As part of my work in the Moon Path for the AODA, I do regular meditations — daily, if I can manage it. (In principle, it’s easy to get up ten minutes earlier and meditate before the day starts. In practice, this requires a consistent bedtime and sufficient sleep. I haven’t managed that yet…) During my last meditation, I received a powerful message concerning the source of my personal motivation.
Usually, I follow the meditation method described in the article by Erin Pavlina called “Go to your Room.” The basic method is to relax, breathe slowly, imagine yourself in an elevator going down 20 floors, get off the elevator and ask to be taken to “your room”; once there, you will recieve messages from your subconscious. I modify it slightly: going into an elevator has no appeal to me, so I usually imagine myself following a forest path down towards a stream. At every breath, I pass a trail marker, counting down. I allow my imagination to wander; I pass waterfalls and high rocks, sunny mountain pastures and thick brambles. At trail marker 0, I meet… whatever my subconscious has in store for me. (You can try a free audio guided meditation on this theme here.)
For example, a week ago I came upon a small Greek-style temple with a dome and Doric columns. In the middle of the temple was a small pool. As I watched, a frog hopped out of the pool, paused a moment, and leapt far forward. Mid-leap, it changed into a bird, and flew away. The frog, I felt, was myself; the bird was my power. Very strange.
But my most recent meditation was nothing like that.
I was concerned about fear. Over the last six months or so, fear has been bothering me much more than is usual in my life. Honestly, I am more afraid now, on a day-to-day basis, than I remember ever having been. What am I afraid of? Financial destitution. Losing my family (somehow, nothing specific). Losing my job. Not rising to my potential. Not being the father and husband that I need to be. Being overweight all my life. I had almost none of these fears a year ago.
What happened? I don’t know. We’ve taken some risks in the past year, but most of them have paid off in one way or another. We are deep in debt, but I have a good job and no indications that I will lose it. Given time, we’ll climb out. Of course I can imagine all sorts of scenarios for things going right, but somehow I feel more drawn to worrying about things going horribly wrong.
I know that fear itself is the worst enemy. Why can’t I shake it? This was my question going into the meditation.
I was meditating while I was driving, as I frequently do. (My wife hates that I do this, but I really have no problem with it. It’s much like the walking meditation practice.) But as I began counting down, I started to feel that the speed of my car was something that my subconscious was resonating with. I felt it would be more appropriate to imagine the trail markers on the highway itself. I did so.
When I hit zero, I began to feel a slow pounding, like an inexorable heartbeat. I got an image of a great landscape spread out under me, and I could taste the fear of falling. The sun seemed too bright and too close. I scrabbled for a handhold, and it seemed to me that my hands were long and thin and had claws at the end. My claws were scrabbling at a smooth surface. I felt as if I were being held firmly but gently by a huge pincer.
I realized I was a mouse. A mouse held in the beak of an eagle. The pounding heartbeat was the sound of the powerful wings of the eagle. And it was flying… directly toward the sun.
The eagle, I knew, would fly into the sun and through it. It wouldn’t hurt the eagle at all. But I, the mouse, would be utterly consumed by the fire. I could taste the fear.
Then another realization hit me. I was the eagle, too. I, the eagle, my greater self, was heading for the light; and the light would completely destroy me, the mouse, the fearful self. I could even imagine the tremendous heat of the sun, and the mouse disappearing into a puff of ash as the eagle breached its surface.
The terror of the mouse was all-consuming, but the eagle’s wingbeats continued to pound the air, strong, unstoppable.
That was it as far as the meditation went. It left me shaking and exhilarated. I had to pull over at the next rest stop and recover.
As I thought about it, I realized some things about myself.
We are all, most of us, motivated to grow and improve ourselves in one way or another. But motivated why? Why can’t we just accept our faults and concentrate on what makes us happy?
For many of us — and for me, much of the time — we wish to grow to avoid pain. We want to avoid embarassment, so we prepare for our presentations. We want to avoid failure, so we try hard to succeed. We want to avoid rejection, so we practice our social skills. Pain, and fear of pain, is our motivator.
But of course, it doesn’t have to be that way. Why not be motivated by curiosity, or simply the raw desire to improve ourselves? Isn’t it possible to be motivated positively, instead of negatively? Well, sure, in theory. But what would it be like? For someone primarily motivated by fear, it’s hard to even imagine.
Suppose you’re faced with a problem, and a choice of solutions. Option A is a safe, secure, and effective solution. Option B is more difficult, less secure, riskier, and the chance of success is slim. Further, even if you did succeed, you’d be no better off than if you’d chosen A. Option B is just harder. Which option should you take?
The path of fear is option A. The path of courage is option B. Why? Because Option B offers the chance for more personal growth.
Even if option B has no other advantages whatsoever, the fact that it is more difficult means that it is the path where you will learn more. So you should take it, if you can.
Choosing courage means asking yourself, constantly, what the BOLDEST course of action would be. And taking it. Should you ask that girl out? Yes, always. Should you ask for that raise? Yes, always. Should you join a club, run for office, write a letter to the editor? Yes, always. Should you have another child, or buy that nice house? Yes, both! Particularly if you are afraid of doing so. Take the boldest choice, the one with the most chutzpah, the one that shakes you in your boots.
Because that is the only way to get rid of the fear. Turn toward the sun and fly directly into it. When you face the light directly, the mouse will disappear. Only the eagle will remain.
For more on courage vs. fear, be sure to read Steve Pavlina’s great articles, “The Courage to Live Consciously” and “Why Grow?”
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