Why is it so hard to feel satisfied with ourselves? While we may blame photoshopped ads and letter grades, I think the root of the problem lies with us. After all, even if you had no external distractions, wouldn’t those thoughts of fear still be inside your head?
These feelings become even more prominent when you’re alone. Single or not, we start to notice these thoughts when we have no one to distract us. We’ve all experienced those pockets of silence where we can feel our fears tugging us down and threatening to sour the happiness in our lives.
This is why I sometimes rush to Netflix or take out my phone to check Twitter. Even though I have the option of just being with my thoughts, I don’t want to. Because they’re filled with my fears. And it can be so overwhelming to answer all their questions in your head, from whether you’ve finished your homework to if you’re ever gonna be good enough to get a decent job.
Feelings like these are what pushed me into Buddhism. Fear was becoming so powerful that I was drowning in it more and more. Everything was becoming overshadowed by fear and I didn’t know how to enjoy life at all. Day after day, I just sat in the agony of my own darkness until I became so frustrated I would do anything to find a solution.
If you ask my mom, I’ve been Buddhist since the day I was born. But even as I sat on neatly folded legs and clasped my palms together to recite the sutras, I didn’t have any real interest in it until I became fearful. It was at that point that I became the one asking to go to the temple. Asking my mother to translate what the monk said about the murals on the walls. Asking to go to the local Sunday school so I could get a taste of what spiritual wisdom was like. I was aching to find a way to let go of my fears and walk burden free.
This was why I decided as a 10-year-old to try meditation with my grandmother. At 6:00 PM she’d sit me down in front of the tv and turn on a channel where they flashed peaceful pictures of Bodhi trees, temples and Buddha statues as a chorus recited the main sutras. Even though I had no idea what I was saying, I kept reciting them over and over again. Once the program was over, my grandmother would sink into a meditative silence, barely moving her limbs and keeping her eyes tightly shut. Even though she never actually told me to meditate, I knew I had to do the same.
It was hell to have to close my eyes and see my fears up close and personal. My thoughts frightened me. But I didn’t want to disappoint my grandmother and I had no other option but to keep trying. After maybe four months, I began to panic less when I closed my eyes. I grew used to my limbs going numb and they didn’t hurt so much anymore. My breathing, which used to be background noise became music, a clear and beautiful sound that my mind can focus on without distraction.
There were times when I thought all the mosquitoes sucking my blood would kill me right then and there. Or that the cacophony of the birds squawking outside would break my concentration once and for all. But after a while, I realized that these thoughts were just my fear talking. That they were made of the same delusion that lead me to fear my own mind and run from it at every possible opportunity. When you sit still enough to see fear eye-to-eye, you realize that it’s not indefinite but constructed. Fear is the product of not taking the time to be aware of the present moment. It’s what happens when instead of seeking the truth, you cover yourself with lies and expect to get away with it.
So eventually, I started to understand my fears. To deconstruct them brick by brick and reveal the confusion that squirmed beneath. By building an awareness of the present, I cleared up the confusion and replaced it with truth. And truth, unlike fear, makes you feel strong. Brave. Like you can face anything on the face of the earth.
I still have fears and sometimes I have trouble letting them go. But with metta meditation, it’s getting easier and easier to just smile and be content with my life. Because as long as I’m discovering the truth, I have nothing to fear.