Roughly a week ago I wrote about acceptance and not looking back. It was fun. It felt good. I felt whole, and alive. I was aware of a nurturing Invisibility with which I was joined, as if I was wading into a body of water that has no opposite shore, shaking my arms loose, wiggling my head around, and generally preparing to dive forward and start doing a Michael Phelps impersonation at a right angle to my past.
It wasn’t just me that I felt good about, either. Unity arrives with a joyous feeling about everyone. Unity has the sensation of inclusiveness, of every being gathering around, of your own vantage point being a particular window with a view into the playground where all beings tumble and twirl, hang from the rafters, invent new whiffle ball pitches, blow bubbles, or sit on benches and make notes in their diaries. We are all such windows. Some beings are looking through you right now. You are looking through them. Everyone is looking through everyone else, and, ideally, discovering the natural radiance we all share.
Then I had an experience that really brought home for me what Jesus speaks about in that same section of the Dialogues of A Course of Love as temptation. I have for most of my life equated temptation with desiring something material that brings with it momentary bliss, but not lasting satisfaction- a status of some sort, the right location, a special recognition, chocolate cake, whiskey, an autograph, money, cool gadgets, etc. The objects of our temptation are ultimately hollow, and we more or less know that, but there is something about them that lures us in, some short-lived upside we can’t quite do without in our moment of so-called weakness. Otherwise, what would be the temptation? I haven’t often thought of fear as tempting, but the tumblers in the lock that hangs on the gate that stands between me and every lasting good thing I desire fell into place- at least a few of them- and when they aligned I could see it clearly. Fear is absolutely a temptation.
It is cleverly disguised, however…
At some point you have undoubtedly participated in a group endeavor, and the members of that ensemble came together for some sort of stated reason, whatever that was. You may have worked in a company with more than one person in it. You may have been on a team. You may have been on a marching band. You may have gone to school and found yourself in a classroom full of other people. It really doesn’t matter the scale. We could even go macro here and say that you are part of a team consisting of all humans alive on this planet.
At some point, a couple of things may collide in your thoughts. One might be, this can’t be as good as it gets. There is something still missing in my life, something for me to stalk out there in the world and attain, or make my own. Some destiny with my name on it that I had better get off my ass and go find. This may collide with the notion that whatever it is you are doing, it would perhaps go a whole lot better if you were in charge of it. You might find yourself saying, if I started my own band, I could do things my way, and it would be good. I should have my own art gallery, because my taste is incredible and the world would benefit from this missing ingredient. And plus, if I did, I would have “made it.” This is what creative people do, by the way, they get their name up there on the board. And so it’s time for me to open my account, post a score up there in plain view before it’s too late. You get both of those things going for you, and you got yourself a very interesting temptation, with fear en route to really drive it home and solidify it into a tangible conundrum.
Bear with me here, because I realize there is a time and a place for starting a new band, a way in which it could be a wonderful and appropriate thing, a vehicle for expressing who you are discovering yourself to be. When you feel that way, you just wake up one day and start writing and playing music and it happens as naturally as apple pie. But this is not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about starting a new band because you need to show the world how to do it properly, or because you think doing so will fill the gap left by whatever is missing. I’m talking about starting a band because you think, if you did, things would be somehow better, and with the riff raff from the old band out of the equation you could finally be you the way you were meant to be. That’s when fear shows up.
Well, it did for me. It’s tempting now at this stage, for my thoughts, spurred on by a six pack of refrigerated latte beverages and the punch lines of a thousand self help books at their disposal, to whip me up into this state where I’m going to feel like I suck if I don’t tackle this fear head on and make something of myself post haste. Fear, after all, is the only thing that could hold me back. I know this. You know this. We all know this. We’ve got a hair-trigger tolerance set between every two thoughts and if fear comes along into view, we immediately want to go Greco-Roman on it. Conquer it. Why? Because if I’m afraid, I’m obviously dropping the ball… I don’t want to look like an idiot here. Everybody knows: just choose love over fear.
What’s the problem, pal? You don’t get it?
This state becomes a real travesty of a mental dwelling place. Part of me knows that doing anything whatsoever for the reasons described above is going to amount to a wild goose chase, the loss of a few months or years of my life, and maybe some good “life lessons” at the end of it. Another part feels like if I don’t do something, I’ll never live up to my potential. Life will have passed me by. Something precious will have been wasted. You may not think this is tempting, but this is the cleverness of fear, in my experience anyway– to make this type of seeming decision an issue that clamors for resolution. I’m not sure if this is a universal one or not, but it grabs me by the neck once in a while and tries to lay out a clear program for me. It dares me to become distracted, to get focused on a side show, to inhabit a landscape of assumptions that is wholly arbitrary and meaningless.
Thankfully, this particular emotional roller coaster was like a 24-hr virus. I opted not to take the bait, but I wrestled with it for a while. After some time, I realized I was arguing with a straw man. The whole thing is a set-up. Being fearless doesn’t mean we have to walk the tight-rope between the Sears Towers, just because when we thought of it, we realized it scared us, and all fears need to be conquered. Sometimes that little twinge of reluctance is simply saying that something isn’t our path. The acceptance of the fullness at the heart of our being renders this type of trap meaningless. It shuts off an entire layer of the world, leaving only what is real… It is only that last vestige of wanting, that little piece of bait in the trap, that draws us in.
What’s oh so very tempting, is to walk around with the unshakable feeling that something’s wrong, or something’s missing, or some achievement will make us better. Fasting from want means calling baloney on this feeling. Stay close to the brightest feelings you can carry, and wave them like torches wherever you go. At some point, everything will be obvious.