following fear into the star-stuff of my cells

Frederick Walker, The Woman in White, 1871 Tate Gallery

 

This post is an attempt to explain why I’m a dedicated follower of fear.  For as long as I can remember (and that’s probably way further than your lifespan dear reader), I’ve been keenly curious and unafraid of a good adventure.  So it’s surprising that I was so slow to arrive at the threshold of my body’s dark knowledge.  Needless to say, the Shadowlands had good reason to be well-hidden from my agenda…
But once the bellyflop into the deep occurred, the implications of the free-fall of fifteen years ago could at last percolate down and settle in the cells.  I am writing this in the midst of another dive – a somatic meditation retreat, which I think of as a pre-death trauma detox.  For the most part I’m avoiding the screen, but this pressed to be posted.


We hear it so often:  To be happy, to be spiritually liberated, to be … (insert personal agenda), we must choose between love and fear.  And the ominously silent insinuation is that choosing fear is definitely not the way to go.

My platitude-sensitive antenna start to hum; a dictum like this is demands scrutiny.

A good place to start is by being clear about what one actually is, i.e. the nature of one who could claim to make such a choice.  If there’s still a belief in a separate, solid-state self, (which is a bit like admitting that you believe the world is flat and climate change is a myth), then you’ll believe there’s someone who can make a choice of this kind.  You’ll believe that this mental object called “me” can adroitly and wisely select between other mental objects (fear and love) in order to become a happier mental object.  To the imagined self – the chooser – love and fear are inescapably conceptual.  And what follows won’t make a smidgin of sense.  (Click X now.)

However, if you’ve sniffed out the falsity of an independent me thing, you’ll find it slightly incoherent that these two concepts, with their inherent duality, are so commonly presented as an either-or option.  It sounds like an invitation to reconstruct a fresh version of a self – one that will either make the right choice (good work!) or get it wrong (see how hopeless you are?).  You’d be right to want to sniff out the truth of the matter.

Let’s start with love.  Having experienced the mind-shattering absence of anything that could exist as an independent ghost-in-the-machine, you’ve already noticed the sweetness, the benevolence that floods into the space vacated by that phantom.  You’ve realised that that very sweetness is the Love (big L) you always imagined was elsewhere.  (Hiding behind the façade of your spiritual teacher, your partner, your lover; waiting at the end of your seeking, your arduous practice-project…)  You’ve woken up to the fact that it’s always been there;  that it’s your inescapable fundamental state and that it has no opposite, only a limitless wardrobe of apparent disguises.

Repeat – Love has no opposite.

Which means: Fear is not the opposite of, nor an alternative to, Love.

So let’s look at fear.  We’re told that humans are born with just two innate, hard-wired fears: fear of falling, and fear of sudden loud noises.  All other fears are learned, and these are the ones I speak of here.  I’m not talking about natural, normal reactions to any kind of physical danger.

I experience psychological fear as a contraction within my body.  It’s a tension, a more or less subtle holding-on – sometimes so subtle that it escapes awareness – those who have encountered the consequences of heart tension know about this.

Unlike the changeless Love discussed above, which isn’t an experience but the space in which experiences arise, any experience will always have an opposite.  If the cramping experience had an opposite, what might it be?  Wouldn’t it be the absence of any contraction triggered by recent or ancient memory?  Wouldn’t it be an open and accepting gesture towards my life?  Towards whatever the universe is throwing in my face right this minute – regardless of how it conflicts with my stitched-together idea of how it should be?

Fear is a re-action posing as a new sensation.  When I learned that after the age of six or seven we never experience a new emotion, but endlessly experience a replay of those established in infant-hood – albeit dressed up in fresh scenarios – I was shocked.  I realised that since I’m well over the age of six, any experience of fear will always be a re-action.  A re-enactment.

Another shocker came with this:  98% of what the body knows is unavailable to our conscious awareness.  Meaning that – for the most part – I don’t know what I’m afraid of and why.  Which makes it tricky to talk about “not choosing fear” – let alone being “honest” with myself.  Gulp.

The primal imprints of my early experience were laid down in the cells long before there were words to describe anything, and proceed to map out my experience, decade after decade.  Without my conscious awareness having a clue.

And so it goes for all of us.  Until something moves us to inquire.

What moves us?

Since we’ve awakened to our abiding nature as Love, we must concede that Love moves Itself.

There’s nothing personal involved:  It happens by itself.  It happens for itself.  And it happens exactly when It wants to.

It delivers an impeccable invitation to enter into an unabridged encounter with things we’ve been working all our life to avoid because the associated pain was/is unbearable.

If fear is in my face it’s because Love is fishing for a lost child’s pain – a pain unique to this matrix of experience and potential, yet universal to all humanity.  And since Love is inescapably present as the shining awareness that knows my fear, I can turn towards this fear (or grief, or rage) without ever leaving Love.

I say, “Welcome!” to fear.  I plump up a cushion for it in my heart.  I stop.

I notice the instant impulse to act out habitual, conditioned re-actions.  I desist – or at least press the pause button.  I’m interested;  having been informed that we are ignorant of the knowledge hidden in the cells, I’m curious.  Who wouldn’t want to explore?

