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Thread: Overcoming Fear

  1. #1

    Overcoming Fear

    Hello all! First time starting a thread (oooooooh :idea: )

    Anyways, occasionally in between practice periods while contemplating things like emptiness (you know, like any normal 19 year old :shock: ) I will be overcome with this powerful wave of emotion which I feel translates, roughly, as fear. Fear that if everything I see isn't real, and that I'm not real, and that if I progress any further or investigate any deeper I will cease to exist. Sounds crazy and it is. There is supposed to be peace in seeing everything as an illusion, but I just feel like I may be schizophrenic and that I am trapped inside my own head. After some reassurance, yes, I calm down but I feel like that may only hurt my practice, reinforcing the fallacies I seem to cling to.

    I read somewhere that fear often precedes great awakening; while I realize that isn't the "goal" of zazen, I wonder if I'm missing out on a grand opportunity for understanding by being so overcome with this fear that everything will turn to dust if I "realize" emptiness. Thoughts, experiences?


  2. #2

    Re: Overcoming Fear

    hey Taylor maybe you are schitz but before you accept that you need to personally talk to a Dr. who can diagnose you or rule out conditions.

    You will feel some anxiety as what you call reality seems to fade or drop away and you see that you seem to approaching the earth's horizon.

    With no gravity to hold you and nothing beneath you, you become free and unattached.

    Don't feel alone, we are all in the same mind and if you allow yourself to, you will come to recognize that all who are in this state at the same time are joined.

    Letting go until you hear a signal to stop the meditation is not letting go forever.

  3. #3

    Re: Overcoming Fear

    You're not really responding to emptiness, you're responding to an idea you have of what emptiness is and what it means.


  4. #4

    Re: Overcoming Fear

    Hi Taylor,

    In Zen Practice, we have to be careful of certain games the mind will play during Zazen once in awhile ... including brief periods of paranoia or panic, unusual visual and auditory sensations, memories arising from deep down in our subconscious. We are not used to the stillness and quiet of Zazen, and it lets certain memories, emotions, fears and like psychological states rise to the surface ... or allows some things (spots in our eyes that are always there even though not usually noticed, background sounds) to be noticed that are usually blocked out by all the noise and busyness in our heads, senses and around us.

    Once, during a Sesshin, I became irate inside because I felt the monk at Sojiji sitting next to me was "encroaching on my space". I once had a little Buddha pop out of the wall and chat with me for several minutes (I pinched myself ... he stayed!), and felt like I was floating in the air. It is common during Sesshin, because of the strains involved, the "sensory deprivation", to experience such things as emotional swings, hearing becoming so sharp you can be disturbed by an ant walking across the room, strange bodily sensations such as feelings of floating or being giant sized, and paranoia.

    If it is just once in awhile ... and if you are aware of this, and it was not too overwhelming ... then I do not think it cause for worry. If it becomes too overwhelming, break off that sitting and take a little time off until you cool down. If it becomes a regular event, or too profound, that may be a sign of something else that needs to be approached. But, once in awhile ... I would not be concerned.

    In our way of sitting,, a feeling of fear is not considered anything particularly positive ... nor anything to particularly be afraid of and run from for that matter.

    We tend to call such things "Makyo", defined as follows (by Daido Loori Roshi). He speaks of hallucinatory like experiences, but I would put a panic attack or paranoia in there too ...

    In Zen, hallucinations are called makyo. It is not unusual for practitioners sitting in meditation for long periods of time to experience makyo. Some people feel like they are levitating, others see visions of the Buddha bathed in light, some hear sounds or voices. This in itself is not a problem. The problem arises when we confuse these experiences with enlightenment. When students come to me in dokusan to give me elaborate description of their makyo, a common response from me could be something like, ďOh, donít worry about itóit will go away. Maybe youíre not sitting straight.Ē In other words, donít attach to it. But if a dream is real, why isnít makyo real? Are dreams, makyo, enlightenment and delusion the same, or are they different?

    We learn from all these experience ... we learn how the mind is like a theatre, and creates our experience of the life-world.

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS - "Emptyness" is not anything like losing yourself in a nihilistic, meaningless, black hole void! It is not about disappearing. Far from it. Although we should dance the dance (and be the dance danced by the dance dancing the dance), and not try to describe it in words too much (I am going to make an exception here because of the situation), it is more like dancing the deep, whole, unbroken interconnection of all things. It is like one "loses oneself" swept up a dance, in a song, in a sunrise, in making love, in a child's smile ... It is a losing of one's separation and brokenness in a very good sense. It is a finding of what was there all along, more than any losing (except some clouds of delusion). My word's don't do it justice, but I want to provide medicine for what you seem to think it is. Emptyness both allows us to see ourself as all reality, thus the "separate self" as a dream ... and also fully reaffirms the self, Taylor as Truly Taylor as Taylor can be.

  5. #5

    Re: Overcoming Fear

    Thanks all, truly helpful.


  6. #6

    Re: Overcoming Fear

    Hi Taylor,

    I've gone through something close to what you describe. When I have a difficult time, I try to remember that our brains are made for thinking, and for most people that's what their brains do every waking moment of every day. When you sit, you start to quiet the constant mad rush of thought. It may be that as some of the more ordinary, routine thoughts start to drop away, the more complex things stick around for a while, and seem to get louder.

    Last night as I sat with a window open nearby, the AC unit outside (which I hadn't even noticed to that point) switched off. There were a few moments of what seemed like "silence," until my ears adjusted, then there was a flood of crickets, frogs, wind in the trees, even a bird or two at that late hour. I think sitting, especially when you're able to really start dropping thought and letting things pass, is a lot like the AC unit switching off... Maybe the emotions and thoughts that are manifesting for you as this sort of fear, are really just like the crickets. Thoughts (and crickets) will keep doing their thing, but in the end they're just thoughts (or crickets).

    Having said all that, if a little Buddha ever pops out of my wall, I am pretty sure I'm going to freak out.

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