Category: Fear

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.


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.” 

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.

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.

Living in Fear

Living in Fear

A fear-driven life is a life in which thoughts, decisions and actions are predominantly motivated by fear. Most people live a fear-driven life. Our present culture promotes a fear-driven life. What are the characteristics of a fear-driven life?

  1. In a fear-driven life, the driving force behind most thoughts and actions is fear. This may be fear of death, fear of loneliness, fear of poverty or fear of pain.
  2. This fear arises out of a lack of understanding and faith in one’s own divinity. Not believing in his own divinity and not believing that he is a co-creator of his life, he is separated from his divine nature, which is unconditional, unlimited love. The degree of fear reflects the degree of separation from his divinity.
  3. This fear leads to a belief in one’s own mortality, in a sense of isolation and a sense of scarcity in life, resulting in the fear of death, loneliness and poverty respectively. The more fearful we are, the more we feel the need to control our life by controlling nature and everything else so as to avoid death, loneliness, poverty and pain.
  4. Fear can paralyze us into inaction. It can numb our emotion and thoughts, resulting in poor decisions and judgments. It impairs our insights. Any decision that is made out of fear tends to lead to more fear and separation. Instead of all-embracing, it is divisive and self-centered.

Understanding Fear
As have been mentioned repeatedly, we are spiritual beings. In our purest, untainted form, we are Love – limitless, luminous and unconditional. Unfortunately, we do not live as though we are spiritual beings. In fact, we live as though we are only our body. Thus, we live with very little awareness and connection to Love.

In the absence of love, there is fear. Trapped in our ego, we feel a sense of separation from the oneness of all things. In this separation, we feel lonely and insecure, and therefore fearful. Fear is therefore due to the loss of our oneness with our true Essence. The following table compares the qualities of a Love-Driven Life versus those of a Fear-Driven Life:

Love-Driven Life Fear-Driven Life
Freedom There is real freedom from the fear of death, pain, loneliness and poverty. Do not feel the need to control or manipulate life. No real freedom from fear of death, pain, loneliness and poverty despite having accumulated wealth and power.
Present Moment Live in the present moment. Live in the past or in the future.
Quality of life There is inner peace and serenity, and contentment with life. No real peace and contentment with life is achieved.
Insight Usually have good insight into one’s own strengths and weaknesses, and have the courage to face them and act on them. May not have good insight into one’s own strengths and weaknesses, and then to resist looking inward to face the real self. Lacks courage.
Security Have a sense of having enough and that providence will provide. A sense of security despite having little. Always feel that there is not enough, despite having accumulated wealth and power. Feels insecure.
Consequences Seems to live a life without stress. Has a sense of satisfaction with life. Life seems to be a constant struggle and stressful. Sense of dissatisfaction with life despite worldly achievements.


The Many Faces of Fear
Fear can manifest itself in many forms and it can be directed inwardly towards ourselves or outward towards others. For example, anger and hatred are manifestations of fear that are directed outwardly at someone else while guilt and shame are forms of fear directed inwardly at ourselves.

The many faces of fear can sometimes be difficult to see in our daily lives. Most of them manifest in very subtle ways and if we are not mindful we can easily miss recognizing it. For example, I once bought a car through a patient of mine. He was a freelance car salesman which means he was not formally attached to any car company. The reason I decided to buy from him was because I know he was going through some financial difficulties. I thought that since I am buying a car, I might as well let him earn the commission.

I told him the car model I wanted, wrote a cheque of $3,000.00 as booking fee and handed over photocopies of my driver’s license, my identity card and the most recent three month statements from my bank. That same night when I was getting ready for bed, it suddenly dawn on me that I have handed over many private and confidential documents to him without a second thought – documents that a conman can make full use of. I’ve read of conmen who used another person’s documents to apply for loans and then disappeared, leaving the unsuspecting victim to settle the loan with the bank.

When I thought about it, I realize that I do not really know my patient very well. After all, all I know about him is his medical problems, not his personal life. Who knows what kind of a person he is. Perhaps he may be in such deep debts that he might be desperate enough to cheat.

My train of thoughts just continues to move on from one fear to another, each thought making the fear bigger and more terrible than the one before. By the time I realize what I was doing to myself, I was about ready to panic. As it turns out, none of what I fear was true. This was an honest person just trying hard to earn a decent living. All the fear that was self created serves only to perpetuate this negative habit.

