Friday, February 3, 2012

To the Other Side of Fear

There's a scene a third of the way through my novel The MoonQuest where the four principal characters discover the true nature of their quest. On the surface, Toshar, Yhoshi, Fynda and Garan are on a journey to restore storytelling to a land silenced by tyranny and, through that, light to a long-darkened moon. In reality, their true enemy is not a brutal king. It's fear.
"All Bo'Rá K'n's power emanates from a single source, from a single weapon: Your fear. Stay together, refuse your fear its power and your mastery will rival his..."  
Later in the story, Toshar asks the Dreamwalker Na'an whether he will always feel fear clutching at his throat.
"Just as fear has not stopped you from reaching this point in your journey, it will not stop you from continuing, unless you submit to it. Don’t submit to it, Toshar. When you do, Bo'Rá K'n grows stronger."
Both scenes have been much on my mind in recent days as I've come to see the many ways fear still dominates my life.

I shouldn't have been surprised. Fear permeates our social and political culture more than ever before. Just read any newspaper, listen to any newscast, or browse your Facebook or Google+ feed. Or follow the current Republican primary, which has taken political terror-mongering, already a slime sport, to a new, fear-based low.

Yet, I was surprised. Over the past two decades I've faced many of the Bo'Rà K'ns in my life and moved, as Toshar was guided, through to the other side of more fears than I can name.
“Feel your fear, Toshar. Then pass through it to the other side, where your destiny awaits.”
Today, thanks in part to my experiences writing The MoonQuest , I'm more fearless than I have ever been, and my destiny feels so near that I can graze my fingers against it, even if I can't yet grasp it.

At the same time, I'm closer to the edge than at any other time in my life. I gave up my rented condo 18 months ago and let my car go 14 months ago. My current bank balance, in the low three digits, isn't the lowest it's ever been. But when it has been lower, I've had a job or client or contract...or some prospect. I have none of those today.

Wait, that's my fear speaking...

What I do have in abundance is my faith...not in some bearded deity but in that infinite mind that resides within me, that force, as I put it in an earlier post, "that has a much clearer sense of what will serve and satisfy my deepest (often hidden) desires than the childish cravings of a limited mind ever could."

Over the past year and a half, that infinite mind has called on me to commit to my writing, and I have surrendered to the call -- fully, unconditionally and in ways I could never, in my past fear, have conceived.

The result? In 18 months, I've penned two drafts each of The StarQuest book and screenplay, two drafts of The SunQuest screenplay, one draft of The SunQuest book, and a first draft of my Acts of Surrender memoir. Never before have I written so quickly, nor have I ever been this creatively productive. To put that in perspective, it took me seven months to write a first draft of The MoonQuest and 11 years to complete an initial draft of The StarQuest. I wrote my first draft of The SunQuest book in three weeks.

As well, The Q'ntana Trilogy film projects (The MoonQuestThe StarQuest and The SunQuest), while not moving forward as expeditiously as I might like, are coming together more speedily now than they were before I surrendered to a full-time writing focus.

Through this time, although I have lacked home and car of my own, I have always had a roof over my head and access to a vehicle (important when the nearest shopping/public transit is an hour's walk away). And, somehow, funds have always shown up to cover the remaining necessities. For all those miracles, I have been grateful beyond words.

Then, a few days ago, with disturbingly dwindling resources and no sign of a fresh miracle, I determined that something needed to change -- dramatically and demonstrably. Not my commitment to writing, which remains of prime importance, but chunks of the rest of my life. February, I proclaimed, would be the month when my circumstances would begin to shift, when I would exit survival mode and begin my ascent toward prosperity.

That's when the fear kicked in.

It wasn't anything specific, like fear of success or financial anxiety. Ironically, I was less frightened by my few hundred dollars in the bank than I had been when my balance was triple that. No, it was more insidious and Bo'Rà K'n-like than that.

I didn't even initially identify it as fear. But fear it was. I knew it when I happened on the phrase "refuse your fear its power" from The MoonQuest. The instant I read that, my heart began to race and my stomach knotted up. When I reworded it more personally -- I refuse fear its power! -- my palpitations and queasiness worsened. And when I decided to speak it, mantra-like, in every moment of anxiety, I found myself repeating it, practically nonstop, all day long and amid a discordant medley of physical discomforts.

