we get to a place where we know for sure three, you know, patterns back, three things back on this pattern, that I'm not going to do this over here, because I know it ends up with this over there, and I'm not going there anymore, I don't want to suffer that way. So, you don't do this. But in this situation, you have no idea. You know you don't want to do the old pattern, but you have no idea what you are supposed to do.


You just know you don't want to do the old thing. So, you feel like a complete, you know, ninny. You feel very young. You feel like 16 or 15, or whenever it is, how old you were when that pattern started to click in that went awry. You go all the way back to feeling that age. And then you just stand there feeling like, you know, 16. Breathe, breathe, breathe, wait to see what actually you do when the thing happens and you really respond to it instead of responding out of an old pattern. So, it is out of this unknown that we birth who we really are. So, fear prevents us from taking that step into the unknown.


... Now, some people, in that place of not knowing what to do, fill it up with mental activity, ideas of control and manipulation, or I am going to do this, or I am not going to do that, or whatever. I would suggest to you that during this time of unknowing that you allow yourself to fall back into the heart, because the heart always knows fundamentally that we are connected, that we are not separate from what we think we are afraid of, that we are one with the so-called object and we are one with the fear.


If you go from the heart, you can step over that edge. ... If you stay in the mind, the mind will continue that sense of separation, which is its job, and you will have a lot of difficulty walking into the unknown or staying in the unknown. ... My brother, before Seshin... I always call my brother, actually, now. My family is very reduced now. So, basically, now I only have my brother to call. But I used to call my family, and I always still do, actually. I call my family before I do a Seshin, because they know now that when I'm in Seshin, I don't call them, and I don't want them to call me.


So I always tell them when that is, so they don't get worried or whatever. And I say hello, and I say goodbye. So this time, when I called my brother, he said this terrific thing. He said, Tia, give up everything you know. This is how he's talking to me. Tia, give up everything you know, everything you think, every idea you have, who you think you are, completely give it up, get rid of it, and do... Well, actually, what he said was, be somebody different by the end. That's great. But anyway, what he meant was, what he meant to say was, wonder who you'll be at the end.


Just let everything go. It's like, you know, like Suzuki Roshi's Beginner's Mind. That's what he's talking about. In Beginner's Mind, there are many possibilities. In an expert's mind, this is Suzuki Roshi, in an expert's mind, there are no possibilities, because you already know everything. So it's not so much that we want this Beginner's Mind, really, in order to grow something. It's really not exactly the right word. It's Beginner's Mind so that we can release everything that prevents us from actually being who we actually really are, which is who we are all the time anyway. It's just we're not comfortable in it. And when we talk about freedom,


I don't want to confuse you a little bit, so maybe I'm being tangential. But anyway, when we talk about freedom, we're talking about being free of the condition, the karmic conditioning, that is the building up of all of these things that simply prevents us from being present. And we're just afraid to give up this stuff. That's all. Because we maybe fear... You know, we just fear to be who we are. That's the truth of it. We fear to be the karmic, the result of the conditioning, the karmic conditioning that we ended up being. We're afraid to be that person. But, you know, like that book of Pema Chodron, Start Where You Are, we have to actually start where we are all along the path. You keep finding out who we are, you know,


at a deeper and deeper level all the time. We always have to start and accept exactly the person we are right now. So when we sit, that's the person we open to. That's the person we sit with. And it's not the content of the person we're interested, but the process of the mind with which we look at that conditioning. Awareness really is everything. Not the awareness that is the identified, you know, the dualistic conscious awareness, but the boundless awareness that is not me personally, but that just exists as it is already.


There, there is no fear. No, none. So in Buddhism, there are five traditional fears. Let me see. The traditional ones are loss of livelihood, loss of one's reputation, fear of unusual states of mind, fear of death, and fear of public speaking. Two which... Why is that funny? Okay. I can add... Huh? You want that list? Okay. I'll give you even more. Okay, I'm going to read a list of things to be afraid of.


You can pick your... Pick your fear. Loss of livelihood. These are the five traditional ones. Loss of livelihood, loss of one's reputation, unusual states of mind, death, and public speaking. Then there's fear of not being loved, fear of not being able to love, fear of being hurt, fear of being unseen, fear of our strong emotions. Some people have fear of any emotions at all. Fear of change, fear of financial ruin, fear of consequences of our behavior, fear of sex, fear... Why stop there, actually? Anyway, there are dozens more. It actually, again, doesn't matter what the object of the fear is. Forget that. Look at... Study the fear itself. So, it's not so much why I am afraid,


but what is fear? And I might say that when we study it, we study it gently, because we really are afraid. And I would suggest, too, to put yourself in a situation, put yourself in the situation that brings up fear for you. I know that seems like an odd thing to do, but sometimes Zen Center helps you with this kind of thing. Put yourself in... When I was 13, I used to... I should hurry up, actually. When I was 13, when I was actually younger than 13, when I was about 9, my father took my brother and I and my mother to a movie picture. It was the first 3D picture, I think it was called. It came from outer space. And my father was in advertising. I grew up loving advertising, actually, because it's an art form, as an art form.


