Saturday, April 21, 2007

Being Fearless ...

Last Monday afternoon I returned home from New York City, to the news of the senseless deaths of 32 students at Virginia Tech. I had spent the weekend attending the Omega Institute's, "being Fearless" conference. For anyone not familiar with the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies, it is located in Rhinebeck, New York. This year they are celebrating "30 Years of Awakening the Best in the Human Spirit." At the campus in Rhinebeck, you can attend a variety of workshops or retreats from yoga, to healing, to writing poetry, and so much more.

The conference was attended by about 2,000 people from all over the world. We listened to Al Gore, (a VERY funny man) speak about his own spiritual life and his hope for the world. Jane Goodall spoke about the environmental damage we are heaping on the planet and her reasons for hope that we will discover ways to stop the harm we are doing. On Sunday morning, we were inspired by Samdhong Rinpoche, a fully ordained Buddhist monk and Chairman of the the Tibetan Government in Exile.

Other keynote speakers included Arianna Huffington, nationally syndicated columnist and editor of the, and Caroline Myss, author of best-sellers,
Sacred Contracts, Anatomy of the Spirit, and newly published, Entering the Castle. Nora Ephron, best-selling author of, I Feel Bad About My Neck: and Other Thoughts on Being a Woman, and screenwriter-director of such movies as Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally, closed the conference with a witty talk about how she got started in the business.

I attended workshops with mystical scholar Andrew Harvey, writing teacher and author, Natalie Goldberg, former "economic hitman" for the World Bank, John Perkins and insight meditation teacher Tara Brach. These sterling examples of people living fearlessly in a crazy world, filled me with inspiration. I left New York feeling ready to face whatever was ahead, not knowing that as my train pulled out of Penn Station, 32 young people were being randomly slain by a hateful madman unable to manage his own bottomless sense of anguish.

The lessons of the conference are many, but my understanding of fear and fearlessness has become more clear. Fear is a fact of everyday life. The "fight or flight" instinct keeps all of us safe from the bully down the street, the snarling dog on the corner and the daily hazards we encounter along our paths. It's doubtful to me that anyone lives without fear of one kind or another. But when there is too much of it, people often can no longer relax. They are always looking over their shoulders, checking out places to hide from whatever it is that causes them angst. They can become hateful and snap, as that young man did on the campus of Virginia Tech.

The world we are living in is a very frightening place. There are terrorists, school shootings, political upheaval and war. Television, movies and all of pop culture is too often filled with violence and suggestions of hatred. The planet is warming and none of us knows what kind of a world our children and grandchildren will inherit.

By learning to manage our fear we can live a rewarding life amidst all of the chaos. I will no longer watch network news. Media coverage of the Virginia Tech event, in unending replay, confirms for me the insensitivity and disrespect our news people show for their fellow human beings. We can only change our world by slowing down and getting involved in activities that can make a difference. We can show respect for our environment by picking up litter while connecting with nature on our daily walks through our neighborhoods. It is amazing what a friendly smile and hello can do for the stranger we pass on the street. Sending emails to our governing officials telling them what we think, is an act that can bring about the changes we need in the world.

This is a wonderful time to be living on the planet! There is much work for us to do to bring about life affirming fearlessness! With everyone's help we can be living in a peaceful world!


Visual-Voice said...

Totally wonderful ~ you got to hear Tara Brach AND Carolyn Myss in one place! Glad you're back and sharing your inspiration with the world!

Kate I said...

thanks for the inspiring post. I've long felt that we must focus on the positive, appreciating the love and beauty in the world and bringing about an increased awareness of all that is good...and there's so much that is good. This is not to negate the difficulties of others but to stay centered in a peaceful place.
Your gathering at the Omega Institute sounds so sounds like a wonderful place.

Lisa said...

sounds like a wonderful conference Mom... and i'm so happy to hear that you've joined us as a non-network-news-watcher... while awareness of what's going on around the world is important, we can't constantly bombarde ourselves with such negative energy.... love you!!!!!!!! :)

deirdre said...

Oh, this is wonderful and so true. What a great conference! I still watch the news, but monitor how much I watch and whether I'm getting anything new or just a re-hashing of the same horror. Yes, I agree, it's the little things we can do on a regular basis that make a huge difference in the world.