Outgrowing fear

Our heritage - picture courtesy Sharon Smith

When I was a child I loved those bedtime stories that my mother Elanora read to me.

Every evening she would kiss me on the cheeks and tuck me in. She pulled the blankets up tight and cozy around me. She smiled and asked what story I would like to hear. As she opened the book and began to read, her eyes glistened and spoke to me in gentle caresses of love.

Among my favorite Australian folk tales were Wayambeh the turtle and The origin of the Narran Lake. The stories seemed magical and filled with a life of hope.

But even though it scared me the best story was Deereeree the wagtail and the rainbow, mostly because it had a happy ending.

I was often frightened like Deereeree, of the long and dark silent night. And even when Bibbee created a beautiful rainbow to allay Deereeree’s fear of darkness, her suspicion of the event only prolonged the sense of fright. But in the end Bibbee explained his creation of love (the rainbow) and the two were married happily ever after.

My childhood was filled with the many challenges that we (the indigenous people) faced in Australia.

My mother reiterated how our people migrated from Southeast Asia into Australia approximately 50,000 years ago. Our numbers steadily grew to reach over 500 tribes (Bidjandjadjara, Aranda , Gunwinggu, Gurindji, Murngin, Kamilaroi, Tiwi, Wurora, Wailbri, and Yir-yoront). We were mostly nomads, moving from place to place in search of food. The men of the tribe hunted and protected the family, while the women cooked and tended to the children.

We were also artisans and philosophers, tied to the land, with a unique sensitivity and perspective of how nature functioned. We lived on the Earth, and its spirit flowed through our veins.

Our creation story calls the beginning of the world the “Dreaming,” or “Dreamtime.” Later in my life I learned that this was our recognition of the play of samsara (illusion), which causes and supports the false sense of ego and separateness. Even before the Buddha, my people understood the grand reality.

We do not consider the human species to be above or below that of rock, plant, or animal. We are part and parcel of nature’s song.

The didgeridoo

We created the “didgeridoo” bamboo wind instrument. At about five feet in length it produces a low, vibrating hum. We play this instrument at ceremonies honoring the events of sunrise, sunset, weddings and funerals.

Our way of life started to change significantly in 1788 when English settlers first landed in Australia. They took whatever land they wanted and their sheep farms began to multiply.

Many of my people became sick after contracted venereal disease, whooping cough, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and other illnesses due to exposure to the white man. And we were deemed by them as “uncivilized,” and they passed laws sanctioning the removal of children from their parents; to be placed in orphanages or put up for adoption.

When I was six years old the State stepped in to take me away from my mother.

But Sir Charles Wilson interceded on my behalf. Sir Charles was the 4th generation of Wilson’s that had settled in our glorious land. I was living with my father and mother on his ranch. When it converted over to a mining enterprise my father stayed on and worked the cooper processing mill. But he died from a machine accident.

Sir Charles Wilson kept me and my mother on and took us in as family. We developed a strong bond with him, his wife Martha, daughters Rebecca and Susan, and son Willy. He is a kind and gentle soul. Sir Charles formally adopted me, so that in the eyes of the State I was allowed to stay on at the ranch. I lived with my mother. I was lucky.

In 1960 the Maharishi visited Australia on his first world tour, and he was all the rage. The newspapers and radio shows pickup up on the story. Imagine that, a saint from the Himalayas coming down to the city and exclaiming that the nature of life was bliss. That seemed to challenge common sense. Was he for real? People wondered what planet he had been living on.

So my mother Elanora, who had always been interested in such things, took the bus to see him. Soon she learned Transcendental Meditation (TM). When recounting this story to me sometime later she said that when looking into the eyes of the Maharishi – she saw bliss, love, and contentment. He seemed to be a living example of what he taught. That’s what convinced her to start meditation.

Two years later when the Maharishi returned to Australia she went to see him again. But this time she took me. I didn’t understand a lot of what I heard, but it seemed to be a good thing. So that summer I learned the meditation also.

In the 1960’s the sentiment toward us, the indigenous people of Australia, started too changed. By 1967 the Australian people voted to make us citizens.

In the 1970’s our civil rights movement was born. We wanted equal rights and justice for the land that had been forcibly taken by British settlers.

I learned at an early age that love is wise and hatred is simply foolishness.

