Fear can be such a debilitating experience, and the world can feel like an overwhelmingly scary place – if we let it. Last week’s blog was all about working with fear and fearlessness. (If you missed it, click here.)
This week we’re taking the exploration of fear further, by looking at fearlessness and gentleness together as an antidote to fear and the aggression that so often accompanies it.
Gentleness & Fearlessness Go Hand in Hand
Fear and aggression are nothing new. But there seems to be more of it than usual these days. This week’s terrorist attack in London is yet another heart-breaking example.
Unfortunately, these two emotions tend to create a vicious circle: Fear leads to aggression, which leads to more fear and more aggression.
So how do we break the cycle?
With fearlessness and gentleness.
On their own, each is a useful emotion, but together they are the perfect antidote to fear and aggression. When we arouse this potent mixture, we can enjoy a sense of strength, calm, and compassion all at the same time.
How do we do this?
Meditation and contemplation practices are instrumental in cultivating a gentle, fearless approach to life. In this post we’ll look at different ways to tap into both emotions and marry them together.
- Bring to mind a time when you felt fearless (you could even use a time when you watched someone else be fearless – such as a movie character or an athlete – and felt that way yourself).
- Experience the feeling of fearlessness in your body. Notice any tendency towards aggression.
- Now bring to mind a time when you felt gentle. Notice any tendency to feel weak.
- Finally, see if you can feel them both, side by side.
What did you notice?
What Do the Qualities of Gentleness & Fearlessness Look Like?
Until now, you may never have thought about fearlessness and gentleness as a natural combination.
But some people embody these two qualities beautifully, serving as powerful role models. Michelle Obama and the Dalai Lama are two great examples.
Take a few minutes to think about public figures, friends, family, co-workers, etc., who embody these positive qualities.
Once you’ve identified one or more people who fit the description, ask yourself these questions:
- Why did you pick them? What about them do you identify as fearless and gentle?
- Are there things you see in them that you’d like to see more of in yourself?
- If so, how can you bring more of this into your life?
“Real Fearlessness is the Product of Tenderness”
Now that you’ve explored the feelings of fearlessness and gentleness and considered what they look like in others, it’s time to connect with these qualities more deeply in yourself.
This week’s guided meditation includes contemplation of this quote from the Tibetan meditation master Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche:
Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness. It comes from letting the world tickle your heart, your raw and beautiful heart. You are willing to open up, without resistance or shyness, and face the world. You are willing to share your heart with others.
Being Strong and Relaxed in Meditation
Meditation is a wonderful way to uncover the inherent qualities of fearlessness and gentleness. It’s also a great place to apply them.
Feel the Energy
Gentleness and fearlessness are energetic qualities that we can feel in our bodies.
We recognize gentleness by the feeling of softening. Fearlessness we can experience as a feeling of rising up and expanding outward, to meet the world with strength.
One way to become familiar with these energies is by thinking about them at the start of your meditation session, before you begin your formal meditation technique.
- What does fearlessness feel like in my body and mind?
- What does gentleness feel like in my body and mind?
Applying Fearlessness to Meditation
Meditation is meant to change us, and change is rarely easy. It takes a degree of fearlessness to face ourselves with the intimacy and nakedness that leads to lasting change.
Sitting with our blazing brilliance and dark corners is challenging, but also liberating – Because what we aren’t willing to face brews beneath the surface, affecting our actions and decisions.
- If you have a regular meditation practice, congratulate yourself on your bravery.
- If you don’t, ask yourself why. Is there something that you’re afraid to face?
Applying Gentleness to Meditation
Many of us have been trained to be hard on ourselves, more so in some cultures and families than in others. But if you do tend to be hard on yourself, meditation is a wonderful time to practice gentleness. If you notice that you’re scolding yourself for not being a “good” meditator, try a little friendliness.
- What tone would you use with a child who is learning something new?
- Can you apply this same patience and gentleness towards yourself?
The next time you sit down to meditate, take some time to think about fearlessness and gentleness. See if this affects your meditation.
How Would Your Life Be Different?
Now that you’ve felt the energies of fearlessness and gentleness for yourself, it’s time to incorporate them more and more into your life.
Making any change in our lives starts with motivation.
To spark the desire for more fearlessness and gentleness, ask yourself these questions:
- How would my life be different if I were more fearless?
- How would my life be different if I were more gentle?
- Which do I need more of in my life – gentleness, fearlessness (or both!)?
What Can You Do Differently Today?
Now it’s time to take fearless, gentle action!
In the previous contemplation you asked yourself if there’s an area of your life that needs more fearlessness, gentleness or both. Based on your answers, ask yourself:
- What action can I take today to embody more of what I need in my life?
The action you choose doesn’t have to be big, but they should be meaningful to you. If you’re feeling stuck, here are a few suggestions:
- Reach out to someone you know in a fearless and gentle way. See if they respond differently.
- Choose to follow a difficult news story, but with a gentle, fearless attitude.
- Choose to take a political action with an attitude of fearlessness and gentleness, rather than anger and fear.