Most of our fear arises in the same way – subtle and unsuspecting. It starts with one fearful thought, which leads to another and another. Before you know it, it has taken on a life of its own. If we are not careful or have very poor self awareness, this type of habit can literally create panic in us.

This fear tendency is actually very common and we can see it in ourselves almost everyday. When we are not aware of it, this tendency tends to perpetuate itself each time we allow it to manifest in us. The good news is that we can change this tendency simply by increasing our self awareness through mindfulness. The sooner we note this tendency as it arises in us, the easier it is to stop it or replace it with something more positive and wholesome. When we do this repeatedly, we eventually loosen the power that fear has over us.

Fear of Loss
It can be said that all forms of fearful manifestation can be traced back to the fear of loss. These are some of the things we fear to lose:

  • Identity (Ego)
  • Control
  • Security
  • Freedom (Free Will)
  • Health (Life)
  • Abundance

“Transforming fear-based patterns is the road to freedom,
But recognizing those patterns in ourselves is not easy.”
–Ingrid Bacci, The Art of Effortless Living

We live in fear. Most of what we think, say and do is a reflection of this fear. Our present society is a fear-based society. We fear for the loss of our life (death), our health (sickness), our security (poverty) and our youthfulness (aging). Our fear arises because we refuse to accept that these changes are part and parcel of our physical life.

Our physical life is temporal. It does not last. Instead, what we should be doing is to accept this physical reality and to embrace it with grace. With acceptance, fear cannot continue to exist. It fades away. Then we can go on with the business of truly living and being in the present moment.

Fear directs our attention to the past or to the future. Without fear, we can more easily live in the present. We should thus transform our fear-based society to an “unconditional love”-based society. How do we transform our life from a fear-based living to an “unconditional love”-based living? We achieve this by eradicating our ego. Our ego is the biggest obstacle to an “unconditional love”-based living.

By definition, the ego is that part of Consciousness that identifies itself as separate from others. Thus, the existence of ego brings with it an intrinsic sense of separation from other living beings. By eliminating our ego, we also automatically eliminate this sense of separation from Creation or God or whatever you care to call it.

(I am careful to use the word “God” because this word usually means different thing to different people. Each of us has our own preconceived ideas about what God is. For our purposes, God refers to all of existence, nature or our true Essence.)

This sense of separation from God is what created fear and insecurity. Thus, fear and insecurity, together with the sense of separation, are inherent and inseparable from the ego. The only way to eliminate all these fear, insecurity and separation is by eliminating the ego. Eliminating the ego leaves us with only our true nature – unconditional love, luminous, wisdom, knowing, being.

Fear in Daily Life
Our daily life is a great opportunity for spiritual practice. Every moment is a challenge to be more mindful of what we think, say and do. Every response is a lesson in self awareness and letting go.

Fear is encountered every step of the way. Small fear, big fear, real fear, imagined fear – every type of fear. In reality, all fear is unreal since fear is not our true nature. Yet we are too ingrained in our culture of living in fear.

We tried to soothe our fear by doing, achieving and searching externally – basically trying to keep our mind busy and distracted from confronting fear – and in the process we find temporary relief. We then wrongly conclude that doing and achieving can eliminate our fear. In reality, they only distract us from our fear. When all is achieved and done, our fear remains. But doing and achieving have become a habit for us; a pattern of behavior that we believe can remove our fear.

We are wrong in that belief, of course, but like the drug addict, we find it difficult to let go of our habit. We are hooked! Changing this habit requires effort – great effort – but I believe the result is worth it. In fact, if we want to live without fear, it is the only way to go. Christopher Westra, the author of “I Create Reality” gave a very revealing definition of faith and fear:

“Faith is believing what we cannot see to come to pass;
Fear is believing what we cannot see to come to pass.”

The reason why I said it is revealing is because the definitions he gave for both faith and fear are the same. The only difference is in what you choose to focus on. If the focus is on something we desire, then it is faith. If instead you choose to focus on what is undesirable, then it becomes fear. What this means is that:

Hope is expecting what is desirable to happen;
Despair is expecting what is undesirable to happen.

We therefore have to be very careful what we allow our mind to focus on.

Fear and Diseases
Clinical trials in medicine have shown that people who fall sick frequently possess certain personality traits that seem to pre-dispose them to getting diseases. That explains why, when everything else seems equal, some people get diseases like cancer while others do not.

