I would first like to start by stating that fear, like hunger or desire, is a natural experience of the body. There is nothing wrong with you if you occasionally feel afraid, angry, upset, or experience other emotions often deemed as “negative”. All of our emotions and responses help us process energy and can inspire us to deeper understandings if we are gentle with ourselves. Where fear becomes a problem is when it becomes all-consuming and hijacks our ability to respond from a state of clarity.
Arguably the greatest fear is the fear of death, which is considered one of the main obstacles to our personal self-realization. Abinivesha, as it is referred to in Sanskrit, can be translated to clinging to life, the fear of death, or a wall of fear. The reason this is considered an inner obstacle is because fear is not our natural state, the state that produces health or balance. It only takes a few moments of clicking through the news channels or listening to the radio to realize that we are surrounded by fearful messages.
FEAR IN THE MIND
There is an ever-growing list of things, people, foods, and sicknesses you can be afraid of and give your sense of inner power and peace to. Many of these things seem legitimately threatening and I am not suggesting that it is wise to be unaware. However, when accepted by the mind as a threat, our mind will show us these threats everywhere, and we may begin to feel unsafe everywhere. In a state of high-alert and hypervigilance, stress hormones begin a looping signal that produces feelings of danger.
To break out of unhelpful cycles of any kind, it can be useful to consider the power of the mind. The mind and the body are one, and will reflect each other. When experiencing fear in the mind, the body will follow suit and perhaps develop avoidant behaviors or anxiety-like symptoms. In my opinion, this is not a pleasant or desirable way to live in our bodies or our world.
The philosophy of hatha yoga recommends starting with the body, becoming aware of sensations in the body and befriending these through various physical practices. When the body is befriended and can be still, even for a few minutes, we can then begin taming the dragon of the mind. Through meditation and mindfulness practices, which help us turn away temporarily from the outside world, we come face-to-face with our thoughts and emotions.
The path of raja yoga outlines the inner discipline which can help us break free from fear. As we self-reflect, detach from our thoughts and observe, we can come to realize that fear is only one inner state we can choose from, and that it is a choice. If you develop a meditation practice for even 5 minutes a day, you then can tune into your breathing, observe the black screen of your mind, and begin to plant new, more empowering and lovely thoughts. This practice will gradually remove fear from the driver’s seat.
POWER IN PRACTICE
It is a powerful practice because you are choosing your inner state deliberately and training your body out of the automatic stress response. If you continue this simple practice, it will get to the point where you arise from your meditation and go about your day, feeling more peaceful even in the face of what used to make you afraid. You will be able to offer others loving, comforting words because that is where you are coming from.
MASTER THE MIND
When I think of an enlightened being, I think of one who is calm and in love with life, one who chooses love over fear. While it may seem very difficult, it is arguably an excellent time to go deep into your inner yoga practice and start mastering your mind. We all deserve to wake up and feel secure, loved, and connected, and we can foster these qualities within. You do not need to meditate in a way that is not fun or comfortable or in any particular place to master your mind – I recommend turning off the news and finding 5 minutes of quiet time to just breathe and list everything you can think to be thankful for.
The goal is to come out of this time feeling more at ease within, and just keep going! A little bit every day is all it takes. Remember that fear makes life feel smaller and love is expansive and freeing – I believe that we can make an enormous difference in the world by having the courage to boldly choose love, appreciation, and empowerment. I would like to conclude by offering some wonderful quotes you can use as inspiration:
“Love conquers all fears.” – Swami Vivekananda
“He who has overcome his fears will be truly free.” – Aristotle
“You can conquer almost any fear if you will only make up your mind to do so. For remember, fear doesn't exist anywhere except in the mind.” – Dale Carnegie
“If you want to tap into what life has to offer, let love be your primary mode of being, not fear. Fear closes us down and makes us retreat. It locks doors and limits opportunities. Love is about opening to possibilities, seeing the world with new eyes. It widens our heart and mind. Fear incarcerates, but love liberates.” — John Mark Green