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23. Because panic never did anyone any good.

December 11, 2011

…may not be a completely true statement. I can think of lots of times when panic really just might be the most useful way to confront a situation.

For example:

My neighbor pulls out of her garage, and stops. She rolls down her window to let me know that she has some hand-me-down pants for my daughter. The conversation has just shifted to why I’ve taken my dog off wheat when – out of the corner of my eye – I see a 60-foot tsunami towering above us. To our regret, we know that this scenario has been known to happen. Panic, I believe, might be an appropriate reaction.

But, really, more often then not, it’s just not that useful. Panic is one possible product of fear. Pema Chodron says  “If you don’t get to know the nature of fear, you will never know fearlessness.” It seems to me that panic is often the precise means by which I avoid getting to know the nature of fear. Chodron goes on to say, “Because we are so uncomfortable with the notion of fear, that we just want to get away from it.” And I do. I want to run away as fast as I possibly can from that towering wall of water. Except that most of the time, it’s not a towering wall of water. Most of the time, it’s just the future, that vast and often unbearably terrifying space of unknowability.

Will I be able to pay my bills this week? Will I stay healthy? Will my kids stay healthy? Will my kids be happy? When they grow up, will they remember all of the times I lost it in the mornings when I’m trying to get them to school and Thinks-He’s-Justin-Bieber can’t find his shoes? Will they blame me? Will I have to pay for their therapy as penance? Will something terrible happen? Will something terrible happen? Will something terrible happen?

I don’t know. The main thing, Chodron says, “is a direct experience of who we are right now, and to begin to trust that. We can be mindful, openly attentive, of just who we are.” Nothing terrible is happening right now. And with that, I can rest.

After, that is, I’ve survived Christmas.

Santa Santa Santa Santa panic panic panic fear fear fear chodron chodron chodron chodron chodron

Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho!....

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 14, 2012 3:44 am

    Absolutely amazing post. You analysis and thoughts on panic and fear is very well thought through and i agree with you that the now is what’s important because it’s the dwelling that holds us in the tracks of our making. I like the way you write, it’s nice to read as well as comprehend.

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