Picture this. Mountains. A sunset. A stately rock. The silhouette of a warrior being warrior-ish on top of said rock. That warrior is you. Your own personal Mr. Miyagi looks on as you montage your way into a kung-fu-kicking, samurai-sword-bearing super ninja jedi. Miyagi’s already lined face crinkles further. Is that a smile? Yes it is. And it can only mean one thing. You are ready. Without hesitation, you levitate down from your rock and race into battle against a thousand angry tribbles. Bam! Pow! Fearless!
Okay, not really. However, I admit that the above scenario is very close to what I used to think of as fearlessness. It meant looking cool and kicking butt. It meant becoming so strong and fast and clever that there was nothing left to be afraid of. So tough that I could beat up a tsunami. So quick that I could outrun a race car driven by a cheetah (hmm, that might not actually be that hard…). So brilliant that I could outthink Vizzini and Palpatine at the same time between subway stops.
However, a little research and a few bummer servings of common sense broccoli later, and I’ve come to realize an entirely different and more powerful view of what it means to be fearless. The fearlessness of the warrior monk of Shambhala (Sorry, no levitation involved).
In Shambhala, to become fearless, you must first face yourself. Crummy, I know. Sure, there is good in each of us but there is also plenty of bad and even more ugly. Most of us spend our lives trying to flush the bad and the ugly down the toilet where no one (not even ourselves) will ever see it. But like a too large and irritatingly stubborn lump of feces, it just keeps bubbling up from the depths and threatening to overflow all over the bathroom floor of our self perception. Gross.
The only way to keep from seeing the mess is by distracting ourselves constantly. Not a moment goes by where most of us aren’t busy with something. Working, reading, care-giving, cooking, gardening, gossiping, chopping wood, hoola hooping… Anything.
But to be a Shambhala warrior, you must allow the feces to flood. The monks themselves, do this through meditation. In fact, they teach that meditation is the only way to gain true insight into ourselves. However, I find that a special technique called wall staring (it’s exactly like it sounds) seems to be highly effective for me. You can also stare at fences, fields, the floor, your toaster… The only requirement really is that whatever you are staring at is utterly and mind-numbingly boring.
During this time, you do nothing but sit and look at your crap. You look at your crap, but you don’t judge your crap. Instead you accept it, care for it even. Swaddle it up like a baby and make faces at it till it giggles. Pretty soon you begin to realize that there are diamonds embedded in it. Eventually you realize that it is not crap at all but instead a wonderful kaleidoscope of thoughts, feelings, and perceptions, ever changing, yet exactly as it should be in that moment. No good. No bad. No ugly. Just you. And it’s beautiful.
But wait, you’re not done. Congratulations, you have begun to sit with your turds and turn them into gemstones. That’s amazing but it is only the first step. There is more.
The next step on the path to Shambhala fearlessness is to face your fear. This doesn’t mean running out and doing everything you can think of that scares you. You don’t have to volunteer to survive alone in the Alaskan wilderness with nothing but a toothpick and a pre-soiled pair of underwear to aid you. It doesn’t mean leaping headfirst into a pool of sharks with laser beams attached to their heads (or ill-tempered seabass for that matter).
All it means is that you must look directly at your fear, at the emotion itself (this goes for all of your negative emotions actually). When we feel fear, most of us try to run from it. Crumple it up. Jam it down between the couch cushions and hope nobody looks there…
Warriors, they don’t do this. They don’t waste their time being scared of their fear. To them, fear is not some evil thing that needs to be thrown back into the fire from whence it came… No. Instead, when they feel fear they simply look at it. They study the sensation of it. Take it apart and figure out where it came from and why. Finally, they accept it and as a result the fear loses its power. It dissipates and pretty soon it isn’t even fear anymore.
This is how the Shambhala warrior becomes fearless.
Step 1: Get to know yourself by getting bored.
Step 2: Accept your “bad” parts without judging them as bad.
Step 3: Study your fear (and other negative emotions).
Step 4: Accept your fear and move into it instead of away.
Step 5: Become fearless.
Good luck 😉
P.S. If you would like to learn more about buddhism as it relates to fearlessness, then I recommend the book, Smile at Fear by Chogyam Trungpa.
“Kind people find out that they are cruel. Brave men discover that they are really cowards. Confronted by their true selves, most men run away screaming.” The Neverending Story