It appears that those who worry and are constantly anxious are more likely to be ill. In other words, if you worry excessively about getting cancer, you may actually make yourself more likely to get it.

Doubt is a manifestation of fear. Doubts arise easily in the beginning of this spiritual practice. It is one of the three main obstacles I often have to face and deal with. This is because in the initial stage of our spiritual journey, we do not yet have the “knowing”, only the believing, and believing is based on faith in others having shown us the way. We have to trust that they are not selling us a great lie.

The only way to find out the truth is to practice until believing becomes knowing – until we are able to taste the fruit for ourselves.

Our ‘modern scientific’ mind is familiar with and accepts only concrete observable and verifiable results. Since spiritual practice produces results that cannot be detected instrumentally nor measured quantitatively, many people take the attitude “show me and I’ll believe it.” This attitude is really a Catch-22, since if you don’t practice, you’ll never see the results but if you don’t see the proof you’ll never start to practice it. The loss, however, is not the believer but the non-believer.

Anger, Guilt and Forgiveness
A person who intends to lead a spiritual life must recognize, acknowledge and deal with the anger and guilt within. Anger arises when our ego is threatened. When we scrutinize it carefully, we’ll realize that anger is also a subtle manifestation of fear. For example, we get angry at a reckless driver who cut into our path because his recklessness endangers our life. There was a threat of loss of life or physical harm to us.

At first glance, anger appears to be an emotion that is directed at an external source – perhaps a person or an event that displeases us. However, if we were to analyze our anger further, we realize that our anger is very often directed at our self too. In the example of the reckless driver, we may blame ourselves for not noticing the reckless driver earlier and getting out of his way.

Guilt arises when we blame ourselves for something we did or did not do that we believe is morally wrong. Anger and guilt are both constrictive emotions. They are not only unhelpful to our spiritual progress, but may actually prevent us from moving forward spiritually. They create blocks and resistance to the flow of our true Essence into our lives.

Negative emotions behave like cancer cells, and if not dealt with, result in toxic spread to our entire well-being – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Thus, anger and guilt must be recognized, acknowledged and confronted, and this is achievable through self-awareness and letting go. One of the most effective tools for letting go of our anger and guilt is forgiveness.

Self-forgiveness is, in fact, essential for self-healing. As long as we continue to harbour anger and guilt within, we risk their malignant effects on us. The moment we decide to forgive ourselves, and those who caused us these negative emotions, we begin to heal at all levels – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Love versus Fear
An old man said to his grandson, “Boy, I have two tigers caged within me. One is love and compassion. The other is fear and anger.”

The young boy asked, “Which one will win, grandfather?”

The old man replied, “The one I feed.”

Fear takes away Our Power
Whenever we live in fear and do things out of fear, we are actually giving away our power. We are basically reinforcing our beliefs that we are NOT the spiritual being we truly are. We are saying to ourselves that we need something out there to make us feel better about ourselves.

Unfortunately, we give away our power much too often in our daily lives. Whenever we make decisions out of fear and not out of love, we diminish our power and walk a step further away from our Essence of Love and wholeness. Every act, every word and every thought that arise out of fear disconnect us from our spirituality.

To regain our power, we need to consciously and mindfully do, say and think from Love and not from fear. We need courage and we need persistency. We need to know that this can be achieved. Only then can we achieve true freedom. The only freedom you will ever need is freedom from fear.

The Cost of Fear
We have no choice but to overcome our fear if we are to live well. The truth is fear is costly to us – costly in economic terms and more so in spiritual terms. Fear is an expensive habit to feed economically. We spend an amazing amount of our money and time trying to alleviate our fear. I see this clearly in some of my patients.

I once saw an elderly woman who complained of difficulty breathing and insomnia. These symptoms started a few days after a friend died from a stroke. She has all kinds of vague complaints but never once considered that they may all be due to her fear of dying or sickness. She wanted to do all types of blood investigations and imaging to make sure that she has no cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or any chance of a stroke. When I reminded her that these tests were done just two months ago and that all the results were normal, she continued to insist on repeating them. It was for her own peace of mind, she said. Otherwise, she cannot sleep.

