Category: Emotions

Meditation on Fear: Fear is Optional

Meditation on Fear: Fear is Optional

1. Fear is optional. While fear may be quite real in our lives, there is a state that is free from fear and it is possible to achieve it. Since there are two possible states – one with fear and one without it – we have a choice, but this choice is only available to us when we have the wisdom and insight to see it.

2. Fear is mental. While pain may be unavoidable in our physical body, we do have a choice not to be fearful of it. As a doctor, I have seen patients who experience similar bodily pain, yet one may suffer more than the other. The one who suffers more is the one whose mind is totally absorbed in the pain, creating stories around it and embellishing it with all kinds of fear.

3. Fear is an error in thinking. It arises out of a wrong view, belief, perception or thought. When our thought departs from reality (from what is) or when we want things to be other than what is, then we become fearful.

4. Resisting reality is futile. No matter how hard we try to resist reality or want things to be other than what is, we will fail and suffer for it. The more we resist, the more we suffer as we are going against the flow of what is.

5. We resist out of ignorance. We believe the story we have created around our experience. We do not realize that our views are wrong. In truth, no belief is true. No perception is real.

6. A belief is merely a perception of reality. We must realize that our perception has severe limitations. There are at least 3 ways our perceptions are limited.

  • We are first limited by the limitations of our sense organs. We can see light only between a specific range of wavelengths but unable to perceive those beyond this range. Further, our eye structure allows us to see an image that is different from the compound eyes of a fly. Our other sense organs are similarly limited.
  • Secondly we are limited by our perspective. We can see things only from a specific point of reference, very much like the story of the blind men and the elephant.
  • Lastly, we see things through our own filters. These filters are our mental prejudices, concepts, assumptions, beliefs, experiences and ideas. It is like a camera catching a shot through a certain filter, changing its original colour. With so many limitations to our perceptions, how can we be absolutely sure that our perception is true? Is it not more likely wrong?

7. We are deceived by our thinking mind. Our thinking mind is coloured by our ego or self. It’s rich with its own experiences, assumptions, beliefs, concepts, desires and expectations. Ultimately, our thinking mind itself is limiting our life experience. It locks us into a self created reality, a world of our own creation – an illusion of reality.

8. We can live intuitively beyond the ego-mind. Beyond this thinking mind is another that serves us intuitively. It has the ability to dip into the all-knowing, all-pervading universal mind. It is free from judgment and prejudices, and is therefore free from error.

9. There is no fear in this mind. Living like the lotus is then possible – to be in this world but not of this world. We can then live in this physical mundane world and still not be afflicted by it.

Where you find fear, there you will find a wrong belief.

Understanding Emotion with Mindfulness

Understanding Emotion with Mindfulness

With mindfulness practice, not only are we able to look at and understand our thoughts, but we can also similarly look at and understand our emotion. When we watch the arising of our emotion without judgment, we can learn a lot about how emotion arises and unfolds.  

Some people find that watching our thoughts is more challenging than watching our emotion. This is because thoughts are swift and fleeting. On the other hand, emotion is usually more intense and obvious. So, emotion becomes a useful window into understanding our inner world. 

The Origin of Emotion 

What gives rise to our emotion? Emotion arises with thoughts. These thoughts may be something that we are consciously aware of, or they may be just below our conscious radar, in our subconscious mind. When we observe these thoughts further, we learn that they are not just any thoughts. Specifically, they are thoughts of wanting – wanting things to be in a certain way. They are our desires.  

When we want things to be in a certain way, and we expect to get them in the way we want them, then we feel hopeful. On the other hand, when we want things to be in a certain way, and we expect not to get them in that way, we feel fearful and apprehensive.  

So, both hope and fear are projections of future outcomes.  

It is said that hope is expecting what is desirable to happen, while fear is expecting what is undesirable to happen. Both are almost identical. The only difference is what you choose to focus on. When you focus on the positive, hope arises. When you focus on the negative, fear arises. 

Types of Emotion 

We can group emotion into three categories – positive, negative and neutral. 

A positive emotion is what makes us feel good, pleasant and hopeful. A negative emotion makes us feel bad, unpleasant and fearful. Neutral emotion neither make us feel good nor bad. In general, we do not have a problem with positive or neutral emotion. Our problem is with our negative emotion. Thus, learning to understand and manage our negative emotion is essential to our well-being and happiness. 

