A few weeks ago we went to see an acupuncturist in a Los Angeles neighborhood that was completely unfamiliar to us. John dropped me off at the office and went to park the van.
When we left the office, he could not remember where he had parked the van. He had been in such a hurry to get back to the office that he had not thought of taking note of the location. We walked for hours looking for the van, to no avail. We had to rent a car in Glendale to drive home.
After trying all we could think of, we sent an email to our newsletter subscribers asking if anyone lives in the area and might have seen the van.
No one saw the van, but we received many messages of encouragement and useful suggestions, for which we are very grateful.
Three days later, the acupuncturist called us and told us that he had just found the van parked safely in a motel parking lot nearby.
We drove our rental there, picked up the van, returned the rental and drove home. That took about 8 hours total.
We then received the following email:
Dear Carla, dear John, as much as I’m glad that you found your car undamaged and that it wasn’t stolen, I too find what happened to you somewhat disturbing. It may sound heartless, but I wonder how something like that could happen to a person who rebuilt their mind completely, no longer being afraid of life itself. Maybe you’d like to talk about it in one of the next monthly meetings or so, because your experience made me realize that I’m holding on to deep misconceptions as to what life without fear really means. So far it has meant to me that one is totally effective in everything they do from moment to moment, with you two being some super-hero poster children for that way of living their lives. And now it turns out that you are, well, just as human as anyone else, forgetting where they parked their vehicle.
And here’s our response:
One of the stumbling blocks in the process of healing from the fear of life disease is the insane expectations we carry with us, all of which are also symptoms of the disease.
We are led to believe that if we are free of fear we will not have pain or difficulties anymore; that we will “live from presence” or “live from oneness” all the time—whatever that means; that our minds will be always clear, that we will always make the right decision, or that we will never get sick or grow old.
Can you see how foolish that is? As long as we are alive, no matter how fearless we may be, our bodies will continue to age, we may get sick, and eventually we will die.
That’s the nature of being alive as a human being and it cannot be escaped. Being free of the fear of life and gaining control of your attention will not stop you from being human.
When you look at yourself, you lose the fear of life. When that happens, the negative, harmful mental mechanisms that have been your companions all your life, consciously or not, start to disintegrate and be replaced by new, healthier mechanisms.
That process takes some time to unfold. It seems that the more recently established psychological mechanisms are the first ones to go, and when you notice they are gone, it is quite a relief. You can continue looking at yourself whenever you feel the need to do it. That act of looking inward at the sense on me will bring you some relief in the moment, as the process of reorganization of your mind goes on mostly under the radar.
Those diseased mental patterns cannot feed on the fear of life anymore because it is gone, so they make a lot of noise. And the weaker they are, the louder they seem. Paying attention to them by trying to argue with them or trying to understand their origin, for example, only feeds them and keeps them in place longer. With the fear of life gone, what still keeps those fearful psychological mechanisms alive is whatever measure of attention you give to them. The more scared you are, the more food they will have and the longer it will take for them to fade away.
You do not need to do anything other than look at yourself to be free of the fear of life. Those harmful mental mechanisms will fade away in time. But if you develop some control of your attention, you can help the process along by declining to attend to those fearful thoughts that arise trying to feed on your attention. It is safe to ignore them.
Declining to attend to those mental patterns of thought and behavior may not rid you of them completely right away, but persisting in this effort will eventually produce the desired result: they will die of starvation and new, healthier patterns will take their place.
The older the patterns are, the hardest it will be to be free of them. But control of your attention gives you the means to understand what is happening to you and the strength to decline to attend to them.
All your ideas about what will happen as you recover from the fear of life can also safely be ignored. The way this process plays out is different for everyone, so comparing yourself to others will just make it harder for you to notice your own progress.
A common type of expectation is that we wish things to be different than they are. All the thoughts about how you should be better than you are by now, or how you are not progressing as you expected, can be safely ignored. Expectations are just thoughts that you can decline to pay attention to.
Mastering your attention requires effort and takes time. Sometimes it may feel like a battle, but if you persist, you will succeed.