A way to free the heart

Standing at the mouth of a cave, a black place where you are unable to see, unsure what waits inside as you journey into the dark, what do you do? What scares you in that moment?

What would happen if you had no fear? You can have no fear. Hold this thought firm in your mind, then begin your walk there and see.

To fear or not to fear

Self-Portrait with Death Playing the Fiddle. Arnold Böcklin (1872)

Self-Portrait with Death Playing the Fiddle. Arnold Böcklin (1872)

On a recent hike, I rounded a corner with dense trees to find a very large cave or perhaps an old mine—two times my height and maybe 100 feet deep, the day's light reached inside just enough that I could see a drop straight down into ink black. Nearby was a large flat rock, with geodes and crystals stacked upon it and I wondered if these came from the deep. I also wondered what made their finders decide to leave them there instead of taking them home as a prize. I stood a little distance away and felt fear rush over me, of nothing in particular at first except the unknown. The thought of going into this cave made me want to run fast and far back down the mountain away from it, for what if in the next second something large came out and took me in and down with it... my mind sometimes likes to go to the largest terror it can imagine and then play there with it. I began to dislike the cave and the power it had taken over my actions.

I am ever learning, and practicing, that when these feelings of fear arise, I do not have to run away from what is causing them. That is giving away your power to another force, where something you fear is controlling you, your spirit, your free will, your heart. We do not have to let this happen.

Down into the cave

I sat down in front of the cave. I sat in front of this giant hole in the earth, where I could see to the back as it dropped who knows how deep, and wondered Why I am afraid of this dearth? Is it the unknown depth? Is it the way I feel compelled to jump into the hole—an invading imp of the perverse. Is it the irrational fear of some force pulling me down into it? Is it buried emotion from watching and reading Alice in Wonderland daily for months on end as a kid? Perhaps it's the simple explanation that it looks ready to cave in at any second, building up for the cataclysmic moment since it was dug. Maybe it is all of these reasons.

In sitting there ruminating on the questions, I realized a very important thing: the source of the fear, the cave, no longer scared me. I still had no desire to enter it, but I did not feel a resentment for a lack of ability to do so—it was a calm knowing that I could now if I wanted. There were no binding feelings. I had achieved freedom. The simple act of sitting there with the fear instead of reacting gave my mind time to realize what my heart knew: I, my heart, my free will, my spirit, I am stronger than my mind and the things it faces.

Forward to the light

This is a small example, and I was quick to come to the conclusion I was not going to be afraid of a cave in the woods. Some, most, cases in life are far more complex and to navigate the maze is a lengthier process. But I believe the lesson is the same. As you sit with fear and understand it instead of run away from it, you move through it and toward the freeing of your heart.

I believe this is a major human dilemma: we are always, in everything we do, striving to reach our own state we imagine of our content heart but fear is the ultimate enslaver of this, our most desired self. And it can be strong. The secret is we are always more powerful over it, if we believe ourselves to be. 

I have applied this to many things in my life prior to the cave, and others I am still working through; some have been lifelong, common and esoteric. I know that when I put work in toward combatting, accepting, embracing, moving through dark and fear, I am met every single time with light—with a happier heart, for I find myself freed, yet again. That's not to say the process isn't sometimes painful, or scary in itself, it can be met with unexpected trials and hardships, or go much differently than planned... but all the while I am confident that I am moving toward something good instead of something bad, and so I remain steady on the path. I've learned this thoroughly enough to be ever braver in my steps through life, where change is most often a joy.

And onward

I look at all of it as sort of an initiation, this process from dark to light shedding fears, onward to our bliss, Eden, true happiness, pure love. It is possible to find it, but we must work and earn our way there by moving in ways that are brave and true, in whichever ways that means to us—to our hearts.