An inner strength : reflections on fear and faith by Wayne Muller


Although you may fear you are small weak and powerless, facing all the trials you have done actually proves that you do have an enormous inner strength.  I was prompted to write this after reading the chapter Fear and Faith in Wayne Muller’s excellent book Legacy of the Heart : The Spiritual Advantages of a Painful Childhood.  In it he addressed the resources we had to develop to survive which we may come to see as a source of illness or shame but were actually necessary.  For example hypervigilance due to family abuse or trauma leads to an uncanny ability to intuit when there may be danger (although it may also lead us to fear danger where there is none, too) and an ability to keep ourselves safe by finding a safe place deep inside or in nature.

So often we don’t validate all the ways in which our trauma or suffering has empowered us as well as some of the gifts it has given to us.  Loss reminds us that nothing is permanent as it also shows us the value of what was taken through our grief.  In choosing to open up to this realisation we grow in awareness and appreciation for what we did have or we continue to hurt from its absence which still shows us how lucky we were to have something of such great value even though it was ultimately taken, perhaps too soon.  Our deepest suffering opens us up often to empathy and compassion for others and makes us more fully human.

I don’t have the time to write out all I would like to from the chapter but I will share just this one little excerpt with you now in hopes it speaks to your heart and journey :

as we wholeheartedly approach what frightens us, a parallel reservoir of strength arises to met it, and we are no longer eclipsed by our fear.  It is not fear alone that makes us seek this place so much as a willingness to confront our fears directly, thereby opening up within to the full potential of a courageous heart.

Throughout our lives, our jobs will change, our bodies will grow old, people will come and go, and we will have success and failure, health and disease.  Nothing will (really) belong to us, nothing will stay, nothing will remain the same.  And yet in the midst of it all, still we breathe, our hearts beat, our days go from morning to night, and we remain present and alive.  With the equanimity of the mountain, the courageous heart feels it all, yet remains faithful and assured within ourselves that all will be well.

Faith is not a fortress against danger, faith unfolds like a lotus flower, resting deep within us, a quiet place of deep trust.  It is not a magic formula that prevents suffering; it is a place of strength where we feel most vitally present in heart and spirit.  As children of family pain, we learned to withstand the changing events and circumstances that punctuated our lives.  As adults, we may rediscover this inner strength and use it to cultivate faith in our spirit, our true nature, our deep, inner wisdom.

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