The most fundamental of all negative emotion is fear. We can say that fear is the mother of all negative emotion. Fear manifests itself in a great variety of ways. It can give rise to small irritation and frustration. It can also give rise to anger and rage. It is the cause of our anxiety and worry, and our depression. It is the cause of our obsessions and compulsions.  

So, to manage our negative emotion well, we must learn and understand fear. We must be willing to face our fear, befriend it and be totally familiar with it. Only then can we do something about it. If we deny it, or hide it, or push it away, we will not be able to confront it and know it well. We will be denying ourselves a great opportunity for transformation and growth. 

Understanding Fear 

We are often told that fear is an acronym for “false evidence appearing real”. This is a simple, yet accurate description of fear. Why? Because fear is not real. Fear is an illusion. It is a creation of our own mind. This is not to say that danger is not real. Danger may be very real, but fear is still optional.  

Fear arises when we feel threatened – physically or psychologically, or both. When we sense a lack of safety or security, we feel fearful. That is why safety is one of the human needs listed by Abraham Maslow.  

Fear manifests itself in many ways. Fear is mind-made, so it manifests itself as unpleasant sensation of the mind. When it is mild, it may manifest as mild irritation or discomfort, frustration, or a lingering sense of unease. As fear grows, this sense of unease becomes more obvious and troubling. We may even direct it outward, putting the blame on an external person, thing or event. This may show up as anger, or in severe cases, rage or hatred.  

Unmitigated or uncontrolled fear is costly. Psychologically, it is painful and unpleasant.  

We often express fear in unhealthy ways, in the form of anger and hatred, thus damaging or even destroying important relationships and friendships. When we deny fear or suppress it, fear may be expressed physically in the form of physical discomfort, pain and even disease. Fear, or any negative emotion that is not expressed properly in a healthy way is toxic to the body and mind. So, it is important that we learn to express our negative emotion in healthier ways. 

Managing Negative Emotion 

The way to manage any negative emotion, including fear, is to first acknowledge its presence. Do not deny it.  

Denying it or avoiding it only makes it more difficult for us to resolve it. Running away from our problem is never a good solution. We may need to step back once in a while to give ourselves some space to recover or to regain our strength, but we can never avoid a problem indefinitely. At some point, we must find the courage to confront it. 

When we are faced with our negative emotion, there are two options for us. One option is to confront it as if we are going into a fight. Our adrenaline is flowing maximally, our muscles all tensed and ready for a fight. The other option, which is a better one, is to face the negative emotion with compassion. This means we do not go into the confrontation ready for a fight. Instead, we go in with an open mind, with a compassionate mind, with an attitude of learning and understanding the emotion. In this way, we become more relaxed, not tensed. We become more accepting and allowing.  

Often, this second option of facing negative emotion is itself very therapeutic and healing. It allows us to recognize and acknowledge the negative emotion, and to allow its expression. A lot of pent-up energy can be released in this way. 

Pent-up negative emotion needs an outlet, preferably one that is neither harmful to self, nor to others. One simple way to do this is journaling. Journaling offers us a few benefits. Firstly, when we write in a journal, we have time to reflect, analyze and understand our emotion better. Writing it down provides clarity. It is also a gentle way to release the pent-up energy.  

On the other hand, some people may prefer a more overt physical expression. This is especially true if we have pent-up anger or frustration. Some people find it useful to release their tension by doing physical exercises, such as running, boxing or other physically intensive sports. Others release this energy by punching a bag or screaming out loud in a controlled and often private environment. Yet others may benefit from attending workshops that are designed for this very purpose of releasing pent-up energy, guided by an experienced facilitator. 

Best Time

When is the best time to manage emotion? Well, the best time to manage emotion is before it arises, at the point when your thoughts arise. The next best time to manage your emotion is when it first arises, before it gathers momentum, and especially before it explodes out of control.

Let’s use an analogy of the river.

