I had a whole epiphany the other day, sitting with a glass of wine, and I can finally put it to words. Fear is not present.
Funny expression, you can read it a couple of ways, especially from inside the buddhist practice of learning to be present. I actually heard the phrase a year ago, in a teaching by Lama Drupgyu Tenzin. I mean in it all those ways, and perhaps if I share a little inner journey, the realization may land in you as well.
I’ve mentioned fear a couple of times here since Nancy’s passing. During the first year after her death, I became very aware that my own fear of dying is almost gone, that I’m more willing to take risks and take action than I ever have before in my life. That’s a huge change, and if you truly believe in reincarnation or heaven, then you may know that place in your heart where there is nothing to be afraid of. About a year ago, I wrote about it again, when Roger Ebert passed away. Now I realize that coming to grips with death is but the first layer of my fear.
I deeply love the sensory pleasure of my life, the food and cooking, wine and conversation, affection and attachment to my partner. I cannot imagine giving them up. I think about coming to the end of my life, and having to release Pinot Noir, kisses, great meals, hot tubs…all those pleasures I adore. I greedily fill my life with as much of that as I can, as though running from the realization that all this pleasure will end one day.
Ah, but peeling back a layer, I notice fear there. It’s a more subtle version of the same thing. The quality of this fear is different, it is all caused by my imagination of something that has not yet happened, based on my memory of loss that has happened in the past. When I sit here, with my glass of wine, and just open to the moment I have with this beautiful thing, there is no loss and no fear, there just is the wonder of the wine. In fact, the more I release my thoughts and imaginations, the more I experience the wonder, the incredible sensory explosion as I sip. As I move slightly off the moment, and notice a thought and follow it, a soft anxiety arises. And that feeling is fear.
This experience is inside-out for me. I’m so used to identifying myself, my awareness, as my thoughts and feelings. My teachers have repeatedly told me how thoughts and feelings are like ripples on a pond, with no substance or permanence, and they are right. It’s easy to understand the concept. But becoming the pond, and finding that stillness inside where thoughts are not I, is quite different. I realize this is the fruit of my practice, what I practice, and that stillness is fearless. There is no future to worry about, no past memory to cling to. There is only the wine, and the moment of exquisite delight as my sense consciousnesses lights up like a Christmas tree. I do not need to hold on to it, or fear it’s loss. The wine is now. And so am I, at least until the next thought carries me away to places where fear exists.