Running from a Boney Ghost

When I was a kid, every March my family and I used to go and see the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. When I was ten, we had seats right by the performer's entrance. I spent a lot of my time leaning over the rails and seeing what was going on backstage. I was fascinated by a clown getting ready for his performance. He picked up a styrofoam skeleton that was hanging limply on the wall. He calmly attached the skeleton's hands to a brace on his shoulders. The skeleton rested against his back.

Suddenly the lights went down in the hall. A spotlight hit the clown as he ran out of the entrance. The clown ran for his life as the skeleton appeared to be flying after him. You couldn't see the hooks or the harness as the clown looked back in terror at the skeleton who was inches away from catching him. People in the audience were laughing at the clown's predicament. The clown ran back into the performer's area. He was calm again. The clown detached the skeleton and put it back on a rack on the wall. I was fascinated to see and know the behind the scenes mechanics of something that appeared to be other than it was.

Flash forward to when I'm 23. I'd recently graduated from college. I was overwhelmed by life. I was used to my parents taking care of me. Now I was completely on my own and uncertain about how to take care of myself. I remember worrying a lot. It felt like a helpful activity at the time. I thought that was how one takes responsibility. But it ended up making my head so noisy and distracting me from getting helpful solutions from my intuition.

One night I lay on my futon, caught up in the symphony of thoughts of possible disasters that could happen to me, when suddenly everything got quiet. It was like I'd been listening to really loud music and the electricity went out and cut it off. I was aware of my body vibrating in a weird discordant buzz. I thought that this is what fear does to my body. I'd been living in fear and it had been making my mind and body hyper. I didn't think it was weird when the fear was happening. I remembered seeing my parents living with fear and thought it was part of life.

Then I remembered the circus. I thought about how when the clown ran, the skeleton chased after him. He could never run fast enough to get away from the ghostly bones. That was me when I was caught up and involved in the worrying. But then when the clown was relaxed backstage again, the skeleton was no threat. He hung it up and waked away from the once-scary bones. That's how I was feeling now.

I realized my constant fearful thoughts had me running for a salvation that never came. I had been like the clown running from the skeleton. But the fearful worrying never brought me relief. This insight I was having didn't come from being afraid. For some reason the all-encompassing fear stopped. Without the fear, I was left with life itself in the moment. I felt peaceful and safe.

This was a good experience because when I'd feel the skeleton chasing me again, I'd see the mechanics of what was going on. There's a feeling of, "I'm running from fears. This isn't necessary. It's not helping. There's no solution in this." It's helped remove the dependence of living that way.