One of the most difficult things to develop as a human being is genuine fearlessness. At least, this is what I can testify about. I can see fear very clearly, in myself and in others. It is at work always and everywhere. It is by far our biggest problem and our main motivator as human beings. Pretty much everything we say and do is informed by fear. That is why the warrior metaphor is so important to me: it suggests very clearly that overcoming fear and developing bravery is key.
There is a Canadian artist that I got to know through my brother. Travis tries to spread his message and his mission by making YouTube videos of his ‘engaged art’ projects and asking his network to share them through social media. Not a strange question at all. I guess he found out that the people who he thought were his friends are reluctant to help him. This is what he posted:
“I wanna put a special thanks out to all you fuckin’ idiots out there that share the stupidest shit… yet can’t support a ‘friend’”
Well, it is safe to he feels somewhat.. disappointed, don’t you think? Although I process it differently I have felt the same disappointment over and over again. Also I actively asked for social media help from people close to me. I even wrote a heartfelt post about it in 2011: Using Social Media As A Tool For Spiritual Growth. But it happens very rarely and never on a structural scale. I have a post that has about 65.000 page views and was liked about 1800 times. Now guess how many of those likes came from my personal 1200+ Facebook community? Six. On the other hand there are about 2000 people who visit my website 9 times or more per year. Apparently they like what I write. If they would endorse me publicly with a simple mouse click every time they read something we would create a much larger audience together and – who knows – contribute something to the lives of others. But the weirdest thing is that you won’t receive a thumbs up from people who seem to like you in real life.
I am pretty sure that fear is the perpetrator. I also received Travis’s request to share his work and initially I too felt reluctant. Although I really liked his project there was something in the video that I resisted. And you know how it works, if something is 98% ok but has a 2% funny taste to it you can’t share it with your Facebook people. Because what we share identifies us and we don’t want to be perceived as somebody who has poor sharing taste, right? And what was he thinking anyway? He obviously picked me because I radiate ‘being a guy that knows many cool people’. He might be exploiting me. And then there is jealousy: ‘damn, he is onto something pretty cool and if everybody starts sharing his shit he might be on Oprah soon, that beer-drinking nitwit’.
We fear judgment by others, loss of social status, failure and and the feeling of being inadequate. Also we fear intimacy and vulnerability. Imagine endorsing all the work of somebody close to you. What do you say next time you see him? You are afraid it will be awkward, right? Perhaps he will start thinking you look up to him, or that your are kissing his ass. We don’t want to give up our position: preferably a superior position but at least somewhat horizontally. Of course this all changes when our friend becomes officially famous. Now our relationship boosts our social status so it is safe to endorse him.
So fear even plays a part in doing something mundane and apparently irrelevant as hitting the like button under a blog post or video of somebody you know. If fear has that much power over us, would you agree that it is terribly important to develop some bravery? As long as we are afraid we will never feel real.
Fun fact: brain research suggests that when women orgasm they are completely free from fear. According to spiritual masters the state of fearlessness is an ongoing state that seems to have some resemblance with that orgasmic state, which makes sense.
Fear does not allow fundamental tenderness to enter into us. When tenderness tinged by sadness touches our heart, we know that we are in contact with reality. We feel it. That contact is genuine, fresh, and quite raw. That sensitivity is the basic experience of warriorship.
Sometimes people find that being tender and raw is threatening and seemingly exhausting. Openness seems demanding and energy-consuming, so they prefer to cover up their tender heart. Vulnerability can sometimes make you nervous. It is uncomfortable to feel so real, so you want to numb yourself.
For the warrior, fearlessness is the opposite of that approach. Fearlessness is a question of learning how to be. Be there all along: that is the message.
Excerpt from “Smile at Fear” by Chögyam Trungpa
And last but not least, to make up for my own cowardice, I will endorse the work of Travis here. Please watch the video, like, share and or promote otherwise.
This is episode 34 in a series of 100 blog posts that will be published daily during the 100 Day Warrior, a unique program around physical strength, inner wisdom and meaning. All posts are written by Atalwin Pilon, founder of Basic Goodness and creator of the 100 Day Warrior. For requests for motivational speaking, in-company workshops, online coaching and mindfulness training click here. If you would like to join our international community of brave and inspiring human beings or just follow this blog and receive updates, please click here or sign up on the right side of the page. Atalwin specializes in coaching smart and creative people, both groups and individuals. If you are interested in a free coaching session click here.