But anyway, Universal was one of his clients, so we used to go to these movies, and it came from outer space, it was a Universal picture. So we went, and we put on these glasses, and, you know, within 10 minutes, I spent, you know, I immediately underneath the seat. And I spent, I basically spent the entire rest of the movie underneath the seat. My brother loved it. This is the difference between my brother and myself. I was really scared. You know, it affected me. I really thought it was coming from outer space. But anyway, when I was older, around 15, I think, another movie. And so I didn't see a scary movie until I was older, and I thought, well, okay, I can take this. And I went to see, when I was a teenager, I went to see I Was a Teenage Werewolf. I'm scared to death. I was so scared, it really scared me. I believed everything. I still, to this day, I can't see scary movies because I believe them.


So, a friend of mine, Mickey, my used-to-be old friend, lived, I lived, here's a street, and here was another street, and I lived kind of at the end of this street. Anyway, it was right diagonally across from Mickey's house. And at night, I used to stay over at her house until really late at night. We used to talk about, you know, philosophy and literature, you know, like teenagers do, boys and things and stuff, well into the night. And so I would go home, like, 2 o'clock in the morning, and it would be dark and totally safe where I grew up. But anyway, I would be really scared, and I would make myself not look behind me, because I knew behind me was the werewolf. And I made myself walk really slowly across the street to see if I could face fear, my fear, you know. Anyway, so put yourself in situations where this comes up for you


and study the mind of fear in a gentle way. All right. And the reason is to study fear is because fear, I think, is under most of the hindrances, and it is the main way that prevents us from being present. And being present is what we're about. So the opposite of fear is not to develop courage. The opposite of fear is to be familiar and to be close to fear itself. So learning about love is to study what isn't love. You know, to learn what is non-self, we study the self.


To learn what is fearless, we study fear. So how do we study? The same way we study everything else. You've heard it, you know, from me anyway, hundreds of times. There are a number of ways to study. First of all, you have to stop. You can't run by, you know, the thing that you're supposed to be studying. You actually have to stop and know that whatever it is that you have vowed to study, you're there for.


Stop. Be present. Acknowledge that it actually is there. For some people it might help to label it. Feel it as sensation in the body. Don't identify it as you. You might want to ask questions about it, like what happens before I am blank, afraid, or whatever particular state of mind you're studying. What words come up? Who am I when I feel that way? Investigate. And, you know, I'm saying this, I guess, it's because it's the second day of seishin. So maybe still, I think for many people, there still are these hindrances. But if we really are attentive


and surrender, fundamentally surrender, let go of the self, over and over again, by simply coming back over and over again to the present, to the body, to the breath. Eventually, of course, these ways of practicing are not needed because as we settle more deeply to simply zazen, simple awareness of the present moment, just presence itself, we're not doing these practices. We do practices when we're not present, when we're in trouble, when we're suffering, when we're obsessed by something, then we practice until finally we can just surrender, let go, and be present. So my brother said,


letting go of all that we know and simply being aware, getting close to fear, or whatever it is that prevents you from imagining that you're not already present and home anyway. We have to pass through whatever it is or drop away whatever it is. So I brought a poem for Dana. She likes this poem. And I think it fits. So I'm going to read it. Anybody who speaks Italian, please forgive me. The first little bit of the poem is in Italian and besides, it's old Italian. It's from Dante


from the poor Purgatorio. That's the beginning of it. And the poem is, And you will come at a turning of the trail to a wall of flame after a hard climb and the exhausted dreaming you will come to a place where he whom you have walked this far will stop, will stand beside you on the treacherous steep path


and stare as you shiver at the moving wall the flame that blocks your vision of what comes after and that one who you thought would accompany you always who held your face tenderly a little while his hands, who pressed the palms of his hands into drenched grass and washed from your cheeks the soot the tear tracts he is telling you now that all that stands between you and everything you have known since the beginning is this, this wall between yourself and the beloved between yourself and your joy the riverbank swaying with flowers the shaft of sunlight on the rock


the song will you pass through it now? Will you let it consume whatever solidness this is you call your life and send you out a tremor of heat a radiance a changed flickering thing so we have given ourself this gift this gift of session please for yourself and everyone and I'm sure you will because that's what we're here to do


we will all, you know, do our best passing through whatever your particular, our particular wall of flame is to the unknown being the boundless joy that we each truly are thank you for doing this, it's great, you know