Joseph Goldstein talks about the nature of fear, how it’s conditioned in the mind, how we can work with it, and embracing the possibility of transforming fear into wisdom and freedom.
This dharma talk from October 11, 2000, at the Insight Meditation Society Retreat Center, was originally published on Dharma Seed.
Joseph introduces the topic of working with fear and transforming it into wisdom. He talks about how fear is one of the most strongly conditioned habit patterns of the mind and how it brings us to the edge of our comfort zone, which can be a highly productive area for our mindfulness practice. He zeroes in on working with physical pain and discomfort, what it shows us about our practice, and how we can work with it in a skillful manner.
“Working with the edge of physical pain and discomfort is a wonderfully illuminating place to practice. Because it does bring us right up to the edge and we can begin to see how fears start to arise.” – Joseph Goldstein
RamDev explores how to work with physical pain in Healing at the Edge Ep. 13
Working With Emotional Discomfort (28:15)
Joseph moves on from fear of physical pain to fear of emotional or psychological discomfort. It’s often difficult to open up to uncomfortable emotions such as unworthiness, jealousy, or failure. He talks about how fear also arises when we confront the truth of impermanence. This fear, taken to a deeper level, often manifests as a fear of death. Joseph touches on the importance of recognizing the moments each day when our minds are free of desire and attachment.
“I think it’s important for us, as we go through the day, to recognize those moments when our minds are free of desire, are free of attachment. It’s in many moments, we don’t have to wait for 20 or 30 years of practice and maybe we get a single glimpse. There are moments through the day when our minds are open, are at rest, are not grasping, are not clinging, to the degree that we can recognize that as it happens.” – Joseph Goldstein
JoAnna Hardy offers a toolkit for being with thoughts and emotions in BHNN Guest Podcast Ep. 41
The Magic Mantra (48:15)
Joseph ends by discussing transforming fear into wisdom. He teaches us an all-purpose magic mantra, “It’s okay,” and talks about treating ourselves the same way we would a frightened child. If we can learn to become more accepting of the fear, it begins to decondition itself and is easier to work with. Joseph touches on the notion of courage and talks about how Metta and trust are the antidotes to fear.
“At these times, great courage is needed. And courage here is not an absence of fear. Courage does not mean an absence of fear, it means an acceptance of fear.” – Joseph Goldstein
Raghu Markus, Ram Dass, and Duncan Trussell explore courage, trust, and love in Mindrolling Ep. 335
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