FEAR:- False Evidence Appearing Real. This is one of the teachings of Rabbit - to look at fear in a different light, a light that shows it for what fear is, an illusion. In the Cherokee teachings, Rabbit is a trickster and fear is a tricky teacher. Like Rabbit we can become immobilized by what we perceive as real or we can see it for the distraction it really is and hop beyond it's shadowy confines. Rabbit makes sure we are paying attention, not letting fear take control of our emotions and thoughts. If we're not paying attention to the roots and hillocks on our path that Rabbit has conveniently left for us, we'll trip over them every time until we learn to sort out what's real and what only looks real. Rabbit usually gets the last laugh at the silliness of our fears!
The FEAR acronym resonates with me because it shows us that the root of our fears lies in our beliefs - the beliefs we were taught in our family, in our religion, and in our culture. Many, if not most, of these beliefs were never spoken aloud. We acquired them through osmosis, being an energetic sponge, soaking up all the feelings and thoughts from those around us. These are the unconscious assumptions we learned about life and reality that we don't think to question. We learned them from living in this time and place, growing up in our family of origin and exposure to the current religious, scientific and political norms. The elders have taught me that beliefs are watered down truths, twisted and shaped to meet the needs of the ego, not the soul. I have never met a belief of mine that didn't turn out to be a lie or an illusion. Beliefs have to be explained, argued or debated, leading to defended them, fighting for them, killing for them, dying for them. Truths don't require all this, they stand by themselves. I know these are strong words and carry the mark of heresy but this is vital, important work to do right now. Beliefs can hold a kernel of truth, obscuring a truth with entanglements or can be a direct lie or contradiction of a truth. By ferreting out our truths from our beliefs, we free ourselves from false evidence appearing real.
We can call fear by many different names: anxiety, tension, prejudice, judgment, and even excitement! One of the questions I ask myself is whether I am feeling fear or excitement. Because they feel very much alike, we have taken the habit of always calling it fear. Sometimes it's a combination of both but it helps to know when I'm really excited about what isn't known or what is coming into my life. Yes, it can be scary and exciting at the same time. How do we think roller coasters became so popular? Or horror movies? It can actually be fun to feel that much excitement - it makes our heart pound and our palms sweaty just like fear. Only we can discern whether we are feeling fear or excitement. I suggest you look deeper next time to get to the bottom of how you are feeling. Once we realize that it is excitement rather than fear, it opens a door within us that says, "just relax, sit back and enjoy the ride!" It helps us to lay down the need to control ourselves, other people, and life. When we live from fear, control will be very high on our list of desirable traits and abilities. We can see it now in our country. The economic fear level is very high with many harmful consequences being experienced by a great many people. The reaction is to institute tighter controls so what got us into this mess won't happen again. The same happened after 9/11 - many new controls were put into place that may or may not help us to be protected. But we humans are so creative someone will find ways around whatever controls are in place if they want to badly enough. Bad or harmful events don't happen because there aren't enough controls, rules or laws. They happen because we are not paying attention.
My teacher tells me the three most important things in life to be happy, secure, and living a sacred life are to (1) pay attention; (2) pay attention and (3) yes, you guessed it, pay attention. We can't really pay attention or be conscious in our lives if we are complacent, going about our business on automatic pilot with a sense of entitlement or, the other end of the spectrum, if we are fearful, mistrusting anything that isn't known and closed down. More controls mean we can go back to sleep, not taking responsibility for how we live our lives and how our choices impact others and the next seven generations. Taking responsibility (the ability to respond) for our lives and choices means we stay awake and help others to awaken. If we had been paying attention as individuals, as communities, as a country, we would have listened and heard the warnings and had time to take the appropriate actions.
The year 2008 was the Year of Leaping into our True Selves, with Black Panther teaching and guiding us how to do that in our lives. In dreaming with Panther, her teaching to me stated it very simply: "You don't leap because of fear preventing you. No one doesn't leap only because they are fearful. Think of all the times in your life when you were fearful but you leapt anyway. Fear is a good scapegoat. It's easier to blame your fears, that catchall category of being immobilized. Rather it is domestication (being all the beliefs, attitudes and habits that are learned as part of our social conditioning) that keeps you from leaping and being your truest self. Domestication tethers the soul. How far can you leap when you are tethered?" This reinforced a teaching I had learned from Will Rockingbear, my teacher who is Cherokee. He suggested I talk with my fears, telling them that I know they are there and welcome to come along but I'm going to do [what I've been fearful about] anyway. By talking with my fears and inviting them along, they usually don't make such a big ruckus. In fact, they are mostly quiet and content but as soon as I stretch myself into being more in my life (more powerful, more visible, more of who I am) those fears start clamoring again, creating a big disturbance. So again, I talk with them, inviting them along and when they realize I'm going to do it anyway, they pipe down, grumbling softly under their breath until they are content once more.
I used this way with my fear of having anyone hear me sing. When alone, I would sing out, delighting in the expression of song. If a group of us were all singing together, I would gladly join in but to think of singing in front of people made my heart pound, my head spin and my throat close up. This was about 20% excitement and 80% absolute terror! I began by gradually adding a chanting phrase or two while drumming in the Clan Mothers Circle with the other women. I would keep my eyes closed and sing fairly softly, all the while talking to my fears. Yes, my voice was shaky, yes it squeecked and cracked, and yes, I could hardly breathe but I lived through it. Each time became easier until I could sing loud enough to be heard above the drums. Then came the real breakthrough - asking for and receiving my Medicine Song. After singing it out loud by myself for quite some months, I was participating in a Pipe Ceremony at the Vision Quest Ceremony we hold each year. When it was my turn to hold the Pipe and pray, no words came to me and then the terrible thought came that I needed to pray by singing my Medicine Song! Oh no - I quickly tried to talk my way out of that but soon realized that I was being asked to do this by the ancestors who had gifted this song to me. How could I dishonor them in this way with my selfish fears? I quickly told my fears what I was going to do and that they could come along but I was doing it anyway. I sang my Medicine Song, very softly but I could feel the power flowing through me and out to everyone in the circle. I lived through it! In facing my fear, I realized it wasn't real - just a shadow in this Shadow World. I still get a little fearful about singing in front of others, but now it is a momentary discomfort instead of an immobilizing panic. It was important for me to understand that our fears have everything to do with our social self and nothing to do with what we have come to do.
These are my words.