Here is a story related to fear. I wrote it some time ago, but finally have a place to share it. Running for me is almost as meditative as sitting on a cushion, sometimes even more. Living in a particularly beautiful area, there are an abundance of scenic trails to run on, which equates to a great workout for the mind and spirit, as well as the body.
After a couple of mountain lion attacks in the state, and increased sightings in my area, I started to develop paranoia, a fear of attack. Then, after reading a very graphic detail of an attack in an outdoor magazine, I found myself almost obsessed with those thoughts on the same trails that used to bring me such peace and solitude. When I actually got to the point where I had stopped running on trails, I decided it was time to take a step back and examine what was going on. I realized that:
- Attacks were very rare in my area. I stood a much better chance of getting hit by a car. And
- If I was unfortunate enough to be the rare attack (uncooked meat jokes aside), I would have absolutely no idea it was coming, and it would be over before I could do anything about it.
So I realized, why live in fear of an attack when most likely it won’t happen, and if it does, I will have no control over it anyway. My beloved trails were once again mine to enjoy. But it did get me to thinking, there are many ‘mountain lions’ in our lives, things we live in fear of, allowing our experience of life to be diminished by worry. When we are always looking for mountain lions, living in fear of them, can we truly enjoy all of the beauty that surrounds us? There is a great Mark Twain quote that says ‘I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.’ How much of what we fear really does happen to us?
Well, I finally did get attacked. Right around that time, after a year and a half of trying to get pregnant, my wife and I finally did. The day I found out was the happiest moment of my life. 5 months into the pregnancy, only a few days after seeing our son wave to me through the ultrasound, we lost the baby due to circumstances never really explained to us. As an escape for what my wife and I were experiencing at that time, I went for a run for the first time in about 10 days (I know, doesn’t sound like that long, but it was for me). While running the trails, I felt that old mountain lion fear start to creep up on me. Here I was, running in an attempt to clear my head, and instead I was filling it with fear. When I finally caught myself, a thought occurred to me: This dreaded ‘mt. Lion attack’ just happened to me. But instead of the quick death I had imagined, instead I was dying a very slow, painful one. Knowing my unborn son was slowly dying inside of my wife, and that she was living each waking moment with this knowledge, this reality, this pain was more than I could really handle. That was my death. But the death of what? My body is still very much here, as was my mind (at least part of it). I needed to let this be the death of my ego. In the moment of this revelation, my fear vanished. And once free of the fear, it started to become clear to me, ideas I have flirted with in the past, realizations of how much energy I spend, I waste on anger over pointless, or outdated things, energy I waste on groundless fears and all those misplaced anxieties. What good do they do? Who do they help?