Mindfulness As Fearless Presence

In the Buddha's search for freedom he, too, turned his mindfulness to overcoming his fears.  In the text called Overcoming Fear and Dread, he recounts his practice.

“How would it be if in the dark of the month, with no moon, I were to enter the most strange and frightening of places, near tombs and in the thick of the forest, that I might come to understand fear and terror.  And in so doing, a wild animal would approach or the wind rustle the leaves and I would think, “Perhaps the fear and terror now comes.” And being resolved to dispel the hold of that fear and terror, I remained in whatever posture it arose, sitting or standing, walking or lying down.  I did not change until I had faced that fear and terror in that very posture, until I was free of its hold upon me...And having this thought, I did so.  By facing the fear and terror I became free.” In post-modern times, mindfulness has helped us develop this kind of attention, this listening with presence and feeling – and produced in many deep relief, deep change.

We discover the benefit of curiosity and openness, what Zen master Suzuki Roshi famously called beginner's mind.  In Suzuki Roshi's words, “We pay attention with respect and interest, not in order to manipulate, but to understand what is true.  And seeing what is true, the heart becomes free.”


May we meet the places that scare us with attention, respect and interest.

May we each understand what is deeply true.

May our hearts become free.