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Do Not Fear!

We have a sculpture in our entryway of Yakushi Nyorai, a Buddha of healing. In one hand, he holds a container of medicine, and his other hand is held up in the reassuring gesture of “Do not fear.” I believe that releasing from fear is good medicine for this time. A grandfather of the village that was our home for 14 years, carved this Buddha from the soft stone found in the mountains around us. When I return, it reminds me not to fear. I wonder when you feel fear and when you use the words “That is scary” or “I am afraid...


Have you noticed, as I have during the past decade, an upsurge in the usage of words that express fear? I believe that we need to be careful about the way we use those words. We need to be careful about the way that fear can find its way into larger and larger parts of our lives. Fear strengthens the object of our fear. We can give our power away with fear. Fear can paralyze us. Fear separates us from each other and from the world.


Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote:


“Fear is mastered through love. Hate is rooted in fear, and the only cure for fear-hate is love. Is not fear one of the major causes of war? We say that war is a consequence of hate, but close scrutiny reveals this sequence; first fear, then hate, then war, and finally deeper hatred. We are afraid of the superiority of other people, of failure, and of the scorn of disapproval of those whose opinions we most value.


Envy, jealousy, a lack of self confidence, a feeling of insecurity, and a haunting sense of inferiority are all rooted in fear. Is there a cure for these annoying fears that pervert our personal lives? Yes, a deep and abiding commitment to the way of love. ‘Perfect love casteth out fear.’ Hatred and bitterness can never cure the disease of fear; only love can do that.”


After the first Gulf War, Mary Lou and I traveled to Syria. Although we mostly and surprisingly experienced a welcome, we were also shoved off a sidewalk, and in our hotel in Damascus, we felt an unfriendly vibe from the people at the front desk. I love to travel but sometimes, if I let the seed of a fear take root in my mind, that fear can increase---and is the source of suffering.


Up in our room, I could see that we had bought way too many strawberries for ourselves. I decided to take them downstairs to the men at the front desk. When I arrived, they looked at me askance—like what do you want? And I held out the bowl of fragrant ripe strawberries and bravely smiled. They looked very surprised, and then when they realized this was a gift, they broke into smiles. Our stay in the city transformed.


I have experienced such moments in Prescott. When I feel an unpleasant vibe that could turn into my thinking that it is “scary” to live here, I try to melt my own fear into something else. I smile. Perhaps that was my mother’s greatest gift to me: her belief that smiles were the best gift we could give. You might even give a smile that you don’t mean at first. But if the smile catches hold and is returned, the possibility of fear dissipates. Mindfulness teaches us to smile at ourselves in the same way. When we make a mistake, we can develop a habit of turning to ourselves as one would a treasured friend and smiling and even saying, “I love you.


I believe that this is good work within us, among us, and around us. I challenge you to listen to how you use words connected with fear. Sometimes we can use that word, not meaning it at first, but grow into it. Don’t let the seed be planted. Do not fear! Instead, work on courageously transforming that fear into love.

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