I'm still repeating it several days later, if somewhat less often.

I realize now that the moment I proclaimed February "dramatic change month," I set in motion all that would be required within me for that change to take place. What's required? That I drill down to the next levels of fears I have carried within me all my life...all my lifetimes, perhaps.

It's not about identifying individual fears and taking steps to reverse them. My individual fears are irrelevant. They are merely symptoms of fear's presence as a pervasive, overarching energy in my life. Of course, it's that same energy that dominates the world outside my psyche. But I can't dissolve it from my outer world unless and until I'm able to dissolve it from my inner world.

At other times in my life, just the prospect of tackling such a deeply rooted issue would have overwhelmed me, filled me with dread. That I'm now able to approach it with more equanimity is, itself, a measure of the distance I have traveled.

Equanimity, yes. Comfort? Hardly. It feels as though I'm (once again) experiencing a radical renovation and overhaul, from the inside out. If fear has been much of the glue that has held me together, letting that fear go is forcing me to make way for new inner structures, adhesives and foundations.

Like all transitions, this one is awkward, sometimes painful, often disturbing.

I'm the mountain lion in mid-leap from one cliff to the next, with no paws touching ground. I'm the Tarot Fool who has already stepped off the precipice into the unknown. I'm the version of me I once experienced in meditation, who has finally and reluctantly let go of the roof ledge of an old high-rise office structure, only to find himself floating feather-like into the arms of the Divine.

Where will the mountain lion and Tarot Fool find themselves when they land? Will February propel me any closer to my destiny? Come month's end, will I have been able to do more than graze destiny's edges with fingertips of yearning? Will my fortunes improve demonstrably through this exercise? I can't in this moment know.

What I do know is that fear is a sticky, swampy morass through which little can move. If I don't reclaim my power and deny Bo'Rà K'n his -- as Toshar did in The MoonQuest and as Q'nta and Ben must in The StarQuest and The SunQuest -- then fear will have won.

At the beginning of The MoonQuest, Na'an tells an elderly Toshar that unless he commits his story to parchment -- something he has spent his life resisting -- he will not be free to "move on to other realms, set off on other journeys." I have always seen Toshar's reluctance as an expression of stifled creativity, a clear theme in the book. Now, though, I see that his fear holds him back...just as mine has held me back.

I did not want to write this coda to Acts of Surrender, a manuscript I thought to be complete. As vulnerable as I have allowed myself to be in the book (and in this blog), I did not want go deeper in a public way with my fears. Like Toshar, though, I can't separate my fear, my self-expression and my place in the world. And so, like Toshar, I have surrendered to the story told to me by the shadows, my shadows.
I see it all now, in the leap of light against dark. The shadows will tell me the story and I will write what I see. I will write until my fingers and beard are black with ink. I will write until the story is told. Only then will I be free to continue my journey...
...Whatever that journey is, wherever it chooses to take me.
"You either trust or you do not. There is no halfway in between."
Mark David reads an excerpt from The MoonQuest

All quotes are from The MoonQuest: A True Fantasy, (c) 2008 Mark David Gerson. Please credit both book and author when reprinting.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's okay to be afraid in public. Nearly everyone is afraid, it's just that only the brave and realistic dare to admit it. I'm afraid, too. I am seriously blocked creatively, am unpublished, and am not getting any younger. I have identified the source of the block and have been dealing (poorly) with some very wild emotions about the whole thing. It's even stopping me from getting enough sleep in my grief for all that has been lost and wasted even though I am incapable of shedding a single tear. Worse yet, even now that I understand the source of the block, I don't know how to break through to the successful creative life I so desperately want to have.

You know what Mr. Mark David? Your funds are low right now and you're scared, but you seem like a really stand-up guy to me. One thing to remember: 'Broke' is a temporary financial condition. 'Poor' is an ingrained state of mind. I don't think you're poor. I'm not, either. We'll be okay.