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Lions Roar : November 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN NOVEMBER 2012 50 her that she hadn’t stopped to help him, and it has inspired her to reach out to others as much as she can, whenever she has the chance. Shantideva says that the only way to break this vow completely is to give up altogether on wanting to help others, not caring if we’re harming them because we only want to make sure that Number One is safe and secure. We run into trouble only when we close down and couldn’t care less—when we’re too cynical or depressed or full of doubt even to bother. At the heart of making this commitment is train- ing in not fearing fundamental edginess, fundamen- tal uneasiness, when it arises in us. Our challenge is to train in smiling at groundlessness, smiling at fear. I’ve had years of training in this because I get panic attacks. As anyone who has experienced a panic attack knows, that feeling of terror can arise out of nowhere. For me it often comes in the middle of the night, when I’m especially vulnerable. But over the years I’ve trained myself to relax into that heart- stopping, mind-stopping feeling. My first reaction is always to gasp with fright. But my teacher, Chö- gyam Trungpa, used to gasp like that when he was describing how to recognize awakened mind. So now, whenever a panic attack comes and I gasp, I picture Chögyam Trungpa’s face and think of him gasping as he talked about awakened mind. Then the energy of panic passes through me. If you resist that kind of panicky energy, even at an involuntary, unconscious level, the fear can last a long time. The way to work with it is to drop the story line and not pull back or buy into the idea, “This isn’t okay,” but instead to smile at the panic, smile at this dread- ful, bottomless, gaping hole that’s opening up in the pit of your stomach. When you can smile at fear, there’s a shift: what you usually try to escape from becomes a vehicle for awakening you to your fundamental, pri- mordial goodness, for awakening you to clear-minded- ness, to a caring that holds nothing back. The image of the warrior is of a person who can go into the worst of hells and not waver from the direct experience of cruelty and unimaginable pain. So that’s our path: even in the most difficult situations, we do our best to smile at fear, to smile at our righteous indigna- tion, our cowardliness, our avoidance of vulnerability. Traditionally, there are three ways of entering the warrior path, three approaches to making the com- mitment to benefit others. The first is called entering Left: Idaho firefighter Dana Brown rescues a cat found inside a burning apartment. Right: The cat revives after Brown uses a SurgiVet attachment to get air into the animal’s lungs. PHOTOBYCHRISBUTLER/FROMIDAHOSTATESMAN,NOV.10,2007©2012IDAHOSTATESMAN