Smile at Fear by Chogyam Trungpa… Summary on chapter one, facing yourself

by missannilee

“Becoming a warrior and facing yourself is a question of honesty rather than condemning yourself.  By looking at yourself, you may find that you’ve been a bad boy or girl, and you may feel terrible about yourself.  Your existence may feel wretched, completely pitch-black, like the black hole of Calcutta.  Or you may see something good about yourself.  The idea is simply to face the facts.  Honestly plays a very important part. Just see the simple, straightforward truth about yourself.  When you begin to be honest with yourself, you develop a genuine gut level of truth.  That is not necessarily cutting yourself down.  Simply discover what is there; simply see that, and then stop!  So first, look at yourself, but don’t condemn yourself. Its important to be matter-of-fact, on the spot.  Just look, and when you see the situation in its fullest way, then you begin to be a warrior.” -Chogyam Trungpa

In Buddhism dharma means truth, and anyone who is interested in learning the truth about themselves, or interested in practicing meditation is on the path to becoming a warrior.  Many people who are afraid of seeing themselves, use spirituality or religion as a way for them to look at themselves and not see anything about themselves at all.  A kind of mask.  When they feel embarrassed about who they are, then they are not experiencing any fearlessness. Many decisions in life are made with the influence of cowardice. However, if someone is willing to examine him or herself with with honest eyes, then he or she is a warrior.  In this case, the word warrior is translated from the Tibetan word pawo. Pa meaning “brave”, and wo makes it “a person who is brave.”  I am not refering to the idea of a warrior who wages war. Warriorship, in this case, refers to fundamental bravery and fearlessness.

Warriorship is based on overcoming cowardice and our sense of being wounded.” -Chogyam Trungpa

First step is to face all situations that bring fear or cowardice, set your sights on a life with no fear.  In order to live fearless we need to understand what fear is.  According to Smile at Fear by Chogyam Trungpa “Fear is nervousness; fear is anxiety; fear is a sense of inadequacy, a feeling that we may not be able to deal with the challenges of everyday life at all.”  Now where does fear come from?  Fear comes from basic confusion. Where does confusion come from? It comes from the inability to harmonize or balance mind and body as one.  When your foundation isn’t level and strong, there is no way for you to be properly grounded in your world.  With this unbalance in your life it is difficult to relate your experiences with the rest of the world.

So the problem begins in a very simple way.  When body and mind are unsynchronized, you feel like a caricature of yourself, almost like a primordial idiot or a clown.  In that situation, it is very difficult to relate to the rest of the world.”  -Chogyam Trungpa 

This is a simplified version of the setting-sun mentality.  Chogyam Trungpa states that “the idea of the setting sun is that the sun is already setting in your world, and you cannot rise above the darkness.  You feel that there is only misery, clouds, the dungeon, life in the gutter.”  Having completely lost track of the harmony of being human.  A dead end.  However, the Great Eastern Sun is the sun that is fully risen in your life.  The sun of wakefulness, and human dignity. Great… feeling uplifted, openness, and gentleness.  East… dawn. The first thing you see in the morning is the light from the rising sun.  It is the smile you wake up with in the morning.  Therefor, the sun is in the east… and it is great.

“One of the main obstacles to fearlessness is the habitual patterns that allow us to deceive ourselves.” -Chogyam Trungpa

Normally, we don’t allow ourselves to experience ourselves fully. We have this constant fear of facing our true self.  Many try and use a spiritual path where they can focus their attention elsewhere, that way they can avoid themselves, but they are still able to liberate themselves.  To liberate themselves, from themselves, which is impossible.  We need to learn how to be honest with ourselves.  We have to see our flaws, our undesirable parts, and all our shit.  Face our fear. Look at it. Understand it. Work with it. Meditate with it.

“We also have to give up the notion of a divine savior, which has nothing to do with what religion we belong to, but refers to the idea of someone or something who will save us without our having to go through any pain.  In fact, giving up that kind of false hope is the first step.  We have to be with ourselves. We have to be real people. There is no way of beating around the bush, hoping for the best. If you are really interested in working with yourself, you can’t lead that kind of double life, adopting ideas, techniques, and concepts of all kinds, simply in order to get away from yourself. That is what we call spiritual materialism: hoping that you can have a nice sleep, under anesthetics, and by the time you awaken, everything will be sewn up. Everything will be healed. In that case, you do not have to go through any pain or problems.” -Chogyam Trungpa 

You might be convinced that all the answers are hiding inside some religion, that it will grant you spiritual ecstasy. That the only world that is real is the spiritual world. However, this can have negative results. You cannot cheat the norm, which is know as karma, or the law of cause and effect. That we cannot cheat. There is a lot that we have to face. And a lot we have to give up. It will be hard, and you may not want to, but you have to. If you want to be kind to yourself, that’s what it boils down to. Nobody can save you from yourself. Look and experience yourself honestly. We need to find ourselves, face ourselves, and give up our privacy, or inhibition.  The only time you can truly and honestly be with yourself, is when you finally give up your privacy. “If you are bottling yourself up with your so-called privacy, you find yourself getting in your own way” (Chogyam Trungpa). We often hear the phrase “I need my privacy.”  In this situation privacy does not exist. Instead you feel overwhelmed with your internal emotions and thoughts, which leads to inability to be with yourself and relax. Once you give up your privacy you open your heart and existence to the rest of the world. An actual discovery of yourself is taking place.  This may be difficult to understand, however, the only way you will understand it is if you just do it. Giving up your privacy isn’t something that takes time or knowledge, its something that you decide to do on the spot. Give up your privacy, your shyness, and the longing to have a personal “trip,” and you can become a real person.

“When you give up smoking cigarettes, you don’t have to proclaim what you have done.  Maybe nobody will notice. You just do not smoke anymore.  It might be sad for you that nobody can appreciate your virtue, but on the other hand, so what?” -Chogyam Trungpa 

To remain true to yourself, you must give up your inhibition, which goes hand in hand with giving up your privacy.  However, you must not trade in your inhibition for exhibition. Just be the person that you are discovering every day. Once you understand this, you will begin to realize the good that is inside you. For the first time in your life, you have glimpsed the Great Eastern Sun.  The goodness arises. If you put 100% of your heart into honestly seeing yourself, then this fundamental goodness will connect with you. “When you are genuine in the fullest sense, you do not need the conditional judgement of good or bad, but you actually are good rather than you become good” (Chogyam Trungpa). Do this properly, and something else will be discovered. Something exists in us that is awake, as opposed to asleep.  Tathagatagarbha, the sanskrit word for buddha nature, means that the essence of the buddhas who have already gone beyond, exists in us.  We are already good.  Its not just something we can strive for.  It is already within us. Waiting to be discovered.  The sitting practice of meditation is the key to seeing yourself, as well as seeing beyond yourself.  Your honesty is what allows you to realize the goodness inside yourself. Buddha is in your heart.