Traditionally, it is a taboo to bring up the subject of death in a conversation. This is more so in a normal doctor-patient consultation. The very mention of the word sends fear into the heart of the patient. However, in this instance, I decided that she will have to face her fear in order to be able to talk about it. Only then can I help her to overcome it. So I pointed out to her that all her symptoms arise only after her friend’s death and that it is a very common presentation especially in the elderly. Most people at this point in their lives come face to face with their mortality whenever any of their friends passed away.

It never fails to amaze me how difficult it is for us to name our fear for what it is. Confronting our fear is perhaps one of the most difficult things to do, even when we know it is good for us. Most of us lack courage to face it. We do all kinds of things to distract ourselves away from our fear. In this instance, the woman is willing to part with her savings once again to repeat her tests just to re-assure herself that all is well with her.

She is by no means the only one reacting this way to fear. I have seen countless instances of this same pattern repeating itself. I see it even in myself. None of us are immune from fear, until and unless we begin to live in our true Essence.

If you think spending on unnecessary medical investigations is a small price to pay, then consider the many industries that actually thrive on fear. Fear is a multi-billion dollar industry. It drives the insurance industry and the arm race. It even drives the medical industry, I must admit. In face of medicine has been transformed by the big and powerful pharmaceutical and nutraceutical companies. The marketing technique has changed from one based on healing to one based on fear. Even the so-called natural and organic movement is beginning to use the same tactic of utilizing fear to drive their sales. Sad, yes, but true.

However the real cost is to our spiritual growth. Each time we allow our fear to manifest itself, we validate its ‘usefulness’ and perpetuate its tendency in our lives. As its grips on our lives become stronger, so is its power over us. As fear grows, love recedes for fear and love cannot co-exist together. They are mutually exclusive.

I believe this is how we fall from grace – from a radiant light being of unconditional love to a dense physical being of fear. We now need to reverse this process and to do so we need to be aware of our thoughts so that we can catch our fear and replaces it with love as soon as we recognize it.

Transforming Fear

Transforming Fear


In this generation, fear has grown to such a proportion that it has become a real threat to the world we live in. Fear comes in two forms.

The first is a real fear within each of us. Some of us are aware of the existence of this fear that resides within but many are not. The conscious suppression or unconscious repression of fear is one of the problems to take note of when dealing with fear.

The second is a fear that is intentionally created. This created fear is used as a tool or weapon to sow distrusts and suspicions among human beings and to stoke dissatisfactions, anger and hatred. It is a powerful weapon because it plays with our own inner fear and insecurities. If we are not aware of this, we can very easily become an unsuspecting pawn in this dangerous game.

Therefore, awareness is the first step to change.

But what exactly is fear?

The Anatomy of Fear

Fear is a by-product of the self. The self has two fundamental concerns.

The first is that of safety. It is in its own self interest to preserve its existence. So there is an underlying self-preservation mechanism that manifests in the form of fear of insecurities. This self protection exists at all levels or aspects of existence. Whether it is a physical threat, emotional threat or mental threat, the self will find a way to secure and protect itself.

It is useful to note that the threat need not be real. Even if it is only a perceived threat, the self will automatically and most often unconsciously go into a self-protection mode.

The second concern of the self is a sense of worth or significance. This is actually a more subtle form of fear. In a way, fear is a great motivator. When the fear is small and manageable, it drives us to achieve our goals. However, if we are not careful, this fear can grow out of control and turn us into someone with a huge ego or one who needs constant validation from others to feel secure.

The Manifestations of Fear

Fear is the mother of all negative emotions.

A threat to the self can turn into anger or hatred and drive one to violence. This weakness of ours is often exploited by others, and if we are not aware of it, we can easily become unsuspecting pawns that serve their own hidden agenda. Politicians use this weakness to their best advantages by dividing and rule, and pitching one group against another. The division can be in any forms, for example, poor against rich, one race against another, women against men, one nation against another or one religion against another.

Unlike love, which is inclusive, fear plays with exclusivity.  People band together out of the need for safety or significance. Fear plays with our egos. It inflates the ego and gives one a sense of self importance. The self likes to feel special, unique and important, and constantly seeks recognition and validations from others. It is actually a subtle manifestation of the self’s sense of insecurity.

Greed is another form of fear. It arises from the fear of not having enough. It may begin with an almost innocent need for self preservation but it can very quickly grow out of control and turns itself into a huge black hole of covetousness, greed and lust that is impossible to satiate. It becomes an addiction.

