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What We Fear Isn’t As Scary As We Might Think.

Making art can be a terrifying experience. Meeting a white piece of paper or staring at a blinking cursor on a Word document takes tremendous courage.

Why?

Because we’re facing emptiness.

Anyone knows what it feels like to face the terrifying unknown.

We try to soothe the fear by filling the space with whatever we can: Sugar. Our horoscope. Relationships. Approval. Work. Chatter.

“Emptiness” is a big word in Buddhism. Westerners have misunderstood this word to mean “a void.” And that’s what we’re afraid of—being sucked up into some kind of black hole.

But what “emptiness” really means (in the Buddhist sense) is spaciousness, boundlessness, and connectedness.

Like when we first sit down in the morning at our desk with a pile of papers and a long to-do list, we can feel trepidation or panic.

That’s why so many great writers, when faced with a blank page, were prone to drink. But what they didn’t know is that they didn’t have to suffer in the way that they did.

Buddhists say our true nature is emptiness. In a simplified example, what that means is our thoughts are like clouds moving across a great sky.

When we look up at the infinite sky and feel its spaciousness, what do we REALLY experience inside?

WE MIGHT FEEL:

Openness
Expansion
Relaxation
Lightness or floating sensations
Presence
Fluidity and flow
Calmness

When we meet emptiness we connect to something much greater. A current of energy awakens in us.

Loneliness and anxiety subside.

Our hearts expand. We feel in love with what we’re doing, with others, with LIFE.

This is what happens when we step through fear. This is what’s on the other side.

If ONLY we could know this and trust it:

We’d show up everyday ready to meet our list, the empty canvas or the Word document.

We’d feel safe in stillness and silence.

We’d delight in the uncharted.

We’d feel calm in the uncertainty of our future or even peace in the face of death.

But this seems a grand thing to ask of us. After all, we only know what we’ve experienced. And most of us — if not ALL of us — are more comfortable with what’s familiar.

And what we know best is fear.

So what if I told you — PROMISED you — that if you met that thing you fear and continued THROUGH it, you would not only be OK but you’d flourish?

That you’d feel better than you’ve ever felt or could even know was possible?

I don’t have to promise you because you’ve ALREADY had times in your life when you’ve experienced this:

When you got the ball rolling and checked several things off your list, how GREAT did you feel?

Or when your fingers gained speed on your keyboard, or your brushstrokes smoothed vivid color onto canvas, or you danced with such freedom you felt like you could fly?

It’s just that little hump we have to get over. That moment we want to turn away from, but need to step forward into instead.

And then . . . the possibilities are endless.

Wishing you a week of fearlessness!

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Lynn Newman