What is the nature of Zen practice? Not giving shelter to the fears within the mind.
The heart of "Give no fear" is at the core of Zen practice. This approach is not just about refraining from inducing fear in others; it's fundamentally about cultivating a mind and heart that refuses to give refuge to fear. This is a subtle yet transformative element of Zen.
Our culture is essentially a walking, talking infection of exaggerated fear, a clear manifestation of delusion from our attachment to ego and its convincing narratives; we believe without question and act on as real. You don't believe me? Please reflect on how much of your decision-making is based on fear and doubt.
We find ourselves fearing loss, fearing others, dreading the end of relationships we care about, terrified of being 'enough' or, on the other side of the coin, being 'too much' to handle. Many are anxious about humiliation, performance at work, exams, change, pain, and ultimately, death. Fear on a spectrum is rooted in our deep attachment to our personal preferences and our aversion to discomfort and uncertainty. In light of this, "Give no fear" becomes a practice of releasing these attachments, embracing a state of deep acceptance and presence.
Zazen, sitting with one-pointed, undivided, stabilized attention to the present moment is a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual exorcism for irrational fears. Zazen doesn't mean becoming passive, indifferent, emotionally lopsided, or a meditation zombie, as some suppose. Zazen is a practice and process where we’re no longer giving aid, shelter, or the comfort of our attention to fear and its various symptoms, opening us to expressing our original vibrance that’s fearless.
It's about engaging with life with a heart that is unobstructed by fear and anxiety. Letting go of ego-driven fears opens us to a life of greater compassion, bravery, and authenticity. We spontaneously discover ourselves able to act from a place of love and understanding, not fear, embodying the bodhisattva ideal of serving all beings without being hindered by personal fears.
Actualized "Give no fear" allows us to observe our fears, acknowledge them without judgment, and then let them go. Whether during a tough conversation, facing unexpected changes, or in moments of uncertainty, we apply this way of being with deep intentionality to follow our values with mindful integrity and faith.
This way of living is not meant to be a solitary pursuit but an interconnected aspect of our relationships with all beings. To "give no fear" also means to cultivate an environment where others too can be free from fear, to be a presence that is reassuring, stable, and kind — a refuge for others.
"Give no fear" is more than a principle; it's a pathway towards liberation from our fears and preventing the spread of fear in others. It's a journey toward discovering our true nature, which exists beyond a self that's bound by fear. This journey, marked by courage, compassion, and wisdom, is at the heart of Zen practice: not giving shelter to the fears within the mind.
--We Are the Practice Itself