I turn towards the sensation that is visiting me – in dreams, meditation and daily interactions.  I turn my breath, my awareness, my sensitivity and my curiosity its way.  I don’t give it the label “fear” or spell out a story about it.  I refuse to be tempted to fix it or lean into it or accept it or imagine any outcome.

So here I am, just looking, with the impartial gaze of whole-body awareness.  As though I’m looking through the eyeballs of each of the 37.2 trillion cells in my body.

I watch what happens.  I pay attention when those long-stifled echoes from the emptiness of my body begin to whisper.

Love clears its throat.  And when it knows I’m truly committed (not furtively checking out the exits) it speaks loud and clear.  Its language is felt rather than heard, sensed rather than known.  It reorganises this neurological field and in so doing recreates my relationship to the world.

And further – since it’s evident that my body has no borders – it completely recasts my relationship with and as the Cosmos.  Slowly but surely, I come to view this work as an offering made by the Cosmos for the benefit of one’s fellow-beings, the Earth, and the Cosmos itself.

Out of my mind
and into the star-stuff of my cells
I’ll follow the angel called fear
so resplendent in her costume
borrowed
from Love’s limitless wardrobe.

The angel called fear.

Allons-y!

 


Image: Frederick Walker, The Woman in White, 1871, gouache on paper. Tate London


16 thoughts on “following fear into the star-stuff of my cells

  1. THIS FROM YOU, DEAR MIRIAM….. IS SURELY THE ABSOLUTE BEING ABSOLUTELY TIMELY WITH “ME” DURING THESE MARVELOUS ELDER-YEARS’ CAVORTS AND OPENINGS…..AND YES, ONLY DAYS AGO SO-CALLED UNCONSCIOUS FEAR STARTED MAKING ITSELF KNOWN…. AGAIN, YOU HAVE SO TENDERLY, LOVINGLY EXPRESSED WHAT IS TRULY BEYOND WORDS!!! THANK YOU AGAIN!

    1. Dorothea – thanks for your {{{enthusiastic}}} comment! It’s beyond me how these things line up in such a timely manner, and I’m thrilled you found my words match your experience.

      I wrote to a friend that it had only taken me 73 years to write this post – what a journey, what a ride!

      Love and blessings to you dear friend. x

  2. this is a wonderfully written first hand report from behind the friendly lines of the encounter zone of the previously resisted emotion. i have heard many many speaker and poets mention how fear is a gift and a blessing and it was beyond me what they meant. but i think maybe that your first hand account of what has taken place gives me a glimpse of that truth. and i understand every one of the non-doer aspect as well. a friend tells me, what is happening in my reading and you sharing is life encountering life, and exposing life to what life exposes itself to. BEAUTIFUL and well written…thank you VERY much for sharing 🙏🏻

    1. Thank you for your appreciative comment @beliefpatrol. Life encountering life, experiencing life, sharing life – that’s all that’s going on…
      It’s not easy to express using dualistic language, so I am very heartened that you caught my meaning.
      A deep bow to you, and thank you for reading!
      In love, ml

  3. Dear Miriam, what an absolutely beautifully written text! I also caught your meaning. Your words transported me beyond words to „an impartial gaze of whole body awareness“. And I just love your poem at the end. Thank you for following Spirit‘s urgings to write. Blessings

    1. Thank you for your beautiful comment Lorraine; what a joy to know you caught my meaning too…
      And thanks for introducing me to your “Light Hearted Enterprises” site – I look forward to exploring your offerings!
      Love and blessings, ml

      1. Lorraine – how very mysterious! The *lighthearted enterprises* site left a “like” on this post, but why I connected you with it I have no idea! Strange things happen. I’m glad you aren’t offended at my error, and find the site interesting. 🙂

    1. Dear Andrew – what a heart-warming comment! It’s taken me a lifetime to pare my words down to the bones, to really reach into my own experience and ruthlessly edit out lurking concepts – unless they serve a poetic purpose.

      Your writing is excellent. Just keep it flowing…

      Thank you, and a deep bow to you. 🙂

  4. For decades I lived avoiding my fears. Today when I think I have acceptance of what is instead of what i want to be another layer of fear is revealed to me. Awareness comes to me more quickly but my resistance is knee jerk. How beautiful layed out this Love living you describe. Thanks for the cairns, you are walking me home!

    1. Di – you are such a treasure of a co-traveler… I feel deeply touched by your words. When you ended with “you are walking me home” I immediately thought of how Ram Dass once said: “We’re all just walking each other home.” Isn’t that the truth! ❤

  5. Dearest Miriam….I’ve made my own copy of your beautiful “map”. It’s true…we are given so many “maps out of darkness” that don’t really serve us, do they? To enter the darkness is a solitary venture but when so beautifully expressed it illuminates the way for us all. Thank you for this beauty… love Jana

    1. Jana! I’ve been thinking of you, wondering how your journey unfolds.
      I never thought of my post as a “map”… but if it might be helpful I’ll go with that!
      It’s so true – the descent is a “solitary venture”. No one can accompany us, advise us or make valid comments about what we experience. Yet I have been encouraged, comforted even, by the words of those who share their adventures into the “dark forest”. (Including your own luminous poetry and prose!)
      Love and blessings Jana… and a deep bow.

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