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Above Fear

Above Fear

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Published by Bryan Kennedy
Examining the basis of fear through meditation
Examining the basis of fear through meditation

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Published by: Bryan Kennedy on Mar 07, 2007
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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01/01/2013

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AboveFear
“I have not ceased being fearful, but I have ceased to let fear control me.I have accepted fear as a part of life - specifically, the fear of change,the fear of the unknown; and I have gone ahead despite the pounding in myheart that says: turn back, turn back, you'll die if you venture too far.
-EricaJong
Bryan KennedySID # 15855492Psychology 107
 Examining the basis of fear through meditation
 
GSI: Sandra Black 
Fear is within us; consuming our thoughts and coloring our perceptions. Ahorn blares to your right – do you contemplatively choose to ignore it, concludingthat the warning was not directed at you? No, you involuntarily orient your eyes andmind to the sudden stimulus. Fear drives us, binding us to actions of which weseemingly have no control. Through the meditative examination of my own fears, Ishall attempt to form a deeper understanding of their root causes, allowing me to better circumvent the fear-based automatic responses that compel my actions.When I began my first walking meditation, my intent was not to study fear.Rather, it was simply to cut down on the distraction of wandering thought patterns,so that I could recognize the attentional states that lie beneath. To accomplish this, Iadopted a form of walking meditation from the Vipassana tradition, through whichone labels and thus becomes aware of the mind’s meandering path (Silananda,1991). Those unfamiliar with walking meditation may find the sound of it a bit odd.After all, it seemingly contradicts the more traditional sitting meditation technique,which one performs in a quiet setting. By its very nature, a walking meditation isdone in a world filled with stimuli bidding for one’s attention. Instead of closingone’s eyes and looking within, one is obligated to look upon the world with seeingeyes. According to the Zen master Ta-hui, meditating “in the midst of activity isimmeasurably superior to the quietistic approach.” (
Hakuin
) Such a meditationchallenges one to maintain his focus, while at the same time allowing for a morecomplete understanding of the senses. I chose a walking meditation because itallowed me to observe my interaction with the world in an aware state.
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During Vipassana walking meditation, one chooses a trail that has a set goalso as not to wander aimlessly. Likewise, the path of the mind is controlled to anextent; during my meditative walk, my only ambition was to recognize when myoveractive mind wandered too far from the present moment. When this happened, Iwould simply tether it in by silently saying “thinking” (Silananda, 1991). Doing thiswould bring me back to the present, letting me again focus on my surroundings. If Iheard a bird chirping above me, I would label it “bird” to recognize where myattention had shifted. The goal of labeling here is to achieve mindfulness, bydiscouraging one’s dwelling on any particular attentional state, while at the sametime allowing the vessel of attention to float naturally in the tide. The purpose of this mindfulness is to achieve a state of unity of the mind and body (Rosch, 1997).My overall purpose in undertaking this endeavor was to discover what I attend towhen my mind is allowed to roam. I would have never guessed that the basis for much of that attention was fear.Starting my journey, I find myself walking along Arch Street, toward mydestination. Slowing my pace, evening my breath, focusing my thoughts. I hear acar turning the corner ahead – I label it: “car”. More walking. I begin to think of how silly I must look to the person in the car, walking around zombie-like as I am.Were they looking at me, making a face perhaps… Label: “thinking”… Returning tothe moment… I’m doing this right, aren’t I? Oops… “Thinking”… Returning... Ihear a wood-chipper in the distance, and move on. I walk past a man and a womansitting on a deck, having a conversation. My attention is drawn to their words,extracting information that I don’t need but inexplicably want. My mind shouts out
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