In the first years of meditation I enjoyed an ever increasing sense of calm and serenity. That was useful since my school exams took a toll on my nerves. At times I probably used it as a crutch; to calm me down before those State Exams and to help me better focus my attention when spending long hours at study.

(NAPLAN for Literacy and Numeracy, NAP-SL for Science, and NAP-CC for Civics & Citizenship).

As a teenager I felt caught between two walls; what my Mother said I should do and what my friends often contradictorily said. I had a curfew to be home by 10:00 PM each evening, and that seemed to be an arbitrary restriction on my freedom. Maybe my hormones were constantly raging, but I just wanted to be free. I thought that I knew it all, and had an answer for everything.

What was important to me was school, my friends, the relationship and interaction with my mother, dating and sex issues, staying away from drugs and addictions, and my sense of self worth. I was blossoming as an individual, standing my ground, and exerting my influence.

That summer while on a hiking trip to Wollemi National Park I fell down a ravine and broke my arm. It took about three hours to be rescued because our guide had to call the park ranger who eventually came with repelling ropes and mountain climbing gear. At first I was bewildered during the fall. After tumbling and finally coming to rest, I started to feel the pain in my left arm. Even though I was all alone at the bottom of the ravine, I was not afraid. I knew that I would be OK. I was just thankful that I survived the fall and that nothing else seemed to be broken.

When the Rangers lifted me out of the ravine they said I was lucky. My staying calm, collected and brave helped me to get out safely.

Kangaroo crossing

By the time I celebrated my 21st birthday I had been meditating for ten years. Some of the things that my Mother told me when I was younger I had just brushed off as nonsense. But now, seeing life from an adult perspective, it turned out to be good advice. She was right on. Suddenly my estimation of my mother’s IQ rose in my eyes.

The Aboriginal Land Rights Act passed in 1976. It recognized our system of land ownership and authorized as law the concept of inalienable freehold title.

At one point my best friend told me that because my personality and temperament seemed to be always on even keel, I was not really alive. My friend Kaiya would ask me “where is your emotional fire, hunger for life, and desire?”

I replied, “Living life with stability and contentment allows me to experience it more fully. The wonder and enchantment of the morning sunrise, a butterfly on the daffodil, the birds chirping up in the tree, and great friends like you really sharing their lives with me. Not being thrown around by the vicissitudes of daily living, I see things more clearly.”

In the 1990’s new government legislation gave us greater autonomy, better working wages and other social benefits.

Today in the 21st century we are actively participating in Australian painting (Albert Namatjira), acting (David Gulpilil, Ernie Dingo, and Deborah Mailman), song (Christine Anu, Jessica Mauboy and Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu), sports (Lionel Rose, Evonne Goolagong, Arthur Beetson, Laurie Daley, Gorden Tallis, Nathan Jawai, Patrick Mills, Mark Ella), Parliament (Neville Bonner, Aden Ridgeway and Ken Wyatt), and too many other enterprises to list here.

I know from my experience over the years that meditation is wonderful, but since we all carry personal karmic debt, illness can still come our way. It’s not a panacea. But rather an aid or skill in action, that allows the mind to settle to its most restful and intelligent state. That brushes off on the body and goes a long way toward improving health.

Four years ago I accidentally found out that I had kidney cancer. What happened was that I was sick and ended up going to the hospital emergency center. I had a temperature and was vomiting. My first thought was that this must be the H1N1 flu virus that the media has been talking about.

Once in the emergency room the nurses and technicians did some diagnostics testing. They tested my blood, took my temperature, listened to my lungs and heart, and did an abdomen ultrasound. After that testing a doctor came and said,” I’m sorry to tell you but the ultrasound shows that you have a kidney tumor, and in 90% of the cases it’s usually caused by cancer.”

My first thought was, “Well, I’m going to miss seeing my grandchildren grow up, but I’ll leave a legacy of love and memories of the good times we had together.” I was not scarred or angry. I was not resentful. I was at peace with the world and myself. So be it.

Now of course that did not stop me from doing the rational thing. I went to a specialist and had more tests done. It seemed that the tumor was still encapsulated, totally encased in the kidney, and had not yet been exposed to the inner abdominal wall. So we rushed through some additional preparation and in less than 6-weeks from the time of that initial diagnosis in the hospital, I underwent surgery and had the kidney removed.

