Week 3 of Gaylon Ferguson’s Tricycle Retreat, “Natural Bravery,” comes to a close today. This week we’ve been looking at fear, and learning how to look at it, touch it, and be there with it.
One retreat participant, Peter, observes:
After several sittings of trying for five minutes or so to focus on how fear feels in my body, I’ve come up with two quite different feelings. One seems to arise when the trigger is an assumed (by me, with no extrinsic evidence) rejection of me as a person – it’s a cold, hollow feeling, in the gut – not quite a hunger, which hollow might suggest – it’s too cold for that. I look at it, feel it, try not to fight it or reject it; sometimes tell it I’ll take care of it. And it passes, and with it, the trigger, the assumption of rejection.
Another feeling arises when I have a sense, a trigger feeling, of being overwhelmed by events. Often trivial events, such as a list of things I feel I “ought” to accomplish that morning. The fear is an antsy-ness, a feeling of “oh, dear, no way I can do it all, must rush, must be busy busy”. I’m rarely sitting when this occurs, and often this fear generates rather frantic and quite unsuccessful activity, busyness, but if I can catch myself, stop, focus a moment on the breath, then look within, feel that feeling, just keep looking and feeling, not fighting, not avoiding (or trying to, with frantic activity), it too passes. And then I can methodically get on with what’s on the list, and if I get it all done, fine, and if I don’t, well, perhaps this afternoon or tomorrow will do – and I realize that that will do very well indeed, there is in fact no “ought” at all. (Although the process occurs when I’m not sitting, I believe that the sitting exercise has helped me handle that fear feeling.)
These sound like fertile discoveries, filled with potential insight. The next step after WHATEVER we discover is to welcome that and then inquire further: what is the cold hollow feeling of rejection?
OR what is the feeling of being overwhelmed with busyness?
Note that there is no implication that the feelings of fear will go away or pass: we actually need them in order to look into them more deeply, right?
Peter then writes:
I’ll work at looking into the “sub-feelings”, whatever follows the initial feeling.
“No implication that the feelings of fear will go away….” But they do seem to vanish or change as I look into them without hostility or consciously trying to drive them away or convert them into something else. Yes, they must be there if I’m to look into them deeply -but I ought not cling to them, ought I? They’re also impermanent, right?
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