What Does It Mean To Be Fearless?

Real Fearlessness is the Product of Tenderness


In today’s pop culture, we are typically presented with a very specific vision of what it means to be “fearless.” There’s “blockbuster bravery,” a superhero version of ourselves meeting villainous aggression with moralistic aggression. There is “pop star transcendence,” the silver shielded, untouchable celebrity who rises above fans and haters alike. And the “everyday hero,” a presentation of a person who has it all together, never with a hair out of place, much less a rampant anxiety.

But Chögyam Trungpa presents an alternative version of fearlessness. He suggests that to be courageous, we must simply be with our fear. We meet the fear inside us with a genuine, tender touch and by working directly with fear in this way, we begin to trust that we can, in fact, truly handle whatever comes our way. We learn that fearlessness is not the absence of fear, but the unconditional self-confidence that comes with the ability to meet fear with gentleness.

Below, read Chögyam Trungpa’s complete passage on the connection between tenderness and fearlessness from, The Sacred Path of the Warrior.

To learn more about working directly with fear, consider enrolling in “Fearlessness in Everyday Life,” a 5-week course which presents practical tools for relating directly to fear and a study of the Shambhala vision of what it means to be “fearless.

When you awaken your heart, you find, to your surprise, that your heart is empty. You find that you are looking into outer space. What are you, who are you, where is your heart?

If you really look, you won’t find anything tangible and solid. Of course, you might find something very solid if you have a grudge against someone or you have fallen possessively in love. But that is not awakened heart.

If you search for awakened heart, if you put your hand through your rib cage and feel for it, there is nothing there except for tenderness. You feel sore and soft, and if you open your eyes to the rest of the world, you feel tremendous sadness.

This kind of sadness doesn’t come from being mistreated. You don’t feel sad because someone has insulted you or because you feel impoverished. Rather, this experience of sadness is unconditioned. It occurs because your heart is completely exposed. There is no skin or tissue covering it; it is pure raw meat. Even if a tiny mosquito lands on it, you feel so touched. Your experience is raw and tender and so personal.

For the warrior, this experience of sad and tender heart is what gives birth to fearlessness. Conventionally, being fearless means that you are not afraid or that, if someone hits you, you will hit him back. However, we are not talking about that street-fighter level of fearlessness. Real fearlessness is the product of tenderness. You are willing to open up, without resistance or shyness, and face the world.”

– Chögyam Trungpa, from The Sacred Path of the Warrior