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Fearlessness

Fearlessness

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Published by Andrew Marshall
An article by Andrew Marshall, author of self-help books "The Great Little Book of Happiness" and "Awakening Heart: The Blissful Path to Self-Realisation" on how the practice of mindfulness gives us confidence and inner strength.
An article by Andrew Marshall, author of self-help books "The Great Little Book of Happiness" and "Awakening Heart: The Blissful Path to Self-Realisation" on how the practice of mindfulness gives us confidence and inner strength.

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Published by: Andrew Marshall on May 25, 2012
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07/25/2013

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www.joyousness.orgAugust 2011
Cultivating Fearlessness
An article on finding inner strength
Andrew Marshall
 
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CULTIVATINGFEARLESSNESS
One of the positive things emerging fromthe recent outbreaks of violence in the UKis a very strong reminder that nothingabout our world is safe. Everything can fallapart without any warning. Often we arespectators to events in the world that aretraumatic but our observations are oftenfrom the comfort of our homes or offices.The perspective is different when thingshappen closer to us, and, understandably,we may experience anxiety or fear. Somepeople have the misfortune to live in fearall their lives; for many of us, fear isn'tapparent until something triggers it, forthe rest of the time lying dormantbeneath the surface.The word 'fearlessness' can implydifferent things. We might equate it withgreat courage, where in spite of fear, anaction is carried out anyway. Or it may betaken to indicate recklessness, wherethere is a temporary suspension of perception of danger so that there is noconcern as to consequences. But supposewe take it to mean a total absence of fearbecause of its opposite – the full presenceof inner strength and confidence.Fear comes from a deep-seated belief thatactually everything is not all right and thata state of loss is going to befall us. Thatloss could be of current circumstances,material things, physical well-being, self-identity, loved ones and of life itself. Somefears arise because of memories of painfulexperiences, which may have beenphysical, emotional, mental or all three.We know from experience that most fearsare totally illogical because we are stillhere in spite of everything we have livedthrough. An exhaustive list of fears wouldbe impossible to compile because of theirsheer number and complexity. But tobecome fearless doesn't require a hugeanalysis into every source of anxiety.Rather, it needs a development of fearlessness itself; the "ness" indicatingthe presence of a positive quality ratherthan the absence of a negative one.That positive is unshakable confidencebased on knowledge and to find it wehave to transcend - go beyond -everything that makes us feel otherwise.To transcend in this sense means to takeour awareness to a deeper level of ourbeing - beyond our thoughts, beliefs andfeelings that fuel our habitual patterns of reaction. We have to travel to a part of our nature that doesn't crave self-identityor survival. It is an aspect of us that hasthe quality of radiance and is sometimesknown as "pure awareness" because it iswithout colouring or qualification; itsimply is. But if it is that simple, why is itso difficult to find?The reality is that pure awareness isalways present in the same way that inour three-dimensional world space isalways present. We don't see space,though; we see the objects within spaceand understand, if we think about it at all,that space is present. But really we reactto and with objects without giving toomuch thought to space. We might thinkthat object A is too close to object B butwill normally think of that as a problem of 
 
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objects rather than of space. So it is withawareness. All thoughts, feelings, beliefsand habitual tendencies can only arise inthe space of awareness but they aregenerally so strong that we cannotexperience awareness just as it is. It isthere but we cannot see it because we areso engrossed with everything else.To take the path to pure awarenessrequires a change of focus. Instead of focusing on everything that is going onwithin us and around us, we focus onspace and stillness. Sometimes we can dothat by sitting down to meditate; at othertimes it will involve being aware of stillness in what we do and in ourenvironment. It means practisingmindfulness: mindfulness of action - fullawareness of what we are doing - and alsomindfulness of speech. Both of those willgenerate mindfulness of thought.Gradually, by deliberately slowing themind down, it becomes clearer and life ismore enjoyable and fruitful; somedescribe their lives as becoming far lessstressful.Is this the experience of pure awareness?No, but it is a major start because we arebecoming more aware of space, bothinner and outer, and enjoying theinteraction of everything that arises in the“space” of consciousness. But we will alsofind that it is difficult to maintainmindfulness all the time. Thoughts,emotions and innumerable distractionswill temporarily pull us off course. Wemay be feeling more confident andexperiencing a greater degree of fearlessness but probably not onehundred percent or for one hundredpercent of the time. The reason for this isthat our internal currents of thought andbelief patterns are extremely strong. Theydon't become entirely still except aftermany years, and some would saylifetimes, of training; but they do weakenif we apply a little effort.Many teachings say it is necessary to havea refined nervous system in order toexperience pure awareness and tomaintain it. They detail at some lengthpractices which are designed to purifysubtle energy channels within the body. Itis not enough just to sit still, they say.There is work to be done. For most peopleleading busy lives, though, such practicesare not realistic and in any event need tobe explained and taught by a reliableteacher. However, we can still makesignificant progress, even if we have abusy lifestyle.In meditation, we may sometimes be ableto observe a gap between thoughts.Rather than getting lost in the streams of thoughts, feelings and sensations that canarise in meditation, we remain alert. Thatalertness can only be maintained if thenervous system is reasonably clear.Tiredness, illness, medication and poordiet are some of the things that can cloudour awareness, so we should look afterour body as best we can. The posture inmeditation is important, too. If we adopt alounging position, the meditation isunlikely to be clear so the better advice isto ensure the spine is reasonably straight,some would say with the backunsupported though that is not practicalfor everyone. Our meditation posture

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