[Thomas McConkie, Mindfulness Teacher] - Hello and welcome to another episode of Mindfulness+. I'm your host Thomas McConkie [Mindfulness Teacher]. Thank you so much for listening today. Every week on Mindfulness+, I like to bring you a story, an image, a metaphor that couples with some teaching in the mindfulness tradition, broadly speaking, the tradition of meditation, awareness practice, training the mind towards the end of becoming a happier, freer more compassionate, service-oriented human being. In a nutshell, that's what we're up to. If you're new, just in case, check out our old episodes. If you haven't listened to them, they're, I hope they're as fresh today as they were when we recorded them. I'm not building on a particular curriculum here. It's just kind of an impressionistic mindfulness journal that I bring to you here on Mindfulness+. So thank you for enjoying, thanks for listening today. Speaking of stories, I have a story that really was a mindfulness teaching to me, and I thought I'd told this story on Mindfulness+, 'cause I tell a lot of stories here and I couldn't find it. So hopefully it's your lucky day if you like this story. I worked for an oil painter. When I got out of college, I worked in a little artist shop to save up some bucks, some bread and cheese money before I moved off to Europe. This was a while ago, this is back in 2003, so almost 20 years ago. Enjoyed myself in Spain, I think you've heard me talk about that. I could do a whole series, I could do a whole season on Spain, Spanish mindfulness. But I came back from Spain, China, New York, Los Angeles, took kind of a world tour. And when I came back to Salt Lake City, where the artist's shop was, I decided to pay him a visit. And it had been, I think it'd been 15 years or so before I'd, since I'd been back to see him. This is a well-known oil painter, especially if you're local. I'll name him, why not name him? It's, you know, nothing wrong with that. His name's Randall Lake, a man I love, a man whose family I love. And I went to pay Randall a visit in downtown Salt Lake at his famous shop. And we got talking. I don't remember the whole visit. I remember just that dusty kind of smell. It's a gritty old building in downtown Salt Lake, and brimming with artistic passion . It's palpable when you walk in there, the walls are just kind of dripping with it. And if I remember correctly, he's on the top floor, and I go up to his shop, and it's just, man, it's just like a, it's a museum of an artist's brilliant frenetic mind. Paintings everywhere and knickknacks and tubes of oil paint and old letters and furniture, and I can't do it justice. Check out Randall Lake's work online. So we get talking and I'm catching him up on where I've been and I somehow we got talking about his paintings, and not just his paintings, but the painting process, and something he said just totally surprised me and struck me and it occurs to me today that it has a whole lot to do with our mindfulness practice and with our human life. So here it is. I'm talking to him about his ritual when he gets going, when he comes into the shop, and he says just in the flow of conversation, "Every time I come to the canvas, I feel fear. I'm afraid of it." And I say something like, "Wait a minute." Like, you know, that, "I would've thought that an artist of your caliber, a professional who's been selling in really prestigious galleries for probably 40 years at this point, I would've thought that the fear you kind of work through, and that was a thing in your early career. And now every time you come up to the canvas, it's like a victory lap. It's like, 'Wow, I'm so amazing. Look at how good my paintings are. Seriously, they're so good.'" Something like, that was my projection on Randall Lake. He said, "It takes me 45 minutes of just being in fear and painting through fear until I get to something real." There it is. Just feel that, this is an artist, but Randall Lake is every man, every woman, every person. "It takes me 45 minutes to be in this fear, to paint through this fear before I get to anything real, before I paint something real." And I want to just use this story as a springboard to a practice. It's an awareness practice, but it's a life practice. The life practice, if I were to name it, which is going to feel very prosaic compared to the Randall Lake story. But the teaching, the practice is something like this. That in our surface level everyday conventional mind, we think fear is a problem. We think it's a problem, because fear keeps us from doing the things we'd like to do often. And so we tell ourselves a story about this uncomfortable feeling we get when we're about to do hard stuff, and say like, "Oh man I would love to," fill in the blank. "I would love to travel to Croatia. I would love to learn Mandarin Chinese. I would love to tell that man, woman, or whoever that I'm in love with them, but I'm too scared to do it. But I just can't, 'cause I'm scared." I'd love to be an oil painter. I would, I'd be Randall Lake if I weren't so scared to paint. But it turns out Randall Lake is as afraid as you are. And in that sense, I the mindfulness teacher here at Mindfulness+ at least until somebody unseats me, I'm as afraid to meditate as you are. In other words, in other words, what I mean by that is whenever we do something real, like really, really, really real, that demands all of us, our wholehearted engagement, fear is part of who we are. Fear is a part of our wholeness. It's an integral part of our wholeness. And fear is wise. Fear has great wisdom. Fear is the aspect of the self that tells us we're about to do something really hard. And on the other side of fear, the flip side to this coin, we get so identified with fear. We think fear is the problem. I feel fear, I back off. But when we push into the fear, when we like walk right up to the edge of fear and kiss it on the mouth, when we come out the other side of fear, we find courage. That's what I felt in Randall's shop. I felt just how much courage it has taken him over the decades to expose himself as an artist. And I see this in every student I work with. I see this in every human being. We all have fear. And when we really move into the fear, through the fear, we pop out on the other side of courage. And it's not even that we pop out on the other side. It's that fear is courage. Courage is fear. They're two sides of the same coin. They're one phenomenon arising. At least I would suggest that if we relate to it in this way, it would change our lives. We all tend to dislike fear. We all tend to back away from fear. But what if at a deeper level of awareness, we spotted fear and learned to tell ourselves, "Oh there you are, courage." Fear is just courage rearing its head. It's saying, "Courage is possible in this moment, should you choose it." What more can I say about it than that? Fear and courage is one indivisible reality. We don't tend to live as fearlessly as we could, as courageously, because we're not nearly