Fear and loathing on the walking trail

Rachel Zinman YogaHave you ever taken a walk and not known where you were going, how long you would be gone or what you would find along the way?

A walk into nowhere is a metaphor for life; born into this body not knowing who we are, where we are going or what we will find we look to guides who are happy to show us the terrain, point out danger spots and lead us to the most spectacular view. Each one of us has been guided according to culture, landscape and heredity and its what we rely on to navigate the terrain.

Keeping all this in mind I put on my walking shoes and headed up the road for an hour or so to enjoy the sights and smells of the Sydney Harbor National Park. A friend had suggested I head in that general direction “over there” just keep going till the end of the road and it will all become obvious. But it wasn’t obvious and I was all on my lonesome. Where were all the fitness enthusiasts at 9 am?

Eventually I found my way to a tiny beach populated by a duck and its family of chicks. Mrs. Duck snapped at my heels reminding me that I was to go nowhere near her brood, a few cockatoos lazily picked at the ground as I swept past them. A lone car was parked opposite the end of the trail and a huge hill loomed ahead. I climbed the hill in steady strides and just as I reached the top another hiker who must have had wheels on his shoes strode past me. Where did he come from? It took another kilometer to realize that I was afraid to walk alone in an unknown place.

Rather then employ the myriad of self-help techniques that are bandied about to deal with my fear I decided to get logical. Whenever the mind is faced with the unknown it refers to what it knows. You can’t know what you don’t know.

So where does fear come in? When the mind can’t find a reference point it goes to the basic belief system it’s been given. Some of us when faced with the unknown will refer to excitement, others to despair, depression or fear.

Rachel Zinman YogaSo what’s more important trying to change the emotion that arises in that unknowable moment or understanding who is having the emotion? There are always going to be situations out of our control. Trying to ” be positive” isn’t going to get to the root of the issue. The next unknown situation will come along and the fear will return.

Fear is natural, if you watch an animal they use fear to avoid danger, to keep away predators, it’s our protective mechanism. But it can’t be conquered. It has to be seen for what it is. Any emotion is a thought that we have given momentum to because we have a weakness for what that thought contains. In other words if we are afraid of something, there has to be a reason why we have invested energy into that thought. Perhaps having fears has protected us at some point in our lives. Perhaps the anxiety put us in control in some way.  This is where understanding WHO is having the fear is so powerful. Once you ask the question- the one having the fear (which is you) knows you’re onto it. It can’t hide in its identification with the thought of fear. It can’t hide in the identification of a thought to counteract the fear. Every time you take a step back and ask who is the EXPERIENCER, the question trumps the deck and all the cards fall down.

Just in time too as the path led me right to its natural conclusion- a complete circle- and there was nothing to be afraid of…

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