Fear Not to

Below is a snip-bit from a Yogajournal article, Fear Not to, related to the benefits of meditation and accepting/conquering and working with your fear. Through meditation we connect to our chakra systems, our energy system, and through this connection, our emotions can be noticed, accepted, and decrease the affect of fear on our lives.

Featured image found on: yogalifestyle.com

…The truth is that fear doesn’t have to be paralyzing: For a person on the verge of transformation, fear can be a great teacher. But if you want freedom from fear, you also need to learn how to work with it…

Unfamiliar territory

“Meditation is, among other things, a journey through the layers of your psyche. As you move deeper, you’ll travel past the fairly superficial level of your conscious mind—with its mental chatter, problem-solving tendencies, and the like. You’ll also encounter your subconscious, with its insights, feelings of blissfulness, waves of irritation, volcanic pits of anger, or swamps of sadness. One of the great boons of meditation practice is that it can teach you to move through these layers without identifying with them. With practice, you learn to recognize that all this stuff is arising, passing through you, and subsiding. If you can learn to stay with your meditation when fear shows up, resisting the impulse to believe the story that fear is telling you, you will allow your psyche to cleanse itself of the fear. The basic practice is to recognize thoughts and feelings as just what they are—thoughts, movements of emotional energy, and nothing more.”

“As you practice noticing “Ah, here’s a repetitive thought pattern” or “Here’s a layer of fear,” you’ll eventually have the direct experience of watching these inner patterns come to the surface and then fade away. Over time, you’ll find many layers of fear, guilt, and desire begin to release. Meaning, they’re gone. You’ll no longer find your subconscious fear or resentment running your life from beneath your awareness. This is one of the ways in which meditation brings true inner freedom—it liberates you from being run by the emotional currents of the mind. And as you train yourself in meditation to hold steady with emotions and not be completely subject to them, it becomes easier to do this in life…”

“In the high-stress environment of contemporary society, the fight-or-flight response is triggered over and over and becomes chronic. Meditation will help you process that agitation, and part of the processing happens simply by holding what is sometimes called a spacious mindfulness. To create this state, you must first recognize the way anxiety feels in your body. As you breathe, tune in to the way it feels in your muscles, the different sensations it creates. Do this with a soft, gentle feeling of affection for yourself. Once you recognize it, you can practice releasing stress on the exhalation. As you do this, talk to yourself, coach yourself by saying, “It’s all right” or “Let go a little.” Don’t feel that you need to get rid of your anxiety all at once. Instead, use the first moments of your meditation practice to release, little by little, the anxiety that is layered into your body and breath…”

“As long as you identify with your body, your mental and social abilities, your roles, and your conscious experience of personality, you are going to be afraid of losing them. In fact, the ego is essentially a controller and protector, concerned with keeping “you” safe and improving your ability to cope. But most egos define “safety” rather narrowly. Most egos don’t like the unknown (that is, unless the ego defines itself as an adventurer, in which case it may feel more threatened by the ordinary). So when you find yourself in unfamiliar territory (for instance, deep meditation), the ego is likely to go on hyperalert and send out danger signals—in other words, it will manufacture or trigger feelings of fear…”

“In fact, when you go deep into meditation, you will begin to experience yourself as part of the whole, as part of the earth, as part of the energetic substratum that connects all living beings. At that point, the primal fear that arises from your sense of being separate from the whole (and hence subject to annihilation) can leave you. The joy that this creates is one of the most powerful gifts of meditation. Yet, paradoxically, this feeling of freedom is the one thing that the ego resists above all else! The ego will protest when you begin to experience the inner shift into meditation—that sensation of sinking into a deep place, or the sense that your awareness is expanding beyond the boundaries of the body. For some of us, the ego’s protest takes the form of pride—”Oh, wow, I’m making progress.” Sometimes, it takes the form of fear. Understanding this is crucial. Once you recognize that the fear is largely a product of the ego’s storytelling mechanism, you can work with it without being hijacked by it.”

“When fear comes up during meditation, two practices can help you move beyond it. First, imagine greeting your fear and bowing to it. Ask the fear what it has to say to you, then listen to the message. Tell the fear that you know it is trying to protect you, that you appreciate this, but that you would like it to back off for now. Then sit in meditation a bit longer, allowing yourself to experience the spaciousness that this will create.

When you soften to fear and treat it kindly (as opposed to trying to get rid of it), you make space for fear to relax. At that point, you will begin to realize that fear is not something concrete and solid, that it will pass, and that you can even see through it. You can recognize that it’s a natural reaction to the new, and let it go.

“You may also try the classic method for activating the observing self, the so-called witness of the fear. You can use any self-inquiry question here, such as “What is it in me that observes fear?” or “Who experiences the fear?” or “Who am I beyond this fear?” This allows you to begin to find that part of yourself that is unaffected by fear—the part of you that can not only observe its own fear but can also see it as part of the whole panoply of your experience in the moment. In this way, fear becomes less implacable.

Kinds of fear

A health crisis, the loss of someone dear to you, or a natural disaster touches two kinds of fear. One is the biological fear that is built into the body and helps ensure our survival. This is the kind of fear—call it primal fear, or natural fright—that gets your heart pumping, impels you to defend your safety, and ultimately protects you.

The second is psychological—the fear that you create by anticipating a painful future or by dwelling on painful past events. Most of the negative outcomes you dread will never happen, and yet when you think about them, you trigger the physiological reactions in the body that actual danger would set off.

A genuine threat will often activate not only the primal, biological fear of death but also your habitual anticipation of catastrophe. You can deal with the psychological pattern primarily by finding the part of you that is not touched by fear. However, in order to find this, you will need to become present to the experience of fear itself, rather than simply try to get rid of it. I believe that this is what you are being given the chance to do.

To work with your fear, you’re being asked to accept and even welcome what your health crisis is trying to show you—that loss and death are natural parts of life. The more you try to protect yourself against loss, the more fearful you become and the more likely you are to be thrown by the natural uncertainty of life. It’s a paradox that when you try to insulate yourself against the things you fear, you make yourself more susceptible to them.

When you accept that you, too (yes, even you!) can lose a job, lose love, lose health—and still remain you—you also open the door to recognizing your own place within the larger fabric of life. And, combined with your meditation practice, this acceptance of large and small deaths can, paradoxically, let you see that what is most deeply “you” cannot be lost.

One step beyond acceptance is the practice of actually welcoming the health crisis. When you welcome events that threaten your ego’s sense of well-being, you affirm the truth that you are bigger than the events, that there is a wholeness to you that can withstand even the big-time ego busts that come through sickness, loss, and failure. Welcoming what comes, whatever it is, is a powerful way of loosening the grip of fear and anger.

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