How do you work with fear?

“I’ve experienced many terrible things in my life, a few of which actually happened.” – Mark Twain

make the world with our thoughts BuddhaI have only recently challenged myself to choose my worries and thoughts, instead of letting my mind choose them. If I find myself focusing on thoughts I don’t enjoy or choose, I change my mind. I turn to more compassionate and positive thoughts. I was never taught that this is possible, but it is.

Golden Kingdom film BurmaI just saw a new film: “Golden Kingdom” by Brian Perkins. This is the first feature film made in Myanmar since its recent opening to the outside world. Here we are offered a simple, quiet film about four young, orphan monks living in a Buddhist monastery in a remote part of Northeast Burma. The head monk departs on a long journey from which he may never return, leaving the boys alone in the middle of the a forest filled with unknown dangers.

Once the boys are on their own, strange, magical occurrences begin to occur. Orphan Witazara, the eldest, realizes he needs to protect the three younger boys throughout a series of bizarre events, all of which threaten to unravel the fabric of the young monks’ reality.

More specifically, this is a study of traditional Buddhist practice. Blending documentary-style observation with some embellished storytelling, this picturesque portrait of four child monks, forced to fend for themselves in the absence of their mentor, adds a bracing spiritual dimension to an otherwise universal boys-to-men arc.

golden kingdom in the grasses Burma

In one of the most powerful scenes for me, Orphan Witazara confronts an unseen evil in the woods. His response is to repeat over and over again one of his primary teachings:

If I look at what frightens me, it will go away.

When I thought about that teaching for a while, I found it to be much like something I have learned in my exploration of counseling psychology. When we try to ignore our fears, they can become larger and more scary in our minds. But if we have the courage to confront what we fear and gain awareness of where that fear may come from, if we free ourselves to explore where that fear comes from inside of us, it may gradually lose its power over us.

Awareness is the first step towards freedom from fear.

death and taxes signBegin with the awareness that we alone can free ourselves of our own fears. So many worries can be solved with a new attitude of “Who cares?” Even working with what most of us fear most, death, is workable. If we confront the reality that every single person you have ever known and will ever meet, must die, somehow makes death more approachable. We’re all in this together as living human beings, leading to gratitude for each new day.

Everything you want is on the other side of fear…

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