03 Dec The Four Buddhist Mantras for Turning Fear into Love
via Brain Pickings by Maria Popova
“Fearlessness is what love seeks,” Hannah Arendt wrote in her magnificent early work on love and how to live with fear. “Such fearlessness exists only in the complete calm that can no longer be shaken by events expected of the future… Hence the only valid tense is the present, the Now.”
This notion of presence as the antidote to fear and the crucible of love is as old as the human heart, as old as the consciousness that first felt the blade of anticipatory loss pressed against the exposed underbelly of the longing for connection. It is at the center of millennia-old Buddhist philosophy and comes alive afresh, in a splendidly practical way, in Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm (public library) by the great Vietnamese Buddhist teacher and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh, who continues to enrich, ennoble, and empower with his teachings well into his nineties.
In the general Buddhist style of befriending complexity through simplicity and with his particular gift for simple words strung into a rosary of immense wisdom radiating immense kindness, Thich Nhat Hanh writes:
We have a great, habitual fear inside ourselves. We’re afraid of many things — of our own death, of losing our loved ones, of change, of being alone. The practice of mindfulness helps us to touch nonfear. It’s only here and now that we can experience total relief, total happiness… In the practice of Buddhism, we see that all mental formations — including compassion, love, fear, sorrow, and despair — are organic in nature. We don’t need to be afraid of any of them, because transformation is always possible.
Such transformation is possible only through deliberate practice — none more challenging, or more rewarding, than the practice of transforming fear into love. In consonance with his teaching that “to love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love,” he anchors this transmutation practice in four mantras “effective for watering the seeds of happiness in yourself and your beloved and for transforming fear, suffering, and loneliness.”
Unlike a prayer — which channels a hope at some imagined entity capable of interceding in favor of that hope and has only as a side benefit (though arguably its only real and robust benefit) the psychological self-clarification that comes from honing our hopes in language — a mantra is not addressed at anything or anyone external and is entirely devoted to distilling the object of hope to its clearest essence. This, in and of itself, transforms the hope into an intent, making it more actionable — but also saving it from the particular complacency against which Descartes admonished as he considered the vital relationship between fear and hope. A mantra is therefore not a form of magical thinking, for while there is a sense of magic to how such distillation seems to shift the situation by its very utterance, it is an entirely practical sort of magic, for a mantra simply clarifies, concentrates, and consecrates intent, and all meaningful transformation springs from purposeful, devoted intent.
Thich Nhat Hanh writes:
A mantra is a kind of magic formula that, once uttered, can entirely change a situation. It can change us, and it can change others. But this magic formula must be spoken in concentration, with body and mind focused as one. What you say in this state of being becomes a mantra.
Within this conceptual framework, he offers four mantras for transforming fear into love, beginning with “Mantra for Offering Your Presence.” A generation after Simone Weil insisted that “attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity,” he writes:
The most precious gift you can give to the one you love is your true presence. So the first mantra is very simple: “Dear one, I am here for you.”
… keep reading the full & original article HERE
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