We can see greed everywhere in today’s economies and politics. People in positions of power want to hold on to their power perpetually because from this power base, they can try to satisfy their greed, lusts and desires. Caught in this addiction, it is difficult for them to see themselves snared in a trap. This is also partly because our society today explicitly accepts greed as a motivator for success. It has become a “everyone-for-himself” society.

The irony is that religions, which profess and promote love and peace, have become fertile grounds for politicians and religious zealots to use fear as a tool for their personal agendas. This happens because most religions, for the most part, have themselves used fear to control their followers, casting their God as vindictive and punitive. Followers have been told to toe the line or face the wrath of their God. Therefore, it is only a matter of time before someone realized that the cowed and submissive flocks can easily be led and manipulated for their personal agenda.

Likewise, the Western free market is an economic concept that is supposed to deliver equal opportunity for all and therefore has the noble goal of making everyone who works hard grows in abundance. However, as it is based on greed as a motivator, it is also a matter of time before the monster grew too big to be contained. Thus, we see in our world today massive corruptions, cronyism and callous disregards for fair play.

Fear is Self-Destructive

The bottom line is that if the motivation is based on fear, it cannot be perpetually sustained as fear, manifested in the forms of hatred and greed, will grow too big to be contained and therefore collapses onto itself. It will self-destruct at some point, just like a cancer that spreads within the physical body will eventually kill the body that supports its existence.

Thus, fear is destructive for the individual, for those interacting with this fearful individual and for the society and world at large. Whether you believe in a God or an afterlife or not, the fact remains that fear is not something we want to feed since the more we feed it the bigger it grows and the more destructive it becomes.

Fear is a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

The word FEAR is often used as an acronym for “False Evidence Appearing Real”. It is in fact an apt description of fear. When one has fear in his or her heart, the mind will automatically seek out “evidence” to support this fear. Unfortunately, a fearful mind does not have the clarity of mind to be unbiased in its appraisal. Instead, it will accept even the flimsiest of “evidence” as fact to validate its own fear. This vicious cycle is what feeds the fear.

Whether it is a fear of lack or a fear of safety or a fear of insignificance, the very fear will go into a vicious cycle, feeding itself into a frenzy until it grows too big and uncontrollable, and eventually destroys itself. Thus, fear is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Fear is a Mirror

Whatever fear one has within oneself, one projects it outward. This projection can be in the form of the person’s own body, another person, thing or event.

For example, a person who is fearful of sickness or death may unconsciously project this fear onto his body, seeing sickness in every sensation or change of the body. Even normal sensation or change is falsely interpreted as abnormal, thus causing more anxiety and worry to his mind. As the fear grows, it becomes uncontrollable and may lead to fear about all sorts of diseases afflicting the body. Very often, the paranoid patient seeks cure for his “ailments” from many different doctors and healers without any success, further fueling his fear.

The real cure is, of course, to confront and remove the fear of sickness or death, which is the underlying cause. However, this type of patients is very often not very insightful. He is unlikely to be aware of the underlying cause, and even when told about it, often refuses to believe or accept it. Without such awareness and acknowledgment, it is therefore quite difficult to initiate the proper cure, which is to confront and remove this very fear.

Likewise, fear can be projected into another person, thing or event with equally devastating results due to the self-fulfilling nature of fear. Thus, a person who is fearful of snake sees a snake in a coil of rope while another who is fearful of ghosts see ghosts in every dark corners and alleys.

Knowing that our fear is often projected outwardly gives us a great tool to be aware of and recognize our own fear.  We can use this to our advantage in managing our fear.

The Bigger the Ego, the Greater the Fear

Fear manifests itself in many forms. From the most subtle, such as a feeling of uneasiness to the grossest, such as uncontrollable hatred and violence, symptoms and signs of fear is seen in just about everywhere in our society today.

It is not difficult to recognize the symptoms and signs of fear. Any form of emotional or mental discomfort is a sign of fear. A sense of insecurity is a sign of fear. Frustration, anger, hatred and violence are all signs of fear. Greed, lusts, a habit of hoarding and the need for control are also fear in its various forms of manifestations.

Generally, the more extreme the manifestation, the greater is the fear. For example, when our personal safety is perceived to be threatened, we feel insecure and anxious. One example of this is when we hear that a neighbor’s house was broken into. However, when we are confronted face to face with the thief in the middle of the night in our own house, then we sense a real threat to our lives and our responses may be more violent. If we have strong hatred towards the thief, we would even be willing to hurt or kill him.