Imagine that you are in a paddle boat that is floating slowly in a calm river. Then you notice that the boat is picking up speed on its own. Now you begin to hear the roar of a waterfall up ahead. At this point, it is easy for you to divert the boat to the bank with your paddle. However, as the boat picks up speed, it becomes harder to do so, and you will reach a point of no return if you leave it too late to divert your boat. When that point is reached, you cannot avoid falling down the waterfall as the momentum of the boat is now too strong for you to fight against.

In the same way, our emotion is like the boat in the river. If we can note its arising early, we can easily manage it. We can change our thoughts, replacing them with something more positive or useful. We can also divert our attention to a different topic, situation, person or event. We can distract ourselves. In this way, we can diffuse our emotion.

If we leave it too late, we may reach a point of no return with our emotion. By then, the inevitable outcome is that the emotion will burst or explode out in the open for all to see. Often, this complicates an already difficult situation.

In this way, mindfulness is an essential and useful tool in managing our emotion as it allows us to be aware of the arising emotion as early as possible.

Summary 

In short, mindfulness is a great tool to help us understand our emotion. It allows us to observe, reflect and analyze our emotion, and to bring about an understanding of how our emotion arises and unfold. It helps us to face our fear, to befriend it and to finally be free of it. 

As Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh said, “Fearlessness is not only possible. It is the ultimate bliss.” 

Making Decisions

Making Decisions

We would all like to believe that we make rational decisions, based on facts and logical thinking. However, the truth may be far from this simple assumption.

There are two ways we make decisions.

The first way is to make decisions based on what we think, and by this, we mean logical thinking. Thinking that is based on facts and reality. Thinking and making conclusions based on logical deductions.

However, we must be aware of the fact that we actually have a lot of irrational thoughts – thoughts that are not logical. Many of our thoughts are simply assumptions and beliefs. They are not evidence based. And we make conclusions and deductions based on these unconfirmed assumptions and beliefs. Not surprising, then, our conclusions are wrong.

To make rational decisions, we therefore need to verify our assumptions and beliefs, checking them with facts and evidence. We also need to make sure that our logical thinking process is valid, thereby the conclusions we come to is accurate and sound.

The second way we make decisions is based on our feelings. This would be considered an irrational way of making decisions, and often inferior to the first way. However, the reality is that many of us do make decisions based on how we feel. Sadly, we are not even aware of this fact when such decisions are made.

Without this awareness, we can be easily manipulated by others. They can easily rouse our emotions through clever and manipulative speeches. Advertisers are very good at this. Politicians too. Think Hitler. Think Trump. You get the idea.

If ever there is a need to make decisions based on emotions, then, always choose love over fear.

Examine your motivations. Are you motivated by greed, lust, hatred, anger, fear? If so, drop them, like you drop a hot iron. However, if you are motivated by love, compassion, kindness, gratitude, then you can choose and act on them.

You are likely to enjoy a better outcome with love.

Covid-19: Examining our own fear

Covid-19: Examining our own fear

What is fear and why do we fear at all? Traditionally, we say that fear arises when the self is threatened with harm. This can be threat to the physical body or the psychological body, or both.

What are the conditions that allow fear to arise? For fear to arise, two conditions are required.

The first is that we do not see reality as it actually is. We have this fear of the unknown. Some scientists say that this fear of the unknown is innate in us. So, the more we don’t know or don’t understand something, the more we fear it. Conversely, if we know more about that thing, we have less fear of it, and if we know it completely as it actually is, we should have no more fear of it. Yet, from our own observation alone, we realise that even when we know something completely, we can still be fearful of it. This is because the second condition is also present.

The second condition is that we are unable or unwilling to accept things as they really are. If we are not able to accept reality as it is, we will resist it. Fear will arise because deep down inside, we know that we cannot win this resistance. We will lose, and then we will grief what what we have lost. We will feel the pain of not getting what we want, or of getting what we do not want.

Conversely, if we can see things as they really are, and if we can then accept them as they are, then we can eliminate fear.

How to reduce or eliminate fear

So the first step to eliminate or reduce our fear in anything is to learn as much about it as we can. We must know it objectively and rationally. For this, we need a discerning mind that is free from bias, free from the ego.

