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Taming the elephant

Some of you have responded to the past week's pages on F.E.A.R., asking what to do about it. The fact is that I have been delaying the answer, while I decide how to present it over the internet. Eliminating f.e.a.r. is a skill, which yogis perfected several thousand years ago but the skill is usually taught in the physical presence of a teacher, so that the teacher can guide the student past the obstacles, which are created by the deluded, fearful mind.

The ancient parables describe this guidance as the process of taming a wild elephant. The procedure in those days was to tie a newly captured animal to a post with a good strong rope. When you do this the elephant is not happy. He screams and tramples, and pulls against the rope for days. Finally, it sinks through his skull that he can't get away, and he settles down. At this point you can begin to feed him and to handle him with some measure of safety. Eventually you can dispense with the rope and post altogether, and train your elephant for various tasks. Now, you've got a tamed elephant that can be put to useful work. In this analogy, the wild elephant is your wildly active mind, the rope is mindfulness, and the post is our object -- breathing. The tamed elephant who emerges from this process is a well trained, concentrated mind that can then be used for the exceedingly tough job of piercing the layers of illusion that obscure reality. Removing illusion eliminates f.e.a.r., by taming the mind.

As you can imagine, taming a wild elephant takes time and daily effort. Of course, in theory, some elephant minds have the possibility to release f.e.a.r., instantly. However, this has not been my experience, as a teacher/tamer. Usually, students do extremely well in class but do not seem to make much progress between classes. I, as the teacher/tamer, must begin with the first lesson, repeatedly. When I ask the students if they have been practicing at home, they usually tell me that though they have every intention of practicing at home, they are afraid.

It can not be much different in cyberspace. I will make the effort to teach the process through these web pages but I want each of you, who decide to do this to contact me, tell me that you want to learn the process and always keep me informed of your obstacles and challenges. You can eliminate fear, anger, worry, anxiety and dread from your life and the first step is to make a commitment.

The next question we need to address is: Why choose breathing as the primary object of the taming process? Why not something a bit more interesting? Answers to this are numerous. A useful object of taming should be one that promotes mindfulness. It should be portable, easily available and cheap. It should also be something that will not embroil us in those states of mind from which we are trying to free ourselves, such as greed, anger and delusion. Breathing satisfies all these criteria and more. Breathing is something common to every human being. We all carry it with us wherever we go. It is always there, constantly available, never ceasing from birth till death, and it costs nothing.

Breathing is a non-conceptual process, a thing that can be experienced directly without a need for thought. Furthermore, it is a very living process, an aspect of life that is in constant change. The breath moves in cycles--inhalation, exhalation, breathing in and breathing out. Thus it is miniature model of life itself.

The sensation of breath is subtle, yet it is quite distinct when you learn to tune into it. It takes a bit of an effort to find it. Yet anybody can do it. You've got to work at it, but not too hard. For all these reasons, breathing makes an ideal object of taming. Breathing is normally an involuntary process, proceeding at its own pace without a conscious will. Yet, a single act of will can slow it down or speed it up. Make it long and smooth or short and choppy. The balance between involuntary breathing and forced manipulation of breath is quite delicate. And there are lessons to be learned here on the nature of will and desire. Then, too, that point at the tip of the nostril can be viewed as a sort of a window between the inner and outer worlds. It is a nexus point and energy-transfer spot where stuff from the outside world moves in and becomes a part of what we call 'me', and where a part of me flows forth to merge with the outside world. There are lessons to be learned here about self- concept and how we form it.

I'll stop here and wait for your commitments.

Any questions??