Fear is a powerful emotion. And something in us is scared of it! Fear of fear. Fear grabs you at such a visceral level that it often feels like all of you. If you examine it on a physiological level, then you can really see how powerful it is and for good reason. See my article on Trauma and Focusing for more on this.
Can we really meet the most scary places in us with Focusing?
This story from the life of milarepa – the 11th century Tibetan Buddhist teacher – says it better than I can.
“One day Milarepa was meditating in front of his cave when the demons of anger, greed, and fear arose before him. They were truly horrible beings with flames spurting out of their nostrils and pus flowing from their eyes.
Rather than push them away, Milarepa invited the demons into his cave for tea. One by one they entered the cave, and in the light of his clear regard, they dissolved.
Eventually, only one demon remained. The most terrifying of them all, it roared and howled, and rather than dissolving in Milarepa’s presence, it grew larger and more foul. Regarding the demon with great humility, Milarepa stood and bowed, baring his neck and thrusting his head between the creature’s fangs. As he breathed in the sulfurous stench of the demon’s breath, Milarepa whispered, “Teach me your pain.”
Isn’t that amazing. He invites these demons in for tea. I imagine if I were in that situation I would be overwhelmed by fear and do anything to push them away…
And even more moving is his response to the final demon. He wants to know its pain, to listen to its story.
I wonder if he trusted his experience so deeply that the leap of faith that this required was not difficult for him. He knew that there was nothing really to be scared of, or in Focusing terms could say hello to his terror and carry it along with him. He knew that this demon was actually in pain and needed meeting and hearing.
More and more as I practice focusing I am able to meet my experience with curiosity rather than aversion., and this is so so welcome.
Yes. There are still places inside that parts of me are scared of and that’s where I start. I am making friends with something in me that is scared of meeting fear…
In fact, it is not about meeting one’s demons but more about meeting the parts of us that are afraid of them. We may not have much to do with the demons for a long time even but if we slowly begin to come into relationship with the aspects of us that are scared of the demons – eventually we will come closer to the demon itself and maybe see that it is not a demon at all, but something in dire pain. And it is important to say that every step on this journey transforms the whole being, it’s not just the big moment at the end. Every meeting of some part of us that wants to run away from our experience is a step towards… well, meeting our experience and needs to be appreciated.