afraid enough. We don't nearly move into fear deeply enough to actually discover the depths of our courage. So in that sense, fearlessness is not the absence of fear. "I'm not afraid of anything, I'll do anything." It's not that kind of bravado. Fearlessness is fully embodied fear, so embodied that courage can actually manifest through this fear. I know all of us are afraid of things, and I know we all have an edge of fear beyond which we've never pushed. And in my friend's shop that morning, he gave me a glimpse of what it means to do this day in, day out. Not to get over our fear eventually, but to integrate our fear so fully, that we liberate its power, its energy, its wisdom in our creatively lived human life. Let's practice this. Let's see where it takes us to befriend fear at a deeper level. Rather than practice mindfulness in this moment as the self, your ordinary everyday self, I'd like you to practice as the voice of fear. So just sit in this moment or stand or walk, or do whatever you're doing, but become fear incarnate. Take on the energy, the voice, the consciousness of the aspect of the self that fears. And to help you do this as fear, I want you to be aware of, what are you afraid of? Call up anything that you're afraid of in this moment. A person, a place, a thing. Any emotion, any experience, anything under the sun that could possibly call you up as fear. Bring it forward just a little bit, just enough so that you feel the fear that you are. And as this voice, this aspect of fear, notice what a vital role you play to keep the safe, to keep the self safe, protected, aware of danger, aware of the possibility of failure. Feel the way as fear that you marshal all of the attention, the concentration, the awareness of the self. Because when danger is present, self becomes very present, and you help the self see that something dangerous may be present. Just appreciate this for a moment. So I'm ask, I'm speaking to you, fear, appreciatively, praising the important function you play in the life of the self. You're vital. Without you, the self, who knows? The self wouldn't have made it this far. Then consider as fear, if you ever go too far, do you ever make too much noise? Do you ever dominate other aspects of the self, other voices, other parts of the self that might act in a different way than you would act as fear? So I'm asking you as fear to take a perspective here on the totality of the self. If the self were a round-table full of wise voices and capacities, do you sometimes dominate the conversation, make too much noise and not listen enough? Just notice. Now as fear, I want you to notice your relationship to courage. Just notice the presence of courage in this moment. How do you feel towards courage? Close, distant, intimate, unfamiliar, estranged, maybe even alien. Really take courage in in this moment. Feel the presence of courage. And now I want you to actually take the seat, take the position of courage, letting the voice of fear fade into the background. Now sit and meditate as the voice of courage. Feel yourself as courage now, courage incarnate. What's your role in the life of the self? What do you do for the self as courage? You show the self that it can do hard things. You show the self that it doesn't need to be a slave to fear. Fear actually calls you forward as courage. As courage, you're only needed when fear is present. If there's no fear present, there's no you, there's no courage. And you realize if there's no fear present, there's no you, there's no courage. Feel your heart. Feel your backbone. Feel the way you express courage in the world. You say the thing that's difficult to say, you confront the bully. You set a long term goal that's really hard to accomplish and you stay with it day in, day out, not in the absence of failure, but including all the failures that doing something hard inevitably entails. Feel your strength and capacity to overcome as courage. And without fear, you're non-existent. If fear never shows up in a situation, and courage never shows up, let's let go of these voices, fear and courage for a moment. And I just want to invite you as your everyday self to be present here, feeling courage and fear alike simultaneously present as one in the same reality. How can you possibly get to something real if fear isn't present? Fear is the outer edge of what you, the self, feel you can tolerate, feel you can handle, feel you can encounter. Fear is the horizon of your known world. It tells you when you're at your very edge. And of course, each time you encounter fear, you can take five steps back into your known world. And sometimes that's the right thing to do. Sometimes fear gives us the best information possible, and it's not wise to push into it. So you need to call on your discerning wisdom here, call up a situation in life right now that inspires fear. You're afraid of it, but not because the danger is mortal danger. Afraid, 'cause you've never gone here before. But what would happen if instead of retreating, you came up right against fear and kissed it, and stayed with it and felt this fear deep in your bones, deep in your belly, and your heart and your mind? You just really felt the fear move all through you. Whatever it is you're afraid to do, whatever it is you're afraid to try to move into, to grow into. And already, courage is present. Just by staying with the fear, you are courage. Stay with it. Stay here. See how much you can learn. You don't have to do more than you're ready to do. You can't do more than you're ready to do. But maybe you're ready to do more than you thought you were ready to do right now. Stay here. What is it? What are you afraid of? Don't leave. Don't back off. Stay with it. Stay with it until you find something real, something you love. Something that's worth everything, to give everything you have for it. All right, that was an intense one. Fear practice, fear-based mindfulness practice. A difficult practice, but a good one. This energy of fear that's so present in our lives, it's such a source of wisdom, it's such a source of power. And I hope I conveyed in a small way through story and practice today, how much we can unleash this energy creatively in our lives. I'm so inspired by my friend Randall, not just because he's a brilliant artist, successful human being on that level, but that morning in his shop, I'd known him and his family a long time. But that morning in his shop not too long ago, I learned what a profound relationship he had to cultivate with fear in order to bring his craft forward. I do not believe that any of us are any different. This is Mindfulness+. I'm your host, Thomas McConkie. Thank you so much to our host, our sponsor, Skylight. Thank you to all you people who listen and share our podcast with friends and bring them into the practice. Leave us a review, share us with more people. Spread the dharma, spread the good word. We're grateful for you, I'm grateful for you. And I'll be back with more next week. Signing off.