Entering a room, I scan for safety. Who do I know? Is there a defensible position, ie. a corner where I can control my space. Where’s the bathroom? Where are the exits? In times past, I would repeat this ritual whenever I walked into an unfamiliar place. Now it is different but I still feel the old pattern lurking in the background.
Everyone has developed some kind of coping strategy that offers the illusion of safety in unfamiliar surroundings. Some people push in and assert, others hide and want to defend or disappear. There are many variations of extremes and in betweens. But all strategies have a common intention—to feel in control. The question is: “What are we controlling and who is in charge?”
It is important to develop appropriate boundaries, to be smart about our circumstances and sense of security. But real security comes with courage and confidence even when we are not so sure of ourselves. There is a kind of invincibility available in our natural mind, our original unconditioned nature. We can access this quality when we rely less on the habits of mind that support our ego’s insecurities in favor of abiding in our natural wisdom.
I remember traveling in Africa witnessing people living in very difficult situations compared to privileged American standards. These families had a kind of grittiness, an earthy strength, to deal with scarce food and wild animals. They could laugh and growl at the same time. Being a fearful person by habit, I found this quality refreshing. It remains a potent symbol inspiring my spiritual practice.
I always feel more courageous when my practice is strong and consistent. But my confidence wanes when I become lazy and default to my old habits. There is nothing magical about meditation practice other than it offers the possibility of returning home to our natural strength. It also heightens our instincts and intuition. By settling the mind, the habitual self dissolves into unfiltered awareness and natural insight.
In these uncertain times (actually, all times are uncertain) developing a practice to strengthen our courage and confidence is very important. Ultimately, this kind of courage is revealed in our capacity to love without impediment. The world could use a few more folks with courageous compassion.