Fear of the future

Fear of the future

A series of talks on the many aspects of of our lives that we may have fear towards—death, identity, the future, health, the economy, loss, separation, and more; touching also on the wisdom of fear and the different antidotes to ease our fears.

  • Our mind sometimes takes us into worry about a future that is not happening
  • Anxiety and fear come from not thinking about the future in a reasonable way

Fear 07: Fear of the future (download)

So continuing talking about fear. Fear often takes us into the future when the future is not happening yet, okay? And so we will sit here now, in a perfectly nice condition and then the mind will think about the worst case scenario that could happen in the future, and then get afraid and panicky, get anxious, you know, and worried and just go to bits about the whole thing, even though it’s not happening now. So, does that mean that we never think of the future? No, because we do have to make plans for the future and so on. But it involves looking at the future without letting all of our attachment and the fear and worry that comes out of the attachment get hooked onto the future, okay? So we might look at the future and say “Okay, if we don’t take care of such and such a thing, this could happen. I’m not feeling well, if I don’t go to the doctor and get it solved it could wind up being something bad or if there is lots of snow on the roof it could collapse and cause dreadful damage if we don’t do something about it.” But seeing that with a calm mind that just sees causes and effects in a reasonable way is something that we have to do to plan for the future and take care of things that need to be taken care of.

Reasonable view of the future

But where we get into trouble is where we’re not thinking about the future in reasonable ways, but we let the attachment and the fear run the show and then we make up these incredible horrible dramas in which everything is a disaster, everything is falling apart and we envision it as if we have absolutely no resources or any skills to deal with the situation. Like this whole horrible thing is sure to happen and when it does there’s nothing outside in my community to help me, I have no internal resources, the whole thing is just going to destroy me. And then we just get locked into our fear and worry and anxiety. Okay?

Inappropriate attention

So this I’ve seen in many of you, look on your face. Is this ringing a bell? So, you know, when we see our mind doing that, we have to bring it back to the present and what exactly is going on right now, okay? Then your mind will say “But it’s not worst case scenario, I’m actually looking at the future in a realistic way, I’m sure these horrible things are definitely going to happen and I’m sure I have no skills to deal with them.” Okay, whenever you feel yourself getting anxious and worried and fearful, that is itself an indication that you’re not seeing the situation correctly, okay? Because remember those emotions are afflictions, they’re based on exaggeration, they’re based on inappropriate attention. So if you’re feeling them, then something is askew in the way you’re looking at the situation, okay? So, it’s very good just to come back to the present moment; what’s happening is perfectly okay, the world is not ending, I’m not Chicken Little with the sky falling, and somehow we can make things go ahead here and things may not turn out exactly the way I would want but they’ll turn out perfectly okay. So keep breathing, come back to the present, stop writing the dramas, okay?

Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.