Experimenting with trust

Over the years of being what is loosely described a 'seeker' I have encountered mistrust.

This has manifested in my being afraid to let someone get close (or closer) to me, being overly cautious in entering into business or otherwise new relationships, and obsessively strategising and planning prior to meeting someone.

Aware that this has not always been appropriate and often self-defeating, I have often played with different ideas and methods to facilitate growing my trust in the intrinsic safety and goodness in the world.

Of course we have more than enough proof that bad things can happen so it is worth remembering the old Sufi adage, of trusting in Allah but remembering to tie one's camels: ie, one cannot abandon all responsibility and remember to carry water when one crosses the desert.

Byron Katy (See 21 Ways to Live in Peace, an article about her work and a review of a session I had with this work some years ago) runs workshops in Los Angeles where participants are asked to leave all their possessions in their hotel room and go and live on the streets for two days. One rule was that they were not allowed to speak. The point is to find out if the 'world' is kind or mean.

My friend did this and became friendly with a group of homeless men who gave him food and shelter. He met all kinds of people and had all kinds of experiences, one of which of course was intense fear which arose periodically when he realised how far into the unknown he had travelled.

One day he made a sign saying 'Free Hugs' and stood on a downtown corner for an afternoon. He was astounded at the number and variety of people who came to hug and be hugged, and even now, some years later his eyes still shine when talking about it.

This is a bit extreme for most people but there are simpler ways to encounter our fear and to go through it.

Some years ago I was walking a mountain pathway just outside of Dharamsala (where the Dalai Lama and some thousands of Tibetans live in what is one of the largest enclaves of Tibetans outside Tibet). The path wound its way up the side of the mountain, with uneven steps with a pretty sheer drop, of maybe 100 metres, on one side.

I decided when I was coming down to close my eyes and just feel my way down. Feeling with my feet, going very slowly, only opening my eyes when I was really afraid occasionally, for very good reason as I nearly stepped into the abyss several times.

A 15 minute climb became a 2 hour descent. When I arrived back at what was then, a small, fairly primitive village, I was frazzled, super lightheaded and completely freaked out. I walked into a coffee shop and a Tibetan waiter saw me and without any words walked over to me and lead me to a seat and brought me a tea, saying "Sit here". Relief coursed through me and I felt completely at one with the universe and everything and everyone. Trust swamped me and changed me.

Sometimes I have simply run backwards on the beach, for far longer that I was comfortable, to elicit fear and anxiety that I can watch arise and recede. I also like walking at normal speed through my house in the dark trusting my body to remember my way.  

I also used to like driving with my lights off along a windy road through a forest. The feeling of hyper alertness magnified the sounds and sensation of the air against my skin.

It is somehow about finding something that takes you into an unknown, that elicits some fear, and staying present with it.

Good luck. Mark O'Brien 29/8/2011

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