Book Review: Smile At Fear By Chogyam Trungpa 

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“To become truly fearless we must stop running from our fear and begin to make friends with it.

We must learn to smile at fear.”

– Chogyam Trungpa, Tibetan Buddhist meditation teacher & author

In his book, Smile at Fear, Chogyam Trungpa teaches you how to befriend your fear and become the Warrior in your life.

He uses the imagery of the Warrior archetype to describe the mindset we can adopt to cultivate courage and bravery in the face of adversity and fear.

According to his teachings, bravery can be considered a spiritual practice where fearlessness is characterized by the willingness to fully feel and acknowledge our emotions, whether it be sadness, anger, or frustration.

Trungpa urges us to become warriors and be fully present with whatever emotions arise in the moment.

He says:

“The warrior unifies softness and toughness.”

Trungpa refers to the connection to tenderheartedness and sadness as the energies that power true human bravery and warriorship.

The author views the discipline of meditation as the key to unlocking the warrior potential within each of us.

What Is A Warrior?

“You are a warrior when you have the bravery to face who you are, without fear, embarrassment, or denial.”

– Chogyam Trungpa

According to Trungpa, a warrior is anyone who:

  • Is interested in knowing and discovering the truth.
  • Is interested in finding out about him or herself.
  • Is interested in practicing meditation

A warrior is one who is not afraid to face themselves.

Trungpa reminds us that:

“When you see situations in their fullest way you begin to be a warrior.”

If you’re willing to truly look at yourself, and explore and practice wakefulness on the spot, then you’re a warrior.

“Can you look at yourself without condemning yourself?”

Here’s where the yogic practices of Svadhyaya (self-study) and Ahimsa (benevolence) can help us observe our patterns, beliefs, reactions, and choices while still upholding compassion and lovingkindness towards ourselves.

Trungpa reminds us that:

“Warriorship is based on overcoming cowardice and our sense of being wounded. If we feel fundamentally wounded, we may be afraid that somebody is going to put stitches in us to heal our wound.

Or maybe we have already had the stitches put in, but we dare not let anyone take them out. The approach of the warrior is to face all those situations of fear or cowardice.

The general goal of warriorship is to have no fear. But the ground of warriorship is fear itself. In order to be fearless, first, we have to find out what fear is.

Fear is nervousness; fear is anxiety; fear is a sense of inadequacy, a feeling that we may not be able to deal with the challenges of everyday life at all.

We feel that life is overwhelming.

People may use tranquilizers or yoga to suppress their fear: they just try to float through life.

They may take occasional breaks to go to Starbucks or the mall. We have all sorts of gimmicks and gadgets that we use in the hope that we might experience fearlessness simply by taking our minds off of our fear.

Where does fear come from?

It comes from basic bewilderment.

Where does basic bewilderment come from?

It comes from being unable to harmonize or synchronize mind and body.”

Our actions create echoes and our choices create ripples.

We can choose to stay unaware, asleep, or numb to our fears and discomforts.


We can choose to embody the spirit of the Warrior and turn our attention inwards to learn more about ourselves to embrace the bravery that already exists within us.

CWY Editor’s Review

Note: We listened to the Audible audiobook format instead of the print version.

The book started strong and really had our full attention initially, but then completely lost us halfway through.

The author’s heavy use of symbols and metaphors (like “wind horse” and “setting sun world”) made it confusing and difficult to grasp the concepts and meaning behind them.

If you’re pressed for time we suggest reading the first part of the book as the rest might lose you. (Or maybe not.)

That said, the awakened warrior’s overall message is a powerful and useful teaching, especially given today’s state of affairs.

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