August 20, 2013

The Places that Scare You.

“Instead of cursing the darkness, light a candle.” ~ Benjamin Franklin

I want to write something for you, so I close my eyes and reach deep inside with both hands.

I fish around for a bit, searching the depths for something interesting to say. I find nothing. Well, that’s not entirely true.

I find some things, like a broken bottle, a toilet seat cover, and a old pair of boots. It’s just like that scene in Forest Gump, when Forest goes fishing for the first time.

I decide to keep searching.

It wasn’t always like this. I had a good place, for a while. I perched there, poised with pen in hand and a pensive air. I was cozy in my stacks of books, quotes, thoughts, musings and meanderings. But one day I got lost there. Those stacks turned into to towers that leered at me in the darkness. Those quotes began to taunt me, and my thoughts became my prison.

The towers grow taller as I race around my own mind.

I’m feeling frantic. I’m feeling scared now. I shove aside mirrors instead of looking in them. I don’t recognize the person I see right now. Where is the person I thought I was? Who was she? I can’t place her anymore.

Overhead is darkness, but if I look closely I can still see some light. Pausing briefly, I try to acknowledge the moment before the bone-crushing anxiety settles in again, curling around me like a boa constrictor.

That pause, as brief as it was, feels like an accomplishment now.

I strike another match to light the candle of thought, hoping that somehow I have out run whatever it is that taunts me.

Perhaps I even sleep a little, hopeful that tomorrow will be a new day. And it is, but it isn’t. The day, however new, is not immune to my fears which now outgrow me like weeds in the garden. I look to the sky, for hope, but see that too is useless. I get angry and shout for a bit. I wave my arms around. 

I have no idea what I am doing here.

But instead of running away, I decide to stay a little longer.

“When we touch the center of sorrow, when we sit with discomfort without trying to fix it, when we stay present to the pain of disapproval or betrayal and let it soften us, these are times that we connect with bodhicitta.”

~ Pema Chodron, The Places That Scare You

So much of my life has been carefully constructed to avoid going within to the places that scare me. Whether these be awful truths about myself that I can’t stand (I make mistakes, I can be mean, I judge people sometimes, I’m terribly awkward in social situations, I suck in big groups), or broader internal constructs, I would rather avoid them than come face to face with them.

I mean, what if I am right? What if my deepest fears about myself are right?

I would rather go along avoiding them than face them and see that they (might!) be true.

All of this aversion has created a cycle that keeps me running though—and I don’t want to run away anymore.

I have no idea what I am doing.

But I feel like a damn Ghostbuster and that’s alright with me.


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Ed: Bryonie Wise




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Britt Aug 22, 2013 8:20am

Piers, thank you. You are totally right, but humans like to believe in things despite the odds that they might not be true. Sometimes our negative self-talk and thought patterns are persistent and resistant to change. It gave me a new perspective on having compassion for others who are navigating their own personal changes. (Also, thank you for that link! So good.)

Piers Moore-Ede Aug 20, 2013 9:15am

If you follow that teaching of Pema Chodron's through to it's conclusion, you see that your 'deepest fears about yourself' cannot be right. Because there is no independent self, no 'one' for the fears to refer to – that is the core teaching of Buddhism! You might find this helpful: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGrvPClgh8I

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Brittany Amell

Brittany Amell is a writer, teacher, coach and student. Sometimes she wears the entire outfit, and sometimes she wears one piece at a time. Based in Ottawa, Britt can often be found working closely with individuals or groups of all ages. When in a pinch, she is mostly likely to use cinnamon, a deep breath, and some of her good old fashioned British Columbian charm. Voted Most Easy to Approach by her cat and Grandpa, Britt welcomes your comments and questions. Try not to run into her in the hall, or you might find yourself walking away with an invite to her dinner table or worse- she to yours. Interested in working with Brittany? You can connect with her via her website, Twitter or on Facebook for “a guaranteed hit. She is quite prolific,” says R.W.