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2022 Dear Venerable new series-I: Living Without Fear

By Katrina Chark, 6/22/22

As we kick off the summer season, SFYAD kicked off the second season of the “Dear Venerable…” series, tackling the question “Venerable, how do I live without fear?” On Sunday June 12th, 17 participants joined together to discuss fearlessness with Venerable Miao Zang from San Diego Hsi Fang Temple as our guest speaker and SFYAD’s officer Winson Yang as our host.

As we arrive into the third year of the pandemic, we often think to ourselves, “What now? What’s next?” Many people experience an overactive mind and often overthink about the what-ifs and uncertainty of our future. Some of the Slido submissions brought up similar questions, most notably “Why do I fear many things even though they are illogical when I think about it?” Venerable Miao Zang stressed the importance of exploring beyond our comfort zone in order to understand yourself better. Encouraging yourself to embrace your fear allows us to not let the fear turn into a habit and transform it to a positive experience.

We also dabbled into the issue of violence in our communities- what was once a place that is morally considered a safe space where people are not afraid for their lives became a place where we have to live in constant fear and anxiety of the next moment. One participant shared that she is constantly surrounded by people that talk about violence against Asian American people and is always reminded of the fear that she already has working in a less than ideal neighborhood. In response, Venerable shared with us a fear that she has whenever she is doing Sunday chanting services. The way that the main shrine is set up positions her back to the door, thus she fears that if someone with ill intentions comes in with the purpose to harm, she will not be able to defend herself and others. One way that she has has eased that fear is to take precautions that would prevent such event from happening- she would place volunteers in the front door and educate them about the warning sign of mass casualty event, talking to them about how they are her eyes and ears and encourage them to be more vigilant of their surroundings. Thus, learning to understand and take action upon your fears can help you to overcome your own.

It is also true that fear can arise from trauma that one has experienced in their life; it can turn someone who was once very sociable to become fearful and seclude themselves from society out of that fear. When approached by such a person, how can we help them, especially if they do not have the support of a religious faith? Venerable simply responded, “I want to give them a big hug.” Empathy and constant support can help those secluded by fear to overcome it and become less fearful of their past trauma. Venerable often asks herself “What would the Buddha do?” It allows us to take a step back and think about what are the positive or negative sides of said fear and allows us to follow the right path.

In conclusion, Venerable Miao Zang stressed the importance of being brave and learning to change our mindset of fear; turning it from something that hinders you to something that can uplift and change your perspective. When facing our fears, Venerable reminded us that we are not alone and that there are many people rooting for us, including ourselves. Fear is not something that we should avoid, but an opportunity for us to grow and better understand ourselves. By understanding how to identify our fears, finding the cause, and overcoming such fears, we start to better understand ourselves and learn to mentally and physically prepare for any “fears” that come our way.

Watch the replay of our event here:

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