I awoke Thursday with the usual feeling of “fear and dread” that constricts the body before rising. I recognize it each morning and wonder where it comes from. I am not conscious of what the mind must be thinking to create such a state before awakening that would leave such a residue. It indicates to me that there must be something *before* the first thought, some automatic conditioning in the body-mind that kicks in as I awake. There is and always has been this ever-present “Fear Gate.”
Settling into the meditation chair, after lighting the candles, and striking the bowl – I journaled a few notes before meditation, as is my practice - noting that the “Fear Gate” had closed tight around me; also noting how it keeps me on the edge, on the surface, unable to go deeply into the core of Beingness.
As I was sitting, feeling the struggle of resistance trying to meet the fear, something caught my eye. I had lit a stick of incense, as I always do, just outside the room I sit in, out of view, so as not to overwhelm the small room (and myself) with smoke. But my attention was suddenly captured by swirls of smoke passing by the door, dancing in the sunlight streaming in from the skylight. I got up to experience the phenomena more fully, and managed to “capture” a few shots of the swirling smoke.
I love how Life presents us with metaphors for the things we tend to struggle with. And of course we can read any meaning into it that we want. But if we listen Life speaks to us in ways that we can hear and understand.
I continued to watch in wonderment as the smoke from the incense danced in the light, leaving intricate fluid designs that changed and dissipated into haze – there and gone. The dance of form and formlessness, taking shape and dissipating fluidly, dancing with the air currents effortlessly… And it became clear what the “spiritual teachers” say - how solidly we *perceive* things to be – our thoughts, feelings, emotions, beliefs, opinions, our selves, life, etc. Yet they are just smoke, forming and dissipating with the movement of life – unless – we try to hold onto them, grasping at smoke with our mind – believing them and making them solid.
After the dance of light and smoke I was pleasantly surprised to find that the sense of fear and dread was gone. It had dissipated – like the smoke. Curiosity and playfulness *allowed* the solidification of the fear to dissipate from the mind, from focus - even if momentarily. Through curiosity and playfulness the “Fear Gate” released and I evidently entered a state of open Awareness.
Fear is of the “me-mind” - and the “me” contracts into fear – the form of fear. Our formless Beingness (True Nature) holds no grip on fear and is not constrained by fear’s form. It is totally free of fear and only experiences fear through the “me-function” – the particular arrangement of thoughts, feelings, beliefs and identifications that we call “me.” But in wide open Awareness there is no fear – only the dance of smoke and light. I know these things to be true, hearing them all before, and yet I continue to fear – amazing. What was understood in this phenomena of smoke was that when we occupy the space of inherent Awareness fear loses its grip – opens its gate and dissipates – if only in that moment. But it was enough to allow me to see what I needed to see, which was that *everything* is smoke, *everything* dissipates back into the open space of fluid, formless Aware Consciousness. We only need to bring our attention to that Space – the space of inherent Conscious Awareness that is curious and unafraid; instinctive – not reactive; intuitive – not based in mental concepts. It is aware of *everything* but does not *identify* itself *as* or with anything, including feelings, emotions, and thoughts – or the “me” - but remains unaffected and effortlessly fluid.
Having this re-cognition does not mean that the feeling of “fear and dread” has burned away completely. I still woke up today in the smoke swirls of fear and dread – totally disappointed that my insight wasn’t a “cure.” It’s a deeply engrained automatic pattern. And it feels like an ongoing process of re-orientation - of turning again and again to the awareness of the wide open space of Aware Consciousness, remembering that what I believe to be me, my thoughts, my feelings, and “my life” are just ~ smoke ~~~~