This is where the ability of our mind to examine and analyse a situation is important. In this Covid-19 pandemic, for example, we need to be able to differentiate facts from fictions, truth from beliefs, real news from fake news, rationality from fearful emotions. If we can do this well, we can reduce our fear. If not, we are only going to make matter worse. We see how nations following science are faring much better than nations that follow beliefs. Countries like South Korea, Singapore, China, and Taiwan are doing so much better than countries like USA, UK and other countries in Europe.

The next step is to have the courage and determination to change the things that we can and have to change, such as changing our lifestyle, our daily routines, our expectations, our desires, and accepting the things that we cannot change, such as the fact that the virus is here to stay for a long, long time. Accept the reality that the virus IS in our community, and then protect yourself accordingly by following strictly to the SOP – wear you face mask properly, wash your hands regularly, physical distancing, and avoiding contact with others as much as possible. Accept also the fact that our lifestyle has to change. We can no longer go back to how it was before the pandemic – at least not for a long, long time. Adapt gracefully into the new situation instead of resisting and fighting it all the time.

So, learn to see things clearly and rationally. Have the courage to change what needs to be changed, and the ability to accept what cannot be changed. Do these and you will start to be able to manage and reduce your fear.

Overcoming the fear of aging

Overcoming the fear of aging

Aging, like sickness and death, is part and parcel of life. Everyone who is born must eventually age and die. This is the natural cycle of life. However, not everyone ages in the same way. Some age gracefully. Others age with fear.

Fear is Optional

If you are fearful of aging, you should know that this fear is not inevitable. It is there only because of your own past experiences, your own beliefs and your own attitude towards it. In the end, it is a matter of choice. Aging is inevitable but fear of aging is not. Aging of this body is a physical phenomenon. That is why it is inevitable. Fear, on the other hand, is a mental phenomenon. It is optional.

Identify Your Fears

If you are fearful of aging, you should try to be more specific and identify what it is that you are really fearful of. Generally, those who fear aging are actually fearful of sickness and death. Those who believe that they can age with a healthy and functioning body have little fear of aging. Those who think of the possibility of sickness and death as they age become fearful.

Having identify our specific fears, it then becomes possible to do something about it.

Fear of Sickness

If it is sickness, then we can start to live a healthy lifestyle. It is never too late to start a habit of living healthily. If you smoke, stop smoking. If you drink alcohol, and especially if you drink heavily, then tone it down. Drink less. Scientific studies have actually shown that a small amount of alcohol is good for your physical health but too much is harmful. Sleep early and wake up early. Sleep well. Exercise regularly. Eat healthily. Drink lots of water. Practice yoga or tai chi. Learn to meditate. All these improve the quality of your life, making you healthier mentally, emotionally and physically.

Fear of Death

If your fear is death, then once again you have to be specific. Is it the process of dying that you are afraid of, or is it death itself? If it is the process of dying, then the real fear for most people is actually the fear of a painful dying process. If that is the case, we have good news for you. Science and medicine today have reached a point where we can almost always minimise pain in the dying process. In most cases, we can even totally eradicate pain. However, even without medicine, pain can still be managed well. Physical pain may be inevitable but mental suffering is optional.

The question then is how do we free ourselves from mental suffering in the presence of physical pain? The answer to that is a strong mind. We can train our mind to be strong and resilient. It is a skill, and like all skills, it takes practice. The most common and popular mind training is meditation. So, learn to meditate, and learn it well. Gain mastery over your own mind. Then you will have little to be fearful of.

Fear of the Unknown

Lastly, if it is death itself that you are afraid of, then it is most likely because death is a big unknown. What happens to us after death? This is a spiritual question, and you will need a spiritual answer. It all comes down to your belief system. So, when you talk about death, and especially when you want a solution to this type of fear about death, then you must re-visit your spirituality, and the very nature of who you are.

Are you simply this body or are you more than just this physical body? When you die, is there a part of you that continues on? This is your quest. It is a journey that none can take for you. Only you can do this for yourself.

Understanding the Grieving Process

Understanding the Grieving Process

What is Grief?

Grief is often defined as intense sorrow caused by a loss. We grieve when we expect to lose or have lost someone or something that we are attached to. The intensity of our grief is proportionate to the degree of attachment that we have to the loss. In other words, the more attached we are to the other person or thing, the greater is our grief when the loss occurred.

