There's a story in the book Bits and Pieces about a man who is driving through the dark country in the middle of the night when his tire goes flat. He gets out of his car and opens the trunk only to realize he doesn't have a lug wrench with which to change the tire. Up ahead, there is a farm house so the man starts walking towards it. In the span of time that it takes him to walk from his car to the house, his mind begins to play out the possible scenarios of what is about to happen. He sees himself ringing this door in the middle of the night and some really mad farmer answering the door. The man, in fact, gets himself so worked up and angry that the farmer might yell at him that by the time he rings the doorbell, his fear is no longer fiction in his head. A voice yells out, who is? And the man screams, you know who it is and I don't want your lug wrench now, anyway!
The outcome stories that our minds can make up are CRAZY! I often catch myself in the middle of one of these stories and just think what is going on in my head?!
Try out this definition of fear: "Fear is: Foreseeing a negative potential as an outcome."
Have you ever been in a yoga class where the instructor gently leads her sequence to headstand and you stop, immobilized with fear, because you KNOW the end result is you flipping over? You may have even done headstand a million times before but you know, because fear has gripped your biceps with her talon-like fingers, that you are going to fall.
So, let's back up, because who wants that story in their head?! Is it possible to stop yourself in the midst of one of these stories and focus on courage?
There's a Zen story called Without Fear. It goes like this...
" During the civil wars in feudal Japan, an invading army would quickly sweep into a town and take control. In one particular village, everyone fled just before the army arrived - everyone except the Zen master. Curious about this old fellow, the general went to the temple to see for himself what kind of man this master was. When he wasn't treated with the deference and submissiveness to which he was accustomed, the general burst into anger. "You fool," he shouted as he reached for his sword, "don't you realize you are standing before a man who could run you through without blinking an eye!" But despite the threat, the master seemed unmoved. "And do you realize," the master replied calmly, "that you are standing before a man who can be run through without blinking an eye?'"
If in calm, happy times we soundly understand fear is a discreditable emotion, why does it always return? Remember that, in the Yoga Sutras, Patangali says we create our own suffering. The man heading to the farmhouse created his own suffering and angst by imagining the worst outcome. Fear survives because we feed it and allow it to.
Eckhart Tolle said, "The greater part of human pain is unnecessary. It is self-created as long as the unobserved mind runs your life."
So, today's mantra: "I am strong. I am brave. I control my outcomes."