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I went to see the movie After Earth – not my typical movie fare, but it appeared it may have a metaphysical slant, so it was worth a try.  The main character, portrayed by Jaden Smith, has a life and death mission to carry out, but in order to fulfill that mission he must put himself in danger with predators who will hunt and kill him.  However, these predators can’t actually see him, the only means they have of finding him is by smelling the pheromone he secretes whenever fear is present.

As it happens this flick is actually quite metaphysical in its approach!  Below I have appended some quotes interspersed with my comments.

“Fear is not real.

The only place that fear can exist is in our thoughts of the future.

It is a product of our imagination, causing us to fear things that do not at present and may not ever exist.

That is near insanity.

Do not misunderstand me danger is very real but fear is a choice.

We are all telling ourselves a story and that day mine changed.”

This feels so true to me.  Few of us are in a position where we have to hunt and kill food for our survival any longer.  Few of us reading this blog, live in life or death circumstances on a regular basis.  Yet fear is a visitor in the lives of many of us, and if we pause in the moment that fear, worry, anxiety strikes — we might often find that it is a future based mental process, and has nothing to do with the present moment.

In Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s inaugural address he is quoted as having said: “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  Sorry to disagree with you Mr. President, but no!  That’s just more fear.  You don’t eradicate fear by fearing it.  In fact, eradicating anything from our spiritual development is a useless practice.  Push against it and you’ll potentially get more circumstances to fear and push against.  “What you resist, persists.”

Now, here’s where I love the turn the film takes:  Jaden Smith’s Dad, portrayed by his real-life father Will Smith, tells his son when fear is present: “root yourself in this present moment now to sight, sound, smell”.  Fear, worry, anxiety is a very ungrounded future based place to hang out, so grounding yourself in the present moment and in the body, mindful of all the senses is perfect!

There’s one more oft repeated instruction Will Smith gives Jaden, and that is: “take a knee”.  This literally means drop to one knee.  In that moment that we “take a knee” we are closer to the earth and we have surrendered the control we thought we had, but never did.  The only function most of our day-to-day fears have is the illusion that it somehow will afford protection.   It makes our sphere a little smaller each time we indulge in it.

At the end of the movie, Jaden slays the predator who has stalked him, in true I-too-can-slay-the-Jabberwocky fashion.  He “conquers” his fear.   Yet there is nothing actually to be conquered, most of our Jabberwockies are not real after all.  Fear is not to be feared or conquered.  It’s only to be noticed for what it is — a future based thought process.  As we observe the fear talk, we can turn our attention back to the present moment, mindfully witnessing the sights, the sounds, the smells.  What does this present moment feel like when we drop the story, and drop into this moment now?

For more tips on grounding yourself to the present moment, read The Care & Feeding of YourSelf.  

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After Earth

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“…you must realize that fear is not real.

It is a product of thoughts you create.

Do not misunderstand me:

danger is very real,

but fear is a choice.

Do you know where we are?

This is Earth.”

That’s a quote from a not yet released movie, After Earth.  It caught my attention for the bit of “new thought” they have scripted.

The latter part of the dialogue reminds me of a portion of my favorite Rilke poem: “nearby is the country they call Life.  You will know it by its seriousness.  Give me your hand.”

Yes, there are times it can get rather serious down here on planet earth.  Those times are a call to remember – I am not alone in this, nor have I ever been.

 

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