People can be surprised at how they find themselves when afraid or otherwise under major stress. Perhaps we have an idea, born of repeated experience, that when faced with fear (impending death?) we will let ourselves down. That’s to not be able to cope well and fall apart in ways we have feared we might. I for one was very surprised how together I was in the face of my fathers sudden death on a railway platform. And a friend of mine having physical difficulties was, he reported Perfectly calm when he would have anticipated himself to be otherwise. This sentence from the article referenced below says it all really. When you’ve practiced something enough, it becomes instinct, and then you know what to do automatically. The author is referring to responding to fear in a visceral way, which is needed – thus his point about ‘being afraid’. As meditators we practice sitting still within conditions. Not losing ones sitting place in the midst of life and death circumstances gives witness to those hours spent sitting still with nothing much going on. It is then that we build the habit which reflexively comes into play in certain circumstances.
It was still half an hour before midnight, but the road was already deserted – which was perfectly normal for a Sunday night on the outskirts of a small, coastal fishing town in the north east of Scotland. The year was probably 1989, but I can no longer be entirely sure. I had more pressing concerns than the date. I was ten years old, I was alone, I was on a BMX bike, and I was cycling for my life.
From article, Being Afraid.
This is a really engaging piece of writing and thanks to Julius for sending the link.