Likewise, the bigger the ego, the greater is the fear of insignificance. The problem here is a sense of self worth, which is proportionate to one’s self esteem. The more one feels insignificant, the greater is the need to be validated by others, and this is manifested in a behavior or habit of wanting to show off, which we see as having a big ego. One who is confident of his or her own self worth does not require external validation as much.

The Antidote for Fear

Fear is the opposite of love. Fear is exclusive while love is inclusive and all embracing. Fear is selfish while love is selfless. Fear leads to an increased in negative emotions while love leads to more positive emotions, joy and peace.

The antidote for fear is therefore one that takes us from a point of separation and incompleteness to oneness, and in the journey or process, we go beyond the fear and the self with total awareness and acceptance. This, in fact, spells out the characteristics of a true spiritual path, which are:

  1. LOVE – A reduction of fear and an increase of unconditional love
  2. INCLUSIVENESS – A reduction of exclusiveness and an increase of inclusiveness
  3. SELFLESSNESS – A reduction of selfishness and an increase of selflessness
  4. PEACE – A reduction of negative emotions and an increase of positive emotions, joy and peace in the heart
  5. OPEN – An increased in transparency and a decreased in secrecy

Using these criteria, we can know whether anyone who professes to be religious is truly practicing a true spiritual path or not. If he or she thinks, speaks and acts in such a way as to promote all of the above, he or she can be said to be walking a true spiritual path, regardless of the religion he or she follows. In fact, even an atheist can be spiritual in this way. Not only that, even a non-sentient entity such as a corporation can be spiritual in this sense.

It takes Courage to Face the Fear

To manage fear, one needs to be aware of its presence. Once we recognize it, we may choose to deal with it in the best possible way. This requires real courage on our part. Many people do not have the courage to face their fear, so they either consciously suppressed it or unconsciously repressed it.

Through repression, they have no conscious awareness of the existence of the fear in them. It is difficult for this group of people to even admit that they are fearful for they are honestly unaware of its existence.

Others may knowingly suppress their fear, and when confronted with it, either choose to ignore or deny its existence in them or find the courage to confront it.

It takes real courage to confront our own fear. The greater the fear in us, the greater is the sense of “dis-ease” we feel when we confront it. Thus, the greater the fear in us, the greater is the courage we need to face it.

This is why it is said that only the courageous will choose the true spiritual path.

Are you courageous enough for this path?

The Inner Journey from Fear to Love


[Click here for a copy of From Fear to Love]


The true spiritual path is an inward journey. This journey takes you to some dark shadowy places within. It takes you to the pool of unresolved pains.

The inner journey begins with awareness or an acknowledgment of the existence of fear within us. This is followed by a decision to do something about it, to familiarize ourselves with it, to face it, to befriend it and to finally make peace with it. In this way, we take responsibility for our own fear.

The tools for this journey are mindfulness and letting go.

Mindfulness is an attitude and exercise of constant, non-judgmental self awareness directed at our thoughts, emotions and body, with the goal of attaining self knowledge and understanding.

Letting go is an attitude of non-judging, non-blaming and acceptance of things as they are.

Where there is Fear, there is a False Belief

Remember earlier we said that the acronym for FEAR is “False Evidence Appearing Real”. This is true because when you explore the source of your fear, you will realize that it was based on a false belief. Fear is a delusion – an error in conception or thinking. It arises out of the self’s resistance to accepting things as they really are. Thus the correction of this delusional thinking automatically removes fear.

Understanding Fear makes us Free

Once we truly understood the root cause of our fear, and have learned the tools to observe and trace our thoughts to their roots, it becomes easier for us to simply let go. We know that going against reality is a hopeless situation and resisting what is only creates more fear for ourselves.

Thus, the logical and sensible choice is simply to let go of grasping to the wrong thought.

However, this process needs to be put into practice constantly until it becomes second nature to us. Only then can we let go easily. In the beginning, before we are familiar with the process, the going can be quite tough. It takes courage and honesty. It takes discipline and effort. The end result, however, is worth it. In fact, it is priceless. Was it not Thich Nhat Hanh who said that “Fearlessness is not only possible, it is the ultimate joy”.

