Fearlessness: the spaciousness of meditation flows into everyday life
As we sit, we become aware of the space that reveals itself through meditation. And we realize that along with the space comes enormous power: the power of looking at things in a way we had never tried before. Awareness of vastness and space gives us a way to work with our tendency to cling to the idea that we need a remedy: our habitual idea that when something happens—even spaciousness—we quickly need to fix it.
Meditation practice teaches us that we have options. We can choose to just let be; we can look at whatever happens with openness and without judgment. And from there, we can relate to whatever arises in the mind much more reasonably, much more objectively. When things come up, we can simply sit and let them flow through us, which is related to cultivating fearlessness and courage.
In general, we push back against simply letting things happen. So when we decide to sit and meditate, when we settle into a good posture and allow our thoughts to unfold, inevitably our minds are barraged by everything: what I had for lunch, what I thought I should have had for lunch, what I wish I’d told my partner, what I did tell my partner, I stubbed my toe and my car’s broken… All this stuff comes up and we let it settle. That’s the first step. Then the second step is about relating to the mind in an open and neutral way, without judgment.
Discovering that we can relate to things with more sanity when we’re on our cushion doesn’t mean that we stop meditation as soon as we get up. It isn’t like, “Okay, now I’m putting on my business hat—I’m going to go be a jerk for the rest of the day.” What we do on the cushion starts to meld with our everyday lives. That’s when we realize that every moment in life is an actual opportunity for meditation. So the following step arises naturally: what we’re doing as we meditate starts to drift and float out into our everyday lives.
When we’re afraid, we can “conquer” the fear, not by pushing it away or forcing it out, but by allowing ourselves to deal with it openly. This is how—based on the meditation practice that we do piece by piece, day by day, little by little—we start to become truly confident, truly fearless. Whether guided or free-form or whatever we’re practicing, meditation gives us this courage because by sitting and allowing the world to wash over us, we’re learning to apply that in our daily lives. We’re developing confidence, genuineness and compassion without even having to try.
If you’ve trained in sitting and letting everything just be in meditation, now you can try walking around and just letting everything be! You can drive and let everything be! You can have an argument with somebody and you can let it be! It doesn’t mean that you’re giving in, but it does mean that you’re going to allow the space that naturally manifests in your mind to be the master of your emotions as opposed to letting your emotions be the master of you.
Now suppose we’re sitting here and we’ve created a little bit of space—then what happens? The ground kind of disappears, right? And we’re left sitting here thinking, “Ooh, that’s a lot of space. What am I going to do with all that space?” During this little gap in our thinking process, there’s our opportunity to connect with fearlessness! We don’t have to imagine extreme things or big fancy ideas. We’re just staying right here on our chair or cushion and we’re experiencing basic, fundamental fearlessness.
Let the space be master of your emotions instead of letting your emotions be the master of you.
As per usual, when we meditate we’re looking at whatever arises in our mind neutrally, without judgment. We can also do that with the space: we can look at space and not run away. We look at space and not try and fill it with something.
The groundlessness that we experience can be earth-shattering. It’s very subtle, and it’s also kind of frightening, right? We’re sitting here and all of a sudden the foundation, the pillar we’ve been holding onto our whole lives just kind of melts away and somehow we’re left in the breeze. And then we realize that the breeze is actually quite wonderful–the space is so freeing! There’s so much freshness. It’s like being inside a hot room and opening the door, and all of a sudden fresh air comes in. It may be cold, but it feels so nice. “Wow, I’m more awake than I was before! This wisp of cool, refreshing air is such a difference from being in that stifling hot room all the time!” As we let the breeze of fresh air blow over us, it brings with it a very profound feeling of fearlessness. We feel the breeze and we can just walk outside into the cool air, letting the cold wash over us, without wondering whether or not we’ll be able to make it back into the confined, warm coziness. We’ve let go of the tether, let go of the umbilical cord connecting us to the secure and safe little cocoon we’d made for ourselves.
It feels really, really good to try it. To sit there and let something different happen without worrying about whether you’re going to make it back. And I can promise you that this kind of groundlessness won’t last very long. Your mind will take you somewhere very quickly. But if you can embrace just a single moment of it every once in a while as you practice, it will make it that much easier to let go of your anxieties and fears. And from there, true courage is born.
This article is derived from Tokpa Korlo’s Mind Talks on Fearlessness, which are available on the Mindworks Meditation Courses.