From Fear to Gratitude

Notes from a workshop – prepared by Steve Patrick

There is no greater illusion than fear, no greater wrong than preparing to defend yourself, no greater misfortune than having an enemy. Whoever can see through fearwill always be safe.

Tao Te Ching from passage number 46
2,500 year-old book of Traditional Wisdom
Lao Tzu and translated by Stephen Mitchell

Where do I find what may be called fear?  What am I afraid of?  What does this guy Steve label as fear?
  • Rejection.  Not fitting in with other people; being shunned or judged by others.
  • Loss.  Loss of relationship, job, financial stability, people I love and care about, stuff and status.
  • Getting physically injured or attacked.  Getting stolen from.
  • Injury (hurt) of people I love and care about.
  • Losing control over my emotions.  Losing my temper.  Hurting those I care about out of a state of anger.
  • Criticism, negative evaluation, any feeling of diminishment. Same as being blamed by myself or others.  These are most clearly hurtful because they damage the images I hold of myself (the ego).
  • Fear of how my own mind will scare me, threaten me, criticize me, or otherwise torment me.
What causes fear to arise in you?  Something else not on this list?
The mind always wants a direct answer to something like fear.  But we’re going to approach it indirectly, then circle back around hoping that we all have at least a slightly clearer sense of fear as a great illusion.
The ego is the image of self that we lock-into through associating or identifying with thoughts about ourselves.

It’s so easy to be immersed in a role – parent, manager, sister, brother, CEO, adult, victim. There’s so much support for carrying an internalized image of what I am.

When I do, it’s as if there is a comparison structure inside that takes over.  It’s always evaluating me.  It’s always measuring my fit to the image I carry of myself.  There is always a threat, and a fear of being rejected because the “me” does not match my images or others’ images of what I should be.  It’s the fear of the should and the have to.  It’s the fear of pressure and tension.

Then when something or someone challenges these images I cling to, I feel attacked and often as if I must defend myself.  Sometimes the threat seems so overwhelming; we feel we must destroy the source of the threat in order to survive.  We take the judgment to be so real, we can’t let it continue to exist.  It’s the fear of believing that outside circumstance is forcing us to fight, to defend our lives.  That outside circumstance forces us to kill.

First Step
Practice observing thoughts that cross your mind.  With practice watching them, you will come to feel as though you can stand aside from them.  By watching rather than continuing to Be the thoughts, the grip they have diminishes.  The thoughts have less power to make me feel bad or afraid.  [See Feel Good Now on page 35 and Flaw Finding on page 46 in book A Whole of The Whole.]

Once we begin to sense ourselves as more than our thoughts, we begin to shift from dependence on outer sources that come and go.  We sense a more grounded, inner state of being; a non-thought state of being.  [See You’re Not Allowed to Touch Source on page 360 and Noncognition on page 410 in book A Whole of The Whole.]

In fact, our insecurities – those self-assessments that make us feel we absolutely have to have the relationship, job, finances, or other stuff and status – gradually become less real as the non-thought based, grounded self becomes more familiar (again).  The grounded-self becomes more real even though it’s not as clearly physical, and not as clearly tied to success in the surface world.

This new deeper self is also difficult to describe.  And although I can try to talk about my experience of uncovering it, I’ve come to realize that the experience is different for each person.  Each must uncover it for herself/himself, and that process of uncovering cannot be duplicated or taught to others in a systematic, instructional way.

What causes fear to arise in you?  Something else not on this list?

The mind always wants a direct answer to something like fear.  But we’re going to approach it indirectly, then circle back around hoping that we all have at least a slightly clearer sense of fear as a great illusion.

The ego is the image of self that we lock-into through associating or identifying with thoughts about ourselves.
Recently I’ve noticed that saying “I” is totally attached to the thought-stream passing through my mind.  But as I watch more and more I see that this jabbering is insignificant and wasted energy.

The whole-self me is different.  As watcher of the mind stream, the whole-self senses that all this self-talk is only a limited tool, something that can’t represent reality.  Sometimes I say to myself: That thing I just called “I” isn’t the whole-self me, it’s just the jabbering thought-stream.
Even though I’m using words like jabbering, insignificant, and wasted energy, I don’t want to view the mind stream as “bad” because that creates a state of tension inside.  Calling the jabbering bad, generates resistance which actually bolsters the foothold of the thought-stream.  

