Today I met a fear runner. It was as real as the words on this page. As real as the voice in your head that you can hear as you read these words.
I was going up the mountain just a few minutes from my house. Not to be compared with the mountains I lived with for 20 years in New Mexico, but a nice mountain for Heidelberg. Going early in the morning or late in the day, the light creates a special atmosphere that is removed from normal life. This is welcome. A chance to change perspective and gain new insights into this movie called ‘My Life’.
It was Sunday, soft morning light poured through the trees. A comforting haze kept appearing and disappearing, casting its spell on the earth and surrounding trees. A few people are walking with their dogs, but mostly I am alone with the trees, birds, rocks and my thoughts. The church bells find its way through the forest. The sound reminding people of the One God by whatever name they use. The trees and the earth don’t need such reminders.
It was a new path that I discovered this morning providing a blank canvas to fill with impressions. I had been zig-zagging my way up the mountain for 45 minutes and had gotten quite far away from normal life. I was enjoying the way when I suddenly sensed a presence behind me. I did not feel any fear, just that something was there. I was running up a gentle slope and turned slightly to look and caught a fleeting glimpse of a dark figure behind me on the path. Of course, on closer inspection, I could not see anything at all. Yet I knew that I had felt something.
At that exact moment, an object jumped onto my head. I was remarkably calm. My mind ran through the possible explanations in less than the blink of an eye. I thought a piece of tree branch fell out of a tree at the exact moment I passed under and it landed on me. I imagined a very large spider jumped on my head. Deciding on the branch theory, I reached up to remove it and it was already gone. But how? As I looked back, I noticed the low hanging branch that I did not see and how it obviously attacked me as I ran past. Strange how at the exact moment I felt this presence I had this experience. All the many times I have been in the woods, I did not have such an experience before. I could still feel something but was not sure what. Using the direct approach, I decided to speak to this presence.
I said, “You are welcome to join me.”
“No” it replied in a soft voice.
“Then what do you want?”
“I am a fear runner.”
“What is a fear runner?” I asked.
“We take the fear that people do not want and run with it.”
“Where do you take this fear?”
“To us fear is like fuel, and we use it to run long and fast. We like to run and that is why we want your fear.”
I thought about this for a few moments. A most interesting idea that one could give fear to a ‘fear runner’ and they would run away with it. I thought there must be a catch.”Do you bring the fear back?” I asked. The Fear Runner replied, “We do not give away the fear unless you ask for your fear back.” “If I do not ask for the fear back, then you will take it and I don’t have to see this fear again?” I asked. “Yes”, answered the Fear Runner with more interest in his voice.
Not totally trusting, I then asked, “How come I never heard of you before and why don’t you just ask for the fear you want?”
In a gentle and sad voice the Fear Runner said, “We are never very far, but being that we carry so much fear, we never get too close as we are afraid. It is up to the person carrying the fear to ask. A person must want to give this fear away or we cannot take it. The fear is transformed through our running into something more useful.”
Strange how humans can destroy lives and the lives of others when we run from our fears, yet this Fear Runner is designed for exactly that purpose. Fantastic! No more words were spoken between us. I was coming to a junction in the path and decided when I reached that point I would offer the Fear Runner my fear.
At the place three paths met was a flat rock big enough to stand on. I stepped onto the rock and looked back to the direction I came from. I did not look for the Fear Runner knowing that they are too afraid to show themselves. I got quiet and then offered all the fear I could in that moment to the runner. I emptied. My eyes filled with tears of relief, joy, wonder, and gratitude. I gave more. I gave everything I could in that moment. I was left with a sense of power and clarity.
The woods witnessed this exchange. No other human was there. It was done. I could feel the Fear Runner going on ‘his’ way. It was also going on ‘her’ way. I began my run up a gentle slope and sent a final message to this new friend. “I will tell others of you. I will teach them what to do with their fear.” Only the faint sound of feet softly running on the earth could be heard. I was alone again with my thoughts.
Who is to say what is real and what is not real. The child believes the Tooth Fairy* is real. Is the child wrong? In the morning when the money is left in the place where the tooth was before, how can it not be real?
If you are interested in how you could invite the Fear Runner to take away your fears, then here are few ideas. Rent the following videos and watch them with friends. ‘Defending Your Life’, which is a comedy about living with fear. It is well done, stars Meryl Streep and Albert Brooks and it really is funny. Another video ‘The Postman’ with Kevin Costner is a truly remarkable film about hope and the power of an idea that spreads. Good acting, good ‘bad’ guy, interesting plot twists, perhaps too much violence, a strong female role, and watchable on many levels.
From the Sufi tradition and the 99 names of God comes a theme from one of the names. I often use this theme and see it in both of these films as well as much of our lives.
“We often do the right thing for the wrong reasons.
And we often do the wrong thing for the right reasons.”
I invite you to go and find some woods or just sit in your kitchen and to listen for the Fear Runner. Offer up some fear. Give freely. Give often. Give some more. Keep giving as long as the Fear Runner is present. Remember they are too afraid to ask for the fear, so you must give it by your own effort.
October 3, 1999
*Tooth fairy- A common belief in the USA that if a child takes the baby teeth when they fall out and places them under their pillow, that the tooth fairy will come and take the teeth while they are sleeping and leave money in its place. Well yes, one might argue that the parents are doing this, yet if the child believes, and the money appears, no explanation can remove the magic of the experience. And if one believes something is true, then it is! That is not child’s play, that is science!