It is always fascinating to see the ways that Thich Nhat Hahn, the Vietnamese Zen master, poet, scholar and peace activist, develops a subject of interest to him and to his many loyal readers. How do we become fearless in this dangerous world?

Think of the Time You Spent in Your Mother's Womb

For nine months, each one of us was warm, secure, and taken care of in what the Chinese and Vietnamese call the palace of the child. Then the bliss and peace ended when we were transferred to a new environment which was less than perfect. Our fear was born here along with the desire to survive.

Thich Nhat Hahn writes: "The only way to ease our fear and be truly happy is to acknowledge our fear and look deeply at its source. Instead of trying to escape from our fear, we can invite it up to our awareness and look at it clearly and deeply."

Letting Go of the Fears of Our Ancestors

We are not only carrying the fear from our birth but also the worries and anxieties of our ancestors. Instead of raging against their errors and imperfections, we can accept their weaknesses and make peace with the past.

Walking with the Sangha to Learn Fearlessness

Thich Nhat Hahn moves on to an examination of dealing with the Five Remembrances (growing old, ill health, death, separation from those we love, and living with the results of our actions.) Breathing in the present, transforming fear into love, and walking with the sangha are pathways to fearlessness.

He closes with eight exercises: four for taking care of the body and four for taking care of the feelings. His last words are worth taking to heart:

"All of us need to change for the better. It is our responsibility to take care of each other. We are the gardeners, the ones who help the flowers grow. If we understand, the flowers will grow beautifully. Goodwill is not enough; we need to learn the art of making others happy. Art is the essence of life, and the substance of art is mindfulness."