Tag Archives: fear

The Killer Inside Me

I am about nine years old. It’s summertime. I go outside to ride my bike, which is parked in the front yard of our house in the bucolic, rural area in New York State where I live. Just as I reach out to the handlebars I pull back in utter disgust and fear. Some unknown green creature with long legs and wings and a fiercesome looking face is perched on the right handlebar. I almost touched it! What is that!

The strangest creature I had ever seen!
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

It looks prehistoric, something I’ve never seen before in my life. I am overcome with fear and nausea. I whack it to the ground and step on it. Shaking, I stand there and look at its crushed body lying on the ground, oozing out disgusting slime, more sickening to look at than when it was alive. I can only feel that I had just saved my life!

At the same time that I feel this I also know that I have just killed a fellow creature and I feel really bad about that. I tell myself I was frightened by it. It looked prehistoric, like a scary small dinosaur, and I couldn’t help myself, which is true, I just reacted and killed it. Instinctual fear drove me to kill.

Years later I read about the praying mantis being an endangered species. It was then that I realized what I had killed that day. To my nine-year-old eyes what I saw was much larger and more frightening to behold than a real praying mantis ever was. At the time I had never seen such a thing and so I could not place it. It frightened me so much that I had to kill it. This was a reaction to the unknown. Sometimes an instinctual reaction crushes the harmless and the innocent in a primitive instinctual projection based on unfamiliarity.

A few years after this incident, when I was about fourteen, I was out with friends. We had come upon some wild grapes. Reaching into the tangle of vines to pick a nice bunch I suddenly felt something clinging to my face. I could not pull it off. I thought is was just a grape vine caught in my hair or something. I asked my friends to help get it off me. They pulled back in horror and screamed!

None of them came to the rescue so I grabbed hold of it, a sticky something clinging tightly, and pulled it off my face with all my might. I held it up and found myself staring at the weirdest creature I had ever seen, even weirder than that praying mantis—a walking stick! It was big enough to cover my entire face. It had straddled my nose and mouth and eyes, stretching from forehead to chin. It must have looked like I was wearing some kind of strange mask.

This time I held the strange creature in my hands long enough to get a good look at it. I’d heard of walking sticks before but had never actually seen a live one. This was huge! I stared at it, freaky though it was, and then placed it carefully back onto the grape vine. Now every time I see a walking stick I am reminded of this experience and I once again remember how I held in my fear and disgust and just looked at this curious creature who shares the world with us. He got to live because I did not let my fear kill him.

In the first scenario I encountered my killer instinct in an automatic reaction to the unknown in the guise of the praying mantis. In the second scenario, although I was equally terrified, I did not react instinctively but instead paused long enough to allow consciousness to work with instinct to mediate and calm my fear, saying, “take a look at what this is and then decide the proper action/reaction.”

I do not judge my nine-year-old self for killing the praying mantis, it’s just where I was at the time. Now I try to live with consciousness as much as possible, pausing, like my fourteen-year-old self did with the walking stick, asking myself pertinent questions: What is the right thing to do in this situation? What is the right thing to feel? What is the right action to take?

We all have killed something at some point in our lives. How many mosquitoes, flies, and pesky bugs I’ve swatted at over my 65 years I don’t know, but I have certainly whacked quite a number of them to death out of sheer annoyance.

At the same time that I admit to that kind of killing, there is another part of me that would never knowingly harm another living thing, but sometimes she’s just not available when I need her. Sometimes the fearful me still steps in and just takes care of business.

A blog by J. E. Ketchel, author of The Recapitulation Diaries.

Soulbyte for Monday April 17, 2017

A phobia is a fear and fear is a control.  And something that has control is powerful, keeping you from experiencing life to the fullest. And experiencing life to the fullest requires living without fear, so that you may know peace of mind, heart, and body, so that you may experience the kindness, compassion, and love of being human. Face your fears to the fullest and let the fullness of life become fully available. Imagine if everyone did that! Now that would be powerful!

-From the Soul Sisters, Jan & Jeanne

Chuck’s Place: Fear & Play

Bunny munching... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Bunny munching…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

This year, a bunny has set up refuge in our backyard sanctuary, affectionately called Camp Ketchel.

As we descend the hill and go into our screened abode Bunny sits totally still in the grass save for its mouth, which always seems to be munching, food or not. Bunny lets us pass within a couple of feet, clearly relaxed with our energy; we are not the danger.

The danger is all around, however, be it the fox family that lives very near, or an owl, or perhaps even the occasional eagle that makes its rounds. Death is but an instant away. This is nature. This is nature’s deepest truth: we are all stalked by the greatest predator of all: death. No one escapes.