Once you have become an expert with the process, you may wonder how you could have survived for so long without it.

Tools for Transforming Fear

I am aware that people with different temperaments, beliefs, characters and attitudes may benefit from different methods and tools for personal transformation. Thus I have here a few different tools that are extremely powerful in bringing transformation and insights.

1. The Work of Byron Katie

2. Why is this happening to me again? By Michael Ryce

3. The Release Technique of Lester Levenson

4. Ho’oponopono by Dr. Hew Len

The Work of Byron Katie

Byron Katie’s work leads us directly into identifying and recognizing the root cause of our fear, which is an erroneous thought, belief or idea that we cling on to and refuse to let go. She offers a structured method that guides us to do this and to look inward until we achieve insights.

You can follow this simple process using a worksheet that can be downloaded for free at her website at The worksheet is called Judging Your Neighbor worksheet.

The same website also offers free short video clips on how she uses the same process with others as she guides them through their thoughts, self understanding and insights.

Why is this Happening to me Again?

Michael Ryce, who authored the book “Why is this Happening to me AGAIN?” offers a similar method of identifying and recognizing our erroneous thoughts. He also offers a worksheet to guide you through the process, albeit with slight variations from that of Byron Katie.

Michael says his work is about forgiveness. However, his definition of forgiveness is the letting go of erroneous thoughts. Coming from a Christian background, you may find a lot of Christian terminologies being used and referenced in his work. However, his definitions of the Christian terminologies may differ from norm.

You can download a free ebook copy of his book from his website at His worksheet is also available for download there.

The Release Technique

For you to benefit from the work of Byron Katie and Michael Ryce, you need a certain degree of maturity in thinking as well as the honesty and courage to see things as they truly are. Such criteria may not fit everyone.

The Release Technique introduced by Lester Levenson, on the other hand, does not require the above criteria.

All you need to benefit from this technique is the ability to recognize and accept your negative emotions, and then let them go. There is no need to identify your erroneous thoughts or beliefs. For some, this process is easier to do and is needed to remove the resistance and blocks to their spiritual progress.

Lester was a physicist who was suffering from an incurable heart disease and was sent home from the hospital to die. Instead, he stumbled upon this method to release all his negative emotions and eventually not only healed himself but lived on for many years to share his technique with others.

Lester’s work is now being packaged and called “The Sedona Method” by Hale Dwoskin and “The Release Technique” by Lawrence Crane, two of his earliest students. Unfortunately, the courses are expensive and beyond the reach of many.

However, the technique itself is very simple to learn and practice. Here are the steps:

1. Tilt head downward as in prayer

2. Choose an unresolved issue and focus on it

3. Feel the negative emotion that arise in the heart or stomach areas, recognize the emotion and acknowledge it

4. Ask yourself 3 questions:

a. Could I let it go?

b. Would I let it go?

c. When?

5. Once you have decided to let it go, visualize the release of the emotion. There are many ways to do this. One simple way is to visualize the negative emotion as pouring out of a hole in your heart (like oil sprouting out) until it clears completely

6. Feel the light feeling that accompanies the release

7. Repeat 1 to 6, doing it repeatedly like pulling out pieces of tissue from a tissue box until it is empty.


Ho’oponopono is a Hawaiian system of healing that was popularized by Dr. Hew Len and Joe Vitale in their book “Zero Limits”.

This method also does not require you to identify your erroneous thoughts but simply accept that all negative feelings and experiences that you encounter in your life arise from erroneous thoughts.

Like the Release Technique, you then simply let go of your thoughts without having to identify them specifically. This is done using four simple phrases:

1. I am sorry

2. Please forgive me

3. Thank you

4. I love you

You can learn more about this technique by reading their book “Zero Limits”.


In my own practice, I have found meditation to be an essential tool in personal transformation. Meditation, done regularly, makes us become more aware of ourselves – our thoughts, feelings and body – how they change, arise and pass away.

With the heightened sense of self awareness, it becomes easier to use all the other tools mentioned earlier. Therefore, if you are not meditating, I suggest that you get yourself a good meditation teacher and start meditating now. If you are already meditating, continue to do so regularly.

Managing Fear

Managing Fear

Fear is the mother of all negative emotions. Fear is the root cause. Fear manifests itself in many forms and situations. Fear arises out of our mental habits of (a) focusing on the negative, and (b) proliferating thoughts. The root cause