Open Heart, Open Mind: Looking at Your Life
A Tibetan Buddhist master shares how to keep fear from holding you back
BY: Tsoknyi Rinpoche
As a child, I’d taken a lot of risks, climbing to the tallest tree branches and scrambling onto mountain overhangs that even goats feared to climb. In the course of my adventures I’d taken my share of spills and the pain I’d felt had imprinted itself on my physical body. The physical pain generated a fearful emotional response to the possibility of falling. Taken together, these physical and emotional responses then crystallized into an idea that heights are dangerous.
In simple terms, a pattern had evolved: a tightly woven knot of physical, emotional, and conceptual reactions which, taken together, I’d accepted as fact, a bit of truth about who I was and the circumstances in which I found myself. The first time I’d tried to step onto the bridge, my pattern had taken over completely. I had become my fear. My fear had become me.
“Okay,” I told myself, “I can see a pattern here, but does this pattern apply right here and now?”
Of course not. The glass was solid. Other people were walking across the bridge. The pattern made no intellectual sense. I tried a second time to step onto the bridge—and failed again. Even though I knew intellectually that I wouldn’t fall, I still froze.
So I stepped back once more and began to look again at what was holding me back. After a few minutes’ consideration, I realized that the pattern of fear had become so deeply embedded in my thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations that I’d come to accept it as part of me, of who I believed I was and how I defined the world around me. This sort of identification is the “glue” that holds patterns together.