The Places That Scare You

Yesterday I had the honor of completing my Reiki Master Teacher training. It was something I had never even thought I would do, much less teach others. Over the last few years, I have been so lucky to have met spiritual teachers who have helped me along in my journey. It seems these people always popped up right at the exact moment when I needed to learn something new or make myself uncomfortable by stretching myself further. I am in such gratitude for those people. I have been rereading Pema Chödrön’s classic book The Places That Scare You, and reading this passage sums it up perfectly:


This unconditional commitment to ourselves and to others is what is meant by limitless love. The teacher’s love for the student manifests as compassion. The student’s love of the teacher is devotion. This mutual warmth, this heart connection, allows for a meeting of minds. It is this kind of love that tames untamable beings and helps bodhisattvas-in-training to go beyond their home ground. The relationship with our spiritual friend inspires us to step out fearlessly and start exploring the phenomenal world. (p.117)


It is my hope to give back to others—to be a kind and compassion friend for those who are on their own journey and wondering if they are mucking it up just like I did!


Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity. ~The Places That Scare You(p.50)


If you have never listened to Pema’s Chödrön’s audiobooks or lectures, I highly recommend them to you (You can get these free at most legit libraries on their Libby or Hoopla services—the librarian in me comes out now). She speaks directly and in such an easy to understand manner, that is non-judgmental. She’s so much more evolved than me! I struggle with sometimes losing patience. There is the response in my mind that I know I should conjure up feeling for which is “You need to meet people where they are right now—not where you are right now—those are two totally separate places.” And there is the real-life Newark born Laura that wants to shout, “Hey you, why are crazy right now?” Yes. I admit to not being mindful 24/7 😊


Being someone’s spiritual teacher is a huge deal. There has to be a balance between understanding where this person is right now and gently guiding them to a more mindful place or challenging them to go beyond their limitations—even if these are very gentle taps. Do we help others if we sit back and only listen, nodding silently as if we buy into what is being said, while on the inside we are screaming NO!? I’m not sure we do. The thing that I have learned the most is that there is no shortcut to spiritual growth. You can’t buy it. No amount of seeing different practitioners or healing experts (sometimes in an effort to receive the message we want to hear) is going to help us. We have to just do the work. No one wants to hear that right? It seems like there should be some magical thing, some tangible thing that we can acquire that will get us where want to be—but there isn’t. That doesn’t prevent us from struggling against accepting this.


I am frequently told, oh I have no fear, no unhappiness, no issues. Are we being honest with ourselves when we say these things? Could you dive deeper into that response and see where fear or anger has crept up in your life? Sometimes other emotions are masked by fear and anger.

This instruction on Prajnaparamita (Buddhist text on the perfection of wisdom) is a teaching on fearlessness. To the extent that we stop struggling against uncertainty and ambiguity, to the extent we dissolve our fear. The synonym of total fearlessness is full enlightenment—wholehearted, open-minded interaction with our world. Meanwhile we train in patiently moving in that direction. By learning to relax with groundless, we gradually connect with the mind that knows no fear. ~The Places That Scare You (p.103)


That is a smile masking extreme fear of an unhappy looking iguana. Spirit animal??

Part of life is this balance between all these emotions that come up. And staying with some of these icky emotions that come up and mess with us. This happens to all of us. There is no judgement in this. Even those of us have been studying and teaching for years come up against this.


What is the best way that we can help to unravel these thoughts—to guide us on our journey? I believe (and I’m not an expert, clearly) we can do this with meditation. It is something that we can do each day for ourselves that is free, requires no equipment, no membership, can be done anywhere, in any time amount you have. Meditation has helped me more than any other practice or reading I have ever had. Sometimes when we first start a meditation practice, it can feel like not so much is happening during meditation. You might have visions of power-meditators looking super Zen like on a mountain side divining psychic information from other realms, and then when you sit to meditate for five minutes and either 1. nothing happens or 2. you keep thinking about other things you have to do and you give up. Slightly disgruntled sometimes—like, oh what a waste of my time! I have found that the benefit of what happens during meditation is not revealed precisely during the meditation itself, but it reveals itself during our day to day existence.


This is exactly how we’re training every time we sit in meditation. We see what comes up, acknowledge that with kindness, and let go. Thoughts and emotions rise and fall. Some are more convincing than others. Habitually we are so uncomfortable with that churned-up feeling that we’d do anything to make it go away. Instead we kindly encourage ourselves to stay with our agitated energy by returning to the breath. ~The Places That Scare You (p.120-121)


I'm not sure what I was fearful of here. Probably the person taking the photo who lost their glasses and couldn't see, but still offered to take pics of Chichen Itza.

Sometimes people seek me for guidance, and I gently tell them, they don’t need to see more of me, they can help themselves by starting to meditate each day (even 5 minutes to start). And I’m told, oh no, I can’t meditate, my mind is all over the place and I can’t sit still. Exactly! This is why you need it. When was the last time that you could just be? That you could just sit still with no stimulus, no cell phone or any technology, no thoughts, no planning, not completing what’s on your to-do list or what you “should” do or talking. Just being completely present with yourself? Try that for a few days and see how you feel.

You might surprise yourself by what you learn about yourself. Sitting still when we are restless is one of the hardest things to do. Try to stick with it—maybe you are on the cusp of unlocking something huge.


Last year after much meditation I decided to move past my fear and take a vacation to Mexico alone. It was the best trip ever and now I'm like, wow, why was I nervous about it.

In gratitude to you all! Be well friends. XOXO

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