Lately I’ve been reading a lot from “When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chodron. It’s a rather small book that seems almost too small to be significant. The book almost feels like it’s an older novel in size. This contrasts with how big the ideas are inside.
Pema came to my life when I needed her the most; amid the mental crisis of moving to a new place and hitting the restart button on most of my routines. There is excitement in going to a new place, but, for me, there is also the fear that I may not like what I’m stuck with.
When I was flying from Minneapolis to Charleston, I began reading. The way that everything is explained goes much more than typical Eastern philosophy. Sometimes you get those books where you have to interpret what the author is try to say because they don’t have English grammar down. Pema doesn’t have that problem at all! All of her examples are totally applicable too!
Basically “When Things Fall Apart” is a self-explaining name. The book is about crisis and when we react to those crisis rather than respond. Inside, Pema explains how fear is something that shows you that you’re alive and progressing. It’s something to become intimate with and understand.
Part of my struggle, and what I believe a lot of other people face, is that when we face the unknown, many of us become subdued. We climb into our shells and retract from the world. Pema explains that through fear, we can realize a lot about ourselves. We can look and see what we are attached to. We can see that we are attached to much more than we think.
Over time, we can release this fear of losing what we think we have, and we can accept fear as an emotion. So much of what we fear is illogical or creates unnecessary suffering for us. By paying attention to our fears and our worries, we can move past them.
Each time I’ve gone somewhere new in the last year (I’ve moved 4 times around the country), I’ve been afraid of the unknown. When I’m about to move, I become gloomy and act as if everything around me is coming to an end. Especially when I moved to north Texas. This fear destroyed the pleasure of getting to know a new place, and enjoying my last days in Mississippi with my friends.
By realizing this is cyclical, I can become intimate with that fear. Realizing that growth doesn’t happen without change. Fear and worrying go hand in hand; by worrying about moving and leaving things behind, I fear what I will experience in the new place. By fearing what I will experience, I worry about things that may never happen.
The silly thing is that fear is of itself. Let me explain. Fearing fear is another great fear. We realize that we are afraid and it amplifies itself. That fear compounds and becomes much more simply because we have a bad relationship with fear. We are afraid of being afraid.
That is exactly what “When Things Fall Apart” is about. Changing that, and realizing that fear is nothing to be afraid of. The cycle of fear is becoming afraid of something, then becoming more afraid because you are afraid.
Become intimate with your fear and when you are afraid, acknowledge it. Realize that you fear something and accept it. Don’t try and fight it or reject it. Simply think about the feeling of being afraid and why you are afraid. Your fear may not dissolve but you will stop being afraid of being afraid. Learn to be intimate with your fears!