By Celia Coates
Humans are unique among animals because we can feel fear just by thinking about frightening possibilities. We live in a time filled with more than the usual personal, political, and global alarms and I found this statement by Stephen Levine helpful for dealing with today’s reality,
“Clearly all fear has an element of resistance and a leaning away from the moment. Its dynamic is not unlike that of a strong desire except that fear leans backward into the last safe moment while desire leans forward toward the next possibility of satisfaction. Each lacks presence.”
Of course we want to lean away from the next moment if it seems it will be dreadful and to lean forward into it if what’s ahead is going to be fun or rewarding or … delicious. Levine’s great wisdom lay in his pointing out that both ways of leaning take us out of the present moment and then we don’t live in “the now.”
Living in this current moment can give us the best resources, focus, energy, and realistic orientation for dealing with what frightens us – or with what pulls us into foolish delights. Being present in each now places us in the center of our experience and allows us to be fully alive.
(Stephen Levine is a poet, author, and teacher with a background in Theravada Buddhism. He worked for many years with people facing death and those who had endured loss and trauma. His best-known book is A YEAR TO LIVE: How To Live This Year As If It Were Your Last.)