Reading in The Book of Joy this morning, the chapter was about fear, how it is a natural response but also how we can better respond to our fears so they do not control us.  As I read,  I found myself thinking about a friend who is dealing with terminal cancer.  She’s reached the point where she has chosen to discontinue her chemotherapy and is on palliative care.  Yet, like the energizer bunny, she just keeps going and going and going…primarily due to her positive attitude and by confronting her fears about suffering, pain, and death.  “ I could remain afraid of my cancer,” she said the other day, “ or I could learn to love and respect it.  I told it we could find ways to get along.  I will respect my cancer, and my cancer can respect me by the joy I find in living one day at a time.  I’ve told my cancer, in no uncertain terms, I still have a lot of living to do.  Living one day at a time makes me less afraid of what may lie ahead.” 

In one of their conversations, Bishop Tutu commented that while there will be times when we are afraid, angry, or have negative emotions, we need to stop judging and blaming ourselves and simply accept the reality of our feelings and situations.   After all, suffering is a fact of life.  At that, the Dalai Lama jumped in with: “Dukkha, or suffering, is the opposite of sukha, which means happiness, ease, comfort.”  “Dukkha,” he went on,  literally means “a bumpy ride.”  Not a bad metaphor for life for what is suffering and fear but a bumpy ride?   Yet, so much is determined by our perceptions of that ride.  Our minds serve as the axle that often determines how we experience the ride and whether it is  bumpy or smooth.”

joyce shutt e1707156143139

My husband used to say that perception is reality.    We all have perceptions about our experiences which we then judge as good or bad. Then we have responses to our perceptions: fear, frustrations, anger, and delight, joy,  so forth.  When we realize these feelings are simply projections of our mind, we are free to choose fearlessness, love, compassion, forgiveness, etc., which are also aspects of our minds.  In most cases, fear and anger, for instance, are simply mental projections, not reality.  

Both the Dalai Lama and Bishop Tutu talked about learning to be more laid back –  which opened the way for experiencing more happiness and joy.  Instead of allowing ourselves to get stressed, angry, or frustrated when being late, for instance. We can use our difficulties as the opportunity to focus on being more open and accepting of life’s vicissitudes.  After all, they both claimed, our time on earth is our time to learn to be more loving and accepting, and more compassionate…toward ourselves as well as others.  As the Dalai Lama put it, “You learn when something happens to you.”

Bishop Tutu laughingly reminded the others around him to be careful what they prayed for.  “God has this way of answering our prayers, not with a transformation of character,  but with specific situations in which we have the opportunity to  learn patience, kindness, generosity, acceptance, etc.”   He then added, “I learned that courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.  I’ve felt fear more times than I can remember, but I hid it behind a mask of boldness. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”  This brings me back to my friend who said that she’s learned to love her cancer because it has provided her with so many rich experiences and friends.  

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.  Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.  Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x