The Places That Scare You—A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times
Popular notions of the Buddha often portray him serenely sitting under a bodhi tree or roaming around the countryside with a blissed-out grin. He’s The Enlightened One. He’s experienced oneness with the cosmos, after all, and has glimpsed into the very essence of existence itself. What’s there to be afraid of (except for maybe eating contaminated pork)?
However, Buddha acknowledged in his “Sutta on Fear and Dread” that even he experienced fear and dread just like the rest of us. No surprise there. With the primal limbic system embedded so deeply inside our noggins, always scanning for new threats (real or imagined), these responses are as hardwired into our consciousness as is the sex drive.
Centuries ago, Buddha discerned a way that liberates humanity from such impulses, and Buddhist nun Pema Chodron makes this ancient path relevant for today’s anxious times in The Places That Scare You.
Rather than offering self-satisfying bromides encouraging you to escape life’s anxieties by hiding in your meditative happy place, Chodron teaches that we need to embrace the inevitable troubles of life. There’s no avoiding that hard reality, but how we choose to deal with it is something we can influence:
“We can let the circumstances of our lives harden us so that we become increasingly resentful and afraid,” she writes, “or we can let them soften us and make us kinder and more open to what scares us. We always have this choice.”
Making the right choice is what makes all the difference in your quality of life. That, and always choosing to avoid the contaminated pork.