There are certain books, and works of particular authors, that I dip into periodically because their evocative language sparks my imagination and propels my thinking forward. Right now I’m reading Terry Tempest William’s new book Erosion, and I know it will join her other books on my shelf, to be dipped into again and again like sips of nectar.
Brown’s work feels particularly on point at this moment in my own evolution, and both her work and Erosion couldn’t be more germane to the state of our politics nationally and globally. I believe she is accurate when she says that ultimately all behaviors that harm oneself or others have shame at their core. I see fear and shame as twins cowering under the same blanket wishing it was an Invisibility Cloak.
I know I’ve mentioned this before, but for several years I’ve been practicing not fretting. It is a useful discipline, being someone with particular shards of PTSD embedded like shrapnel in my amygdala. Peaceful coexistence with reactivity, rather than its complete eradication, is my aim. In the last year or so, my practice has evolved to being about converting my fear to faith.
I don’t mean this in a religious way, nor as a project expected to come to an end.
It is a discipline of paying attention, of noticing when fear arises in its many guises, and after identifying it, practicing tolerating it, getting more at ease with my squirmy discomfort, and then making a conscious choice not to indulge it.
Part of what I mean by faith is this: because I can’t know the future, and my presumptions about it are based on past experiences which I’ve spent decades probing. I can actively choose to stand-in-not-knowing-what’s-next, which some call The Holy Instant.
Painstakingly dissecting my past in order to articulate its anatomy has been a worthy endeavor, and it is no longer mysterious or figural. Its present utility is to allow me to make more informed choices including practicing faith, i.e., trusting that whatever may arise is simply a challenge. I can, instead, tolerate my discomfort and not run, tolerate my autonomic responses to old triggers rather than have my entire nervous system hijacked, acknowledge that these things exist and inform my reactions but not have them govern my present behavior.
It means consciously expanding my awareness to a wider range of possibilities. It also means that being prepared for the worst (my inner Girl Scout) or waiting for the other shoe to drop is an expenditure of energy resources I can actively choose to spend differently.
This is what I mean by choosing faith.
How do you define and practice faith?