In the meantime, Bunny eats, ears perked, always alert as it forages food for survival. Bunny has a friend, perhaps its mother who no longer accepts the role; all must take responsibility for their own lives.

Bunny engages friend in play. They pause in their eating and spring several feet into the air, jumping over one another in pure abandon, their customary alertness to danger momentarily relaxed. Play is part of nature, as important as eating and protecting. The bunny’s playful moment might indeed be the predator’s opportunity but that doesn’t matter, nature’s imperative to play must be enacted, regardless of cost.

Humans are animals as well. Though we hide behind a mote of reason and civilization, the truth is that the predator is always stalking. Despite all our medical genius no one and nothing can change our ultimate appointment with death.

At a primal level, the animal within us is well aware of this truth. On a primal level we are no different than the bunny, always watching, waiting, listening for the predator’s knock. Hence, anxiety is, at least on some level, a normal primal feeling in everyday human life. To think this shouldn’t be would be to deny our human animal reality. We may indeed be spirit beings who will live in infinity, but our animal selves will most assuredly die.

But let us learn from Bunny as well. As important as it is to be on our guard, it is equally important for us to completely release our guard and relax into pure play. Nature absolutely demands this of us. We must play with abandon to fulfill our animal nature.

We must allow ourselves to breathe deeply into the abdomen and break the constriction of rigid fear. We must completely relax our muscles, going deeper into calm and utter joy in our animal being. And when we are called back to alertness and fear, we must acquiesce and be present to it.

This opposition within our primal selves, of fear and play, can only be resolved by allowing ourselves to oscillate between each pole, flowing in accord with the true nature of each moment.



Lessons in a Life: The Road To Compassion

We're all just trying to figure out the tangled mess of existence... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
We’re all just trying to figure out the tangled mess of existence…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

They say that to truly experience something we should walk in the shoes of another. To fully experience another’s pain and another’s joy, to weather the good times and the bad, to be discriminated against, to be judged, to be turned away for some reason, hated for some reason, or despised because of who we are is the road to compassion.

Compassion however begins at home, within the self. If we never turn inward and never gain insight into what makes us tick we will never be able to truly experience compassion. We might say we are compassionate beings, but compassion is without borders, without restriction, and compassion does not discriminate.

Compassion takes the view that we are all the same, souls on evolutionary journeys, that we are all beings of light and energy, with endlessly infinite possibility. To find out if we are truly compassionate beings, we must ask ourselves: Do I truly see everyone that way, as beings of light and energy? And then we must be honest with what arises from deep within.

Today, as I read the news of the great migrations into Europe, I see a microcosm of what is to come, the same energy on the move that is happening on an environmental level. Things are being destroyed in one form or another and living beings, evolutionarily keyed to survival, are moving to better, higher, cooler ground. It’s happening all over the planet; species are dying; extinctions are happening.

I do believe that people, on the whole, are compassionate, caring beings. But at the same time they are afraid of change, of anything that might impose on their stable existence. Let others suffer, but don’t bring any of your personal problems into my backyard. Well, I think we all have to get used to the fact that the problems belong to all of us and this world is all one big backyard now. We’ve all made it that way. And just as true compassion is without borders, we have to have a world without borders too, if we are to truly be the compassionate beings we say we are.

So many people are fearful of others, fearful of their differences, perceived ideas of things they know nothing about, perpetuating stories and lies that have circulated the globe like folktales, harbingers of hate and discrimination. In the end we are all flesh and blood, with emotions and feelings, as mixed up and confused as the next person, and we are all facing death at the end of our time here. There is nothing that makes us different there.

Fear keeps us isolated and contained. But fear is usually something inside us, something that has been festering and brewing since childhood, things we were taught that may not be true at all. When we face our own personal fears in the right way, with compassion for ourselves and those who hurt, discriminate, or cause us pain, we access our fearlessness. And true compassion is fearless too. In facing our fears and our pain with compassion we release ourselves of all that keeps us locked in and locked out of the truly compassionate world we all wish for.

Compassion is in the simple beauties all around us... - Photo by Jan Ketchel
Compassion is in the simple beauties all around us…
– Photo by Jan Ketchel

Perhaps the new world we all wish for will have a new name, no longer called Earth, it will be called Compassion. To become ready to walk down the road toward Compassion, we must first walk down our personal road of fear, and meet head on all that confronts us as we migrate through the borders and fears within. It is the only way to reach Compassion.

One at a time, if we take the trip we can make the world truly compassionate, fearless, without borders, nobody excluded, anywhere. That is the new world of Compassion.

On the road to Compassion,