It’s as if the mind is geared toward using judgment in order to be safe in the world, as if it can find truth through its favorite pastime of finding patterns and naming them.  But I’ve realized that I can practice growing my awareness of these patterns, and stepping back to bring-in a wider view to see the process of naming as merely a limited tool.

Second StepNotice referring to your self (your “I”) as your thoughts.  Just watch it.  Once we bring a light to our thoughts by watching them, change happens of itself simply through that awareness.  After a while I trust I will shift away from calling the jabbering thought-stream “I”.  

And, I remind myself again that when I say jabber, I mean it in a friendly, light-hearted way without a trace of blame.  A dear friend recently said: love the ego, but don’t follow it.
Another thought that comes to mind is: be tender with all you encounter … it’s all an aspect of life, and in that sense, it’s all good.
Let’s pose the question:  What is this whole-self kind of Being?  What’s this Being that has set Steve free of fear so much of the time?
It’s a kind of Being, and knowing, that uses thoughts (word-tools) but doesn’t take them to be reality.  It’s a self that’s connected to the whole of life.  The whole-self senses the malfunction of regarding the thought-stream as if it were truth.  The whole-self will uncover more and more until you notice: Wow! I’m different now.  I’m no longer as tense and as tortured by my thoughts as I was before.  I’ve found a deep sense of trust through experiencing the whole-self.

But the words in the preceding paragraph are just words.  We can’t shift ourselves toward seeing fear diminish in a way as direct as that.  Let’s try words and thoughts that are more indirect in order to put some living detail (context) around the idea of experiencing gratitude rather than fear.

Here are a series of quotes that for me shed light on how to shift away from a dominant state of fear.  The speaker is Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, and each quote is from the book “I Am That”.
… the mind craves for formulations and definitions, always eager to squeeze reality into a verbal shape.  Of everything, it wants an idea, for without ideas the mind is not.  Reality is essentially alone, but the mind will not leave it alone – and deals instead with the unreal. 

And yet that is all the mind can do – to discover the unreal as unreal.  [page 313]
When the relative is over, the absolute remains.  [page 313]
The mind cannot know what is beyond the mind, but the mind is known by what is beyond it.  [page 314]  You must look for truth beyond the mind.  [page 317]
Your very being is real.  [page 318]
You are like a child that says, Prove that the sugar is sweet then only shall I have it.  The proof of the sweetness is in the mouth, not in the sugar.  To know it is sweet, you must taste it – there is no other way.  Of course you begin by asking, Is it sugar?  Is it sweet?  And you accept my assurance until you taste it.  

Only then do all doubts dissolve and does your knowledge become first-hand and unshakable.  I do not ask you to believe me.  Just trust me enough to begin with.  Every step proves or disproves itself.  You seem to want the proof of truth to precede the truth itself.  And what will be the proof of the proof?   [page 319; paragraph break mine]
Steve’s comments: I view the proof of the sweetness of sugar as an interaction between sugar and mouth, with the main impetus being in the mouth.  Sweetness is a quality added on by me, through my cognition.  [See Synthetic Essentials in book A Whole of The Whole on page 128.]
You do not see it because you look too far away from yourself, outside your innermost being.  You have objectified truth and insist on your standard proofs and tests, which apply only to things and thoughts.  [page 321]
The discovery of truth is in the discernment of the false.  You can know what is not.  What is – you can only be.  [page 322]
Questioner:  Is truth within the realm of the mind or beyond?Maharaj:  It is neither, it is both.  It cannot be put into words.  [page 322]
Truth cannot be described, but it can be experienced.  [page 322]
You need not merit truth.  It is your own.  Just stop running away by running after it.  Stand still; be quiet.  [page 322]
Steve’s comment:  Truth is already with you, it’s in you now.  To find it in myself, I just need to get to the quiet place in order to uncover awareness of it.

