Let go of your burden
Have you ever thought about the infinite? Or asked yourself how big the universe is? Is there just one? Is our one universe part of a multiverse? And so on and so on. Not at the top of most people’s list of things to think about I know. But for anyone who has asked themselves that old chestnut what’s it all about? Then questions about the universe naturally arise. Scientists ask these kinds of questions all the time and actively seek answers to them. But for me personally and for a number of years now, the very thought of infinity has terrified me, causing me to have the most awful panic attacks. When scientists like Professor Brian Cox talk about the infinite universe, and images of the universe are portrayed on the screen using the latest digital technology, most people are quite rightly intrigued and fascinated. But not me, I get the ‘screaming memees’. It’s just too much for me and for a number of years now it’s haunted me. Something in me won’t let go of the idea, it’s like there is a part of me that likes to torture myself with the idea? I recently found out that there is actually a word for this fear (naive of me really because there’s a label for most phobias). It’s called Apeirophobia. I’m an apeirophobic! There, I’ve given myself another label and something else to attach to. Recently on retreat at Crosby I shared this with Jen Mcfalane who showed me some really useful techniques for dealing with panic attacks which have been really helpful. What a blessing Sangha is.
And so this has been a burden for me now for far too long, a real cause of suffering that gets in the way of me enjoying my life. I wasn’t always like this. I remember as a little boy climbing onto a garage roof and staring into a clear blue sky thinking, without any qualms whatsoever, that the sky just went on forever into a depth of blueness that was unimaginable. Not a tremor or ounce of panic in sight. And again, in my early twenties staring into the night sky with a pair of binoculars and marvelling at the sight, the shear immensity and beauty of the universe without any fear at all, only a sense of wonder. Where did all that sense of wonder go?
It has only been through practice, sitting on my cushion and facing such fears that I have come to see them for what they are. Sometimes I refuse to face them but eventually something happens and I take a tiny look at it, then another and another until all those little peeks at a problem amount to a good deal of time, and sometimes it pays off. A voice inside seemed to say, ‘Let go of your burden. It’s just the little self, the ego, wanting know, to grasp, to own, and to be in control. ‘Just let go of your burden’ that oh so welcome inner voice providing me with some simple wisdom and along with it a sense of ease and spaciousness. The world indeed is vast and wide. May I remember to wake up to it.