The pain of loss can sometimes feel overwhelming, and is often accompanied by a mixture of emotions and thoughts. It is important to know that grieving for the loss of a loved one or something that we treasured and valued is a natural reaction. It is alright to feel sad, hurt and confused when we are grieving. Often, the grieving process can take a long time before we can move on with our life.

Causes of Grief

Some of the more common causes of grief are:

  • Death of a loved one
  • Divorce or separation
  • Loss of a job
  • Miscarriage
  • Death of a pet
  • Loss of health
  • Financial loss
  • Retirement
  • Loss of a friendship

Stages of Grief

According to Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, there are five stages of grief. They are:

  • Denial: “This can’t be happening to me.”
  • Anger: Why is this happening? Who is to blame?”
  • Bargaining: “Make this not happen, and in return I will ____.”
  • Depression: “I’m too sad to do anything.”
  • Acceptance: “I’m at peace with what happened.”

Dr. Kubler-Ross observed these stages in her patients who were terminally ill. While these may be common reactions to loss, it is also important to know that each person experiences grief in his or her own unique way. Variation is common and is to be expected. Also, it is not necessary to go through all the stages in order to heal.

Four Tasks of Mourning

William Worden suggests that there are four tasks one must accomplish in order for the grieving and mourning processes to be completed appropriately, and life equilibrium to be re-established. They are:

  • Task 1: Accept the reality of the loss. …
  • Task 2: Process your grief and pain. …
  • Task 3: Adjust to the world without your loved one in it. …
  • Task 4: Find a way to maintain a connection to the person who died while embarking on your own life.

Accepting the reality of our loss is necessary for healing to occur. The more we resist this new reality, the longer it will take us to get through our grieving process. As we gradually accept the loss and move on, we establish a new equilibrium. Pain and sorrow subside. Confusion is gradually replaced by new outlook in life and new purpose.

For most people, life goes on. Some may even find a renewed vigor and appreciation of life.

Pathological Grief

However, there is a handful who may continue to have symptoms of grief that are far too long, too debilitating and too intense. This would be considered pathological grief and would require consultation with a psychiatrist.

The Power of Feeling Good

The Power of Feeling Good

Today I am going to share a powerful lesson that you can use to immediately achieve any success you want in your life. And I promise you that if you do what I suggest you do, your success is guaranteed.

You will have everything you want in your life and enjoy the total fulfillment that you deserve. Remember this… there is no limit to what you can have, be and do. Every thing you can imagine, you can achieve. And you are going to find out how to do it now…

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Is poverty a virtue?

Is poverty a virtue?

Poverty is the opposite of abundance. Abundance is a virtue. However, poverty is not a virtue, was never a virtue and will never be a virtue. Why? This is because a virtue is something that is beneficial to one self as well as to others. A virtue also stands the test of time. In other words, a virtue is valid in the past, in the present and also in the future.

Poverty is neither beneficial to oneself nor is it beneficial to others. Poverty causes hardship to one self. It leads to hunger, sickness, sense of injustice, anger and even violence. It also leads to a host of other negative repercussions and social problems, such as theft, violence and even war. So, it is also not beneficial to others and to society as a whole.

The other thing to note is that poverty is a state of mind, not physical appearance. Those who understand spirituality knows that there is a huge difference between contentment and poverty.

Contentment is a state of mind where there is little desire for things or to possess things. Contentment is being happy or satisfied with what you already have. Whatever there is, it is enough. There is no fear of lack.

Poverty, on the other hand, is a state of mind where there is a sense of lack, of not enough, of inadequacy. Poverty is a manifestation of fear and is associated with a sense of insecurity.

Outwardly, both contentment and poverty may be seen as having few things and possessions, but contentment is happy with little while poverty is unhappy with the same.

Those who do not understand that poverty is a state of mind mistook poverty as a virtue simply because they compare the few things that ascetics and monks possess and the few things that poor people have, and then draw the wrong conclusion that poverty is good. They compare only the physical but not the mental state.

From here, we can now be clear that poverty is not a virtue, but contentment is. So, strive to be happy with what you have and to let go of the fear of lack or inadequacy. Strive to understand the source of your deepest fears and learn to overcome them. When you overcome your fears, you simultaneously overcome poverty in your mind.

Abundance comes about when the mind is free from the fear of lack.