I read Susan Piver’s How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life: Opening Your Heart to Confidence, Intimacy, and Joy over the weekend, and I highly recommend it for anyone who struggles with fear and for anyone who has any interest in meditation.
In the book, Susan talks about the fact that there are really only three things that we fear: ourselves, others, and life itself. She goes on to address each of these in turn to guide us through ways to work through these fears using meditation and Maitri (a practice of loving-kindness). She ends the book with careful instructions for a seven-day meditation program that involves a 36 hours retreat followed by the incorporation of the meditation practice back into one’s everyday life.
This is one of those books that sparked insight after insight for me. I will need to read it again just to better mark all of the passages that spoke so deeply to me. During my first reading, I was so excited by the material that I could not make myself slow down enough to let it all soak in. (One quote already snuck into Saturday’s post about Choosing simplicity, but I’m sure there will be many more appearing here in coming weeks.)
One of the concepts that I find most intriguing about her approach to dealing with fear through meditation is that it offers a way to be present with the fear (or pain or other emotion) while remaining detached enough to prevent it from overwhelming me. Too often, I either try to ignore or deny an emotion, or I let it overwhelm me so completely that I am paralyzed by it.
Either approach winds up with the emotion calling the shots. In the first case, I push the emotion and the experience into my shadow where it continues to control me unconsciously because it’s never been processed. In the second case, it takes over my entire life in the present and controls my perception, my thoughts, and my actions. Both are extremes that leave me stuck.
As much as I have been trying to welcome my emotions but remain a detached observer, I am finding this to be much easier said than done. I love the idea of having a practice that will facilitate my ability to do this on a regular basis.
I have been intrigued by the idea of meditating for years but have never gotten truly serious enough to pursue it as a regular practice. I find it interesting that this is the third book I have read within the last couple of weeks that emphasized meditation—all three emphasizing Buddhist meditation, incidentally. Each one of these books has absolutely captivated me and inspired me deeply.
I don’t know at this point whether this has something to do with my preparations to begin yoga teacher training tomorrow, whether it is a nudge to consider making Buddhism a part of my path, or a simple push to make a meditation practice a part of my daily life. I am content not to know yet, but I do think that the first step for me is to find a way to incorporate meditation into my daily routine. I know from experience that this will be challenging at first, but I see such great possibilities for this practice to help me move in the direction I wish to go.
In the meantime, if you have any interest in meditation or in finding better ways to address fear in your life, I strongly recommend this book. It’s an easy read but is also filled with great depth and wisdom. I am grateful that it found its way into my hands.