Well, its four years now and I’m still cancer free.

What’s interesting is that the cancer was discovered accidentally. If not for the flu virus it would not have been found at such an early stage. Given another year or two it could have been fatal.

My nephrologist later told me that my surviving kidney has an additional Ureter; that’s the tube that runs from the kidney to the bladder. Normally we only have just one. But for some reason I was born with two.

I have since thought that perhaps I was predestined to have this bout with cancer, and so my body had prepared ahead of time to better handle life after the disease?

This year I will be 61 years old. I have five grandchildren and three darling daughters. My husband Natan has been by my side for over 40 years

Now I’m no intellectual giant by any means. Quite the contrary, I lead a simple life. I attend to daily matters and help my children and neighbors as I can. I’ve never studied the sacred scriptures, or works of Nietzsche and the other philosophers. I just do my meditation every day, morning and evening as instructed, and life seems to take care of itself.

I’m comfortable whether I have thirty more years to live, or today is my last. Everything is perfect, just as it should be. I am in the right place at the right time.


Everyone is faced with fear throughout their life. People handle it differently. But that primary fear of death – annihilation, still remains with us at all times.

As long as we continue to perceive the world as subject (mind) and object (our body) our fear will persist. Fear is our constant companion as long as duality dominates our awareness.

There are many types of fear that we face:

Acrophobia – fear of heights
Agoraphobia – fear of open spaces
Arachnophobia – fear of spiders
Athazagoraphobia – fear of being forgotten or ignored
Atychiphobia – fear of failure
Belonephobia – fear of needles
Brontophobia – fear of thunder and lightning
Claustrophobia – fear of confined spaces
Metathesiophobia – fear of changes
Necrophobia – fear of death
Pentheraphobia – fear of the in-law’s
Suriphobia – fear of mice and/or rats
Thalassophobia – fear of the sea
Xenophobia – fear of strangers

… just to mention a few categories.

Some say there is healthy fear, which acts to keep us out of potentially dangerous and harmful situations.

– don’t put your hand on the hot stove because you will get burnt
– stay away from drugs
– the sign says, “strong rip currents today,” so don’t go swimming at that beach

Some say there is alarming fear which notifies us of impending danger. Our senses become heightened and the “fight or flight” mind/body mechanism goes into action to preserve our safety.

Some say there is debilitating fear. When fear becomes too great for us to handle and we simply can’t move or cope with the situation.

The consequence of past actions (karma) can place dangerous situations in our path at any time.

Meditate every day to rise above the binding influence of mind, which are both the inventor and sustainer of fear.

On the Zip Line

With meditation we do not try to conquer fear. Such attempts have only limited success.

Certainly we can go sky diving, bungee jumping, mountain climbing, zip lining, and swimming with the sharks to build courage and character. But, to truly overcome fear we must transcend the relative value of life and establish ourselves in the absolute; beyond time, space, and causation. As long as we see ourselves as a distinct and separate entity in this world, so long fear will dominate.

Strive everyday for Enlightenment.

Wise people have said:

Taittiriya Upanishad:
When a man finds fearless support in That which is invisible, formless, indefinable and support less, he has then attained fearlessness. If he makes the slightest differentiation in It, there is fear for him.

Katha Upanishad, Chapter III:
We may master the Naciketa fire,
Sure bridge for men who sacrifice,
Seeking to reach the further shore
Beyond the reach of fear, –
The bridge that leads to Brahman,
Imperishable, supreme.

Bhagavad Gita:
Make your mind one-pointed in meditation, and your heart will be purified. . . . With all fears dissolved in the peace of the Self and all desires dedicated to Brahman, controlling the mind and fixing it on me (God), sit in meditation with me as your only goal. With senses and mind constantly controlled through meditation, united with the Self within, an aspirant attains nirvana, the state of abiding joy and peace in me.

The Buddha:
Thus, all fears
And all infinite sufferings
Arise from the mind.

With meditation we outgrow fear by transcending its basis, our perception of duality. Close the eyes, dive within, and drink of the nectar of bliss and fearlessness.

This entry was posted on Saturday, January 21st, 2012 at 3:00 pm and is filed under Principles for better living. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


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