June 7, 2016 Carole Levy

Smile at Fear

Life is simple. Life is complex. We have a destiny to fulfill, and an ego that clouds our clarity. The ego’s job is to fear. Our heart’s job is to feel. When the ego fears, it clenches. So does my heart. So does my communication. So do my teeth.

In the turmoil of my twenties, I struggled with identity issues: love, relationships, and my purpose in life. Living entirely in my head, I neglected my body, especially my teeth. I was spaced out and confused. Eventually, I had to face the consequences of my denial. When I was 36, pregnant and had just arrived in the United States, I had to manage a major dental crisis.


Last month on a Friday, I had an abscess around the only tooth I can’t afford to lose. It was a bummer and it was illuminating.

I finally understood that it is ironically more stressful to fear the fear and avoid it than to feel the fear. Indeed, it is a relief to come out of denial and deal with reality, even though it is scary.

Years ago, a healer told me that people who have teeth issues suffer from the Rabbit Complex. The rabbit constantly fears being eaten by other predators. He can die of a heart attack if a predator stalks his hutch. The rabbit is afraid to express himself and provoking a reaction in others. So all he risks is moving his nose and teeth, eating carrots, thus playing it safe.


Because of my dental crisis, I canceled a business trip to NYC. It was disappointing. As an independent consultant, I fear cancelling work. As a mother, I fear being away from home. As a human being, I fear violence, hatred, famine, drought, flooding and earthquakes. I fear everything. Yes, I could live my life in a rabbit hole. If only I wasn’t fearing my fears. If only I wasn’t clenching my teeth. If only I wasn’t afraid of even munching a carrot.

My husband who is also my business partner went to NYC on his own and successfully led the facilitation we were supposed to do together. I rested at home healing from my abscess, and wrote this blog. It was the right move. Was it a health crisis or a health resolution? Maybe it was both. In any case my body, mind and spirit became aligned.

Now that the crisis is over, all I can say with a laugh is So What if I lose my teeth… How do I want to live my life? Right? I want to slow down, be more present and continue to move into the reality of fears and feelings in my being, with emotional detachment from the drama. And eventually, as Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche* would say to those who want to awaken the true heart of bravery, learn to smile at fear.


How about you? Do you take care of your body? Do you feel your fears? Do you clench your teeth?

* Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1939-1987) is a Tibetan Buddhist teacher. His books are remarkable.


Comments (11)

  1. Mark

    Dental work is not fun, and many people dread it, as I do sometimes. Plus it can be very expensive, so a person gets hit from all sides (figuratively) when there are major dental issues (crowns, gum issues, root canal, teeth implants). Good teeth and gum maintenance can be a lot of work, but letting it slip is even way more work in the long run and can potentially add a lot of expense to this type of maintenance, plus can also potentially cause other health issues. So maybe we should focus on fearing the potentially huge expenses and potential health issues, and learn to “un-procrastinate” the maintenance work that will keep us from this place of being at the mercy of your “mouth” so to speak.

    I really do not like going to the dentist for all of these reasons, but I have found that facing the underlying fear (pain, inconvenience, expense), I tend to get past these “big scary issues” much more quickly so I can move on, and hopefully save money and time and avoid additional pain in the long run.

    • Thanks Mark for your comment. Focusing on the “costs”, physically, emotionally and financially, is also a great way to change an undesirable pattern!

  2. It’s sad that, up until now at least, we seem to have to learn our lessons the hard way – although I don’t think it’s really necessary! Once we understand that underneath every fear – no matter what it is – is the fear of not being able to handle it – and that we are never sent anything that we are not able to handle – and that we do in fact handle everything that is sent to us – then we can relax and know there is nothing to fear!
    Thanks for being so real Carole and for making us laugh at our fears fears via yours!

    • I like your reminder that we are never sent anything that we are not able to handle. Thanks Aimée for your comment!

  3. Hi Carole!

    The fear or feel contrast had me a bit puzzled … I FEEL a lot but fear less … aren’t those both feelings with physiological correlates? Maybe the thing is to be logical…yet my first reaction to reading this was of empathy – maybe because my freakin teeth are practically falling out! I keep running to my dentist and now I wonder if I fear too much?? I definitely don’t fear the dentist, but maybe I fear what others think of me?

    Wishing you a fun summer,

  4. Rhonda Hopkins

    Hi Carole! I hope you are feeling much better. I appreciated your blog as I have lived with fear of unknown outcomes for a long time, without even knowing I was living in this fear. I would never have called myself a rabbit before, but I can see some truth in this analogy. You are much braver than me! I would have never had the nerve to leave France to come to the US – who knows what might happen – fears galore! I would have made a 1000 excuses to stay: dentists are expensive in America; food is better in France; the language, ugh! LAL helped me identify this limiting control my ego put on myself. While the experience of opening up to unknown outcomes has not been fun for me, it is freeing to smile at fear!

    • Thanks for your comment, Rhonda! It is comforting to hear that others are afraid to opening up to unknown outcomes too… It makes me less afraid!

  5. Rick Manella

    “Smile at fear”, crystallizes well the struggle to be aware of and avoid self-induced reaction. Living the paradox of peace in struggle not in the absence of it. Another very good “word” to grab hold of and meditate on. Thank you!

    • “Living the paradoxe of peace in struggle not in the absence of it” – that’s very well said – thanks Rick!

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