Each day as I wake up I must face who I am. I am not perfect. I am not special. I am nothing.
These words may sound like negative mantras, but in reality they are extremely freeing. In the context of the world we live in, it may be hard to understand what that kind of freedom means. It means that, as I do my inner work, I slowly free myself from ego, judgments, attachments, greed, etc. I free myself from the desire to be special and, in so doing, I can simply be. Largely, this kind of freedom means facing my fears, for really there is little else that keeps me caught. As I see it, fear is the biggest challenge to overcome in this life.
If I ask myself why I reacted a certain way in a certain situation, I will find that at the root of my reaction was fear. We all suffer from fear. There is fear of what others will think or say about us. There is fear of doing or saying something wrong. There is fear of making the wrong decision. There is fear of getting hurt or hurting others. There is fear of financial loss, of loss of our jobs, our homes, our lovers, and those closest to us. There is fear that we are not enough, that we have failed to live up to expectation, that we are unloveable, bad, not pretty or handsome enough, that we are too fat or too thin, that we are doing everything wrong. And finally there is fear of death.
When we look at all the things we fear we see only negatives; depressing truths or untruths, perceptions or judgments that keep us caught in an endless cycle of suffering. Fear is tied to being inadequate, unfulfilled, unevolved, imperfect. So how do we accept that we are not perfect, not special, that we are in fact nothing, and actually feel good about it?
The Buddhists say that we are here to suffer, that it is how we evolve. That evolution is tied to transcending suffering, but only by facing it. The Buddhist sitting in meditation confronts what arises, going deeper and deeper into the dark space that yawns wide open inside the self as fears arise. What we discover as we confront our fears is that they lead to truths, whether hidden and totally unknown or known and rejected, they all eventually give way to more fears and more truths. Each layer of fear and truth asks to be explored and reckoned with. This is the same process that the shamans engage in while doing recapitulation. Both meditation and recapitulation offer the means of facing fear, the means of finding out why we suffer, and they both offer the transcendent quality of nothingness that we reach as we go deeper and deeper into the self.
As we meditate or recapitulate with an open mind—letting loose those ideas and judgments that I spoke of earlier—we allow what comes from within to guide us. As we mediate or recapitulate with an open mind, we ready ourselves to face each fear and ask, over and over again, “Why do I have this fear?” And then, as we meditate or recapitulate with an open mind, we allow ourselves to explore deeply—until we hear an answer.
Our answers may be as varied as we are, but I guarantee that our answers will eventually lead to just another fear, another thing we are afraid of, lying just beneath the last thing we were so afraid of. As we face each fear, we peel away judgments and perceptions—some self-imposed, some imposed by others—and find a little bit more of Self, a little bit more of who we have the potential to truly be.
As fear after fear gets peeled away and the thick layer of our suffering selves begins to thin, we begin to feel lighter, better, less negative, less attached to the old self. We gradually become more and more intrigued by our process. We want to see how far we can actually go. We want to know what else there is to learn about us. We want to become as free as possible.
In undergoing this process of peeling away our fears we offer ourselves access to what it means to be imperfect, to not be special, to be nothing—and to be totally satisfied with being in this state. In fact, we might discover the joy of being in that state of non-attachment. We might discover that our suffering has a greater purpose; that it has the potential to lead us beyond the confines of this world, tapping into far greater freedom, enlightenment, new life, and wholeness than this world alone can offer.
In facing our fears we face our humanness in its entirety, and yet we also face our immortal, infinite selves, for in doing our deep inner work we face all of our fears, including our fear of death.
It may seem like a daunting task, but facing our fears will lead to the freedom of non-attachment and opening the door to greater exploration of our fuller potential now, while in this life, so that our death becomes just one more seamless exploration of our greater potential.
I am not perfect, I am not special, I am nothing,