Steve’s notes written on page 323 of his copy of I Am That:  We can come to realize that there is a Source of all that surrounds us.   And yet, Source cannot be contained by that which it gives rise to.  Source is the origin from which we derive words.  And all forms in the surface world come out of Source.  Words and forms, derived from Source and made possible by Source, cannot contain Source.
Fear ceases absolutely.  This state of fearlessness is so unmistakably new, yet felt deeply as one’s own, that it cannot be denied.  It is like loving one’s own child.  Who can doubt it?  [page326]
The obsession of being an “I” needs another obsession with a ‘super I’ to get cured …  [page 325]
Steve comments: When being an “I” is cured, when we get reacquainted with Source, we find a grounded sense of being with all of life.  And then …In the end you reach a state of non-grasping, of joyful non-attachment, of inner ease and freedom indescribable, yet wonderfully real.  [page 326]
Questioner: What are the obstacles?  [to realizing the truth] Maharaj: Wrong ideas and desires leading to wrong actions, causing dissipation andweakness of mind and body.  The discovery and abandonment of the false removewhat prevents the real from entering the mind. [page 330]
All suffering is caused by selfish isolation, by insularity and greed.  When the cause of suffering is seen and removed, suffering ceases.   [page 333]
This selfish isolation is the belief that we are more separate than connected; it is isolation from Source.  When we see ourselves as insulated from others, including seeing ourselves as separate from events and circumstances, we are operating from illusion, not from the what is of Connectivity.  We are taken over by mind-stream messages such as that over there shouldn’t be happening!  We miss out on the reality that we are connected to that which happens.

Years ago, I viewed myself as separate as if I were in a vacuum.  I equated what my mind said with truth, so much so that I thought I owned the truth, while others knew nothing.  It was a way to place myself above and against what was actually happening around me.

A favorite quote of mine which was probably written by Mark Twain is: 

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble.   
It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” 
[See A Whole of The Whole page 398.]

Continuing quotes from I Am That …

The very admission I am ignorant is the dawn of knowledge.  An ignorant man is ignorant of his ignorance.  You can say that ignorance does not exist, for the moment it is seen it is no more.  Therefore, you may call it unconsciousness or blindness.  All you see around and within you is what you do not know and do not understand.  To know that you do not know and do not understand is true knowledge, the knowledge of a humble heart   [page 334]
… the fact is that knowledge is of ignorance only.  You know that you do not know.  [page 334]
Once you are inwardly integrated, outer knowledge comes to you spontaneously.  At every moment of your life, you know what you need to know.  In the ocean of the universal mind all knowledge is contained; it is yours on demand.  Most of it you may never need to know – but it is yours all the same.   [page 335]

As with knowledge, so it is with power.  Whatever you feel needs to be done, happens unfailingly.  No doubt, God attends to this business of managing the universe; but He is glad to have some help.  When the helper is selfless and intelligent, all the powers of the universe are for Him to command.   [page 335]
Notice use of the word God and the capitalization of the word He and Him.  The He and Him that is God merge with the She and Her and the He and Him that is each of us.  This God is one with you and me.
My mind can easily say:  

But suffering in the world is real!  I see violence toward people who are different.  Perhaps it happens because they are different.  Violence toward those with different skin color, nationality, sexual preference, political views, religion, etc.

There is starvation, slavery (yes still), sex trafficking (girls and boys who are bought and sold for profit).
My whole-self, sensing a grounded connection to Source, says something else:

All the mind can do is discover the unreal.  It’s actually my thoughts about the suffering that cause more of it – inside myself and out toward those around me when I spawn those negative energies by churning thoughts around the suffering.  My mind can discover that these thoughts are unreal.  

Yes, violence, starvation, etc are real.  And I may feel sad to see it.  I may want to ask how I could contribute to something different happening.  

But my tension and upset about these real sufferings is caused by my thoughts.  Making fear be the real is one of the mind’s many mistaken patterns.

So much of what is seen as “bad” seems to be motivated by money.  But money is only a tool, just as words are.  

The ultimate driver of people who do “bad” things can be called unconsciousness or deep confusion.  This is the disconnection with Source.  And if we carry that same detachment from Source inside us, aren’t we contributing to maintaining the suffering?  Aren’t we contributing to more suffering through our tension and fear?

It’s so easy to say: We’re right and the guy we call bad is wrong.  Isn’t that what’s deep inside the “bad” guy when he takes action based on his deep confusion?  He operates on: I’m right and the world is wrong and I must change, or destroy, that wrongness.

The deeper truth is that we are all more similar than we are different – we are all connected deep down.  Once realized, Connectivity becomes more real than the apparent separation supported so well by every concept, every word that depends on drawing our attention toward this-not-that.

 Each word excludes, and in a sense demonizes, all that is not a member of its watered down group.  Our group are the good guys and their group are the bad guys.  

[See Miss-Taking a Word for Reality in book A Whole of The Whole on page 106.]
Here’s another protest I hear from my own mind and from the minds of others:

If we don’t fight-back against those people who initiate bad actions, we will lose and the bad guys will win.  We must “defend” or we will be taken over and beaten by those who attack.

My whole-self answers this.  Look at the illusion that the word “bad” brings as if it were the whole of the situation or a complete picture of the persons involved.  The word itself narrows and excludes most of the reality which is present in the whole of the situation.  

If we begin to see the false nature of fighting back as the only option, we can still take action to contribute to change.  And our actions become much more effective without the tension of fighting “the bad”.

[Ask me about my experience holding a five-week old baby girl as she cried for almost 20 minutes.   Email me at ]

But if we take action from the same place that those we say are “bad” acted from, how can our actions change what is generally happening?  Our actions are fueled by the same energies that fueled “the bad”.  What we call “the bad” are driven by an unconscious/highly-confused place, and we respond in kind, also out of an unconscious/highly-confused place.  The specifics are different, but the underlying energies are the same.

In situations that seem to warrant fighting back, I’ve experienced what Byron Katie said: Defense is the first act of war.  

[See Blaming Myself – Blaming Others (Externalizing the War Inside) in book A Whole of The Whole on page 80.]
Here’s another quote that relates.  It’s passage number 31 from the Tao Te Ching translated by Stephen Mitchell.
Weapons are the tools of violence; all decent men detest them.

Weapons are the tools of fear; a decent man will avoid them except in the direst necessity and if compelled, will use them only with the utmost restraint.
Peace is his highest value.  If the peace has been shattered, how can he be content?
His enemies are not demons, but human beings like himself.  He doesn’t wish them personal harm.  Nor does he rejoice in victory.  How could he rejoice in victory and delight in the slaughter of men?

He enters battle gravely, with sorrow and with great compassion, as if he were attending a funeral.
The this-not-that of word-based thought doesn’t allow for the kind of nuanced truths carried by this passage from the Tao Te Ching.  But the words in this passage can point us toward a noncognitive realization of these truths.

My whole-self adds that when entering battle is necessary, it’s because of the malfunction of miss-taking thoughts as reality.  The one who seems to initiate the violence is, without fully realizing it, driven by his ideas, his concepts, his words.  [See Grateful Being in book A Whole of The Whole on page 405.]

So when the decent man is compelled to fight a destructive (deeply confused, unconscious) force, he doesn’t do it from a mind-based state.  He doesn’t preconceive as much as he responds from a well-grounded place of being with Source.  It’s a place that stops the fighting as soon as possible.  A place of Connectivity with the Source of all that is … that’s what brings him feelings of sorrow and great compassion … that’s what makes it possible to realize that “his enemies are not demons”.


A few concluding remarks. Individually as collectively, when we view our surroundings and take action from a place of deep groundedness with Source, we rise above the confused place of mind-streaming chatter and judgment.  We tap the vast knowing of the universe as a support for the action.  Then the action flows through us as if we are vehicles for life energy.  And we are no longer hampered by dominance of the mind.  We become aware of the malfunctional destructiveness of mistaking the narrowing of a bunch of artificial symbols (words) with the whole of reality.

Seeing the false as false … seeing the false for what it is rather than allowing it to continue to masquerade as truth, this is what the mind is able to do.

But aligning with truth is a sensing, a realization that requires deep grounding with Source not deep immersion in the thought stream.  We can become liberated from mind-created tensions and dissatisfactions with life, including prevalent and frequent fears, when we see words (and thoughts) as the highly limited tools they are.  But we become destructive without being aware of it when we mistake knowing a lot of words with knowing reality.  Words are just names that point toward what’s real. 
What’s real must be experienced first-hand, directly, and as a whole-self.  What’s real cannot be experienced through the filter of words.  Words just point the direction for where we can go to know directly.
I wish you all much peaceful playfulness as you adjust your views to shift from fear to gratitude.  Most importantly as you come to experience the quiet stillness that underlies all the surface stuff around us.  And, as we all come to experience Source more and more by going to reality directly and finding the firsthand connectedness that had been buried by so many layers of thought for so long.  Let’s let love, with gratitude, win over fear.  Thank you … I am grateful for you.