Zen Buddhist priest Karen Maezen Miller writes in Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life (2010,)

Fear is our first and, if we’re not careful, our last love. It is our most enduring relationship. It never leaves our side. It tells us where to go, what to wear, what to say, and what not to say. We surrender all other options to it. Before, after, and during most of our relationships, we are concerned above all not with the other party but with what we fear he or she will do. let me count the ways.

I’m afraid I’ll be embarrassed.

I’m afraid I’ll be disappointed.

I’m afraid I’ll be hurt.

I’m afraid I’ll be left.

I’m afraid I’ll be alone.

I’m afraid I’ll be unloved.

I’m afraid I’ll be taken advantage of.

I’m afraid it won’t work out.

I’m afraid of change.

I’m afraid to live.

I’m afraid to die.

When I tell you that fear is the basic ground of ego, the false sense of a separate self, you might conclude what I do. We are unavailable for any truly loving and fulfilling relationships as long as we are trapped in a committed relationship with the most controlling part of our own mind – our fear. Our fear of what will happen and our fear of what will not.

Nearly everything we’re afraid will happen is going to happen anyway, so what’s to fear? There is no secure or unchanging ground, and we make ourselves safe only when we see and accept the way life is. Utterly spontaneous and impermanent. When it is time to laugh, we laugh. When it is time to weep, we weep. We are cheated of nothing in life except that from which we withhold ourselves by ego’s narrow bounds. These bounds we made to break; indeed they must, if we ever hope to be whole again.

I’m not proposing that you play fast and loose with your self-respect, just that you abandon the lost cause of keeping yourself securely fixed in one place. It can’t be accomplished while you are alive, and I can’t offer an eyewitness account of what comes after.

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