Meeting Fear with an Open and Engaged Presence

This is a wonderful meditation I use whether I am walking or actually meditating…as it makes me slow down and recognize if I am pushing fear into a compartment. This is from Tara Brach PhD.

Find a comfortable place to sit where the view is not distracting or confined. You might look out a window or at a blank wall or any uncluttered space in your house. With your eyes open, rest your gaze on a point slightly above your line of sight. Soften your eyes so that they are unfocused and you are also receiving the images on the periphery of your vision. Relax the flesh around your eyes, letting your eyeballs float gently in their sockets. Take a few moments to do a quick scan through your body, releasing any tension, especially in the shoulders, hands and belly.

Now with a receptive awareness, begin noticing the arising and disappearing of sounds in the space around you. Spend a minute or two simply listening. Be aware of nearby sounds, noticing their beginnings and endings. Notice the spaces between sounds. Become aware of more far-off sounds you can detect. Relax and open to the most distant sounds you can detect. Sense how everything you perceive–sights, sounds, tastes, sensations, moods–arises and passes away within boundless awareness.

Continue with your eyes open, downcast or if you prefer, closed. Let your attention rest softly on the out-breath, letting go into space with each exhale. Follow each breath as it dissolves into space. Sense that your awareness is mingling with endless space, absolutely open, boundless.

As the breath comes in, simply rest in openness, listening and awake, doing nothing. Then again let go outward with the exhale. Inhaling, rest in receptive, spacious awareness. Exhaling, relax into openness. You can meditate with the breath in this way for as long as you like.

Now resting in this natural openness, bring to mind a situation that evokes fear. Ask yourself: “What is the worst part of this situation? What am I really afraid of?” While your inquiry may arouse a story, if you stay alert to the sensations that arise in your body, the story becomes a gateway to accessing your feelings more fully.

Paying particular attention to your throat, chest and stomach area, discover how fear expresses itself in you. You might kindly invite the fear: “Be as much as you really are.” Now as you breathe in, let the breath directly touch the place of the most pain and vulnerability. Bring your full attention to the sensations of fear. As you breathe out, sense the openness of space that holds your experience. Feel the fear as if floating and untwisting itself in this openness.

What does the fear actually feel like? Where in your body do you feel it most strongly? Do the sensations change or move to different parts of your body? What is their shape? What color, if any? How do you experience fear in your mind? Does it feel connected? Is your mind racing or confused?

With each in-breath, feel your willingness to gently connect with the waves of life that are unpleasant and disturbing. Breathing out, let go and feel how the waves of fear belong to a much larger world, an ocean of openness. You can surrender your fear into this vast and tender space of healing. Breathing in, you contact the immediate sensations with a kind and clear attention. Breathing out, you realize your belonging to the boundless awareness that has room for all of life’s fears.

If you feel defended or numb, focus on your physical sensations and contact them fully with the in-breath. If you feel as if the fear is too much, emphasize breathing out–letting go into openness and safety. It can help to begin again by listening to sounds or opening your eyes. You might remember the spaciousness of the world or reflect with compassion on all those who at the moment are also feeling fear. You might bring to mind a person or spiritual figure or place in nature that conveys a sense of safety. Once you feel that you belong to a larger world, again attend to the way that fear expresses through your body and mind. With time, you will discover an artful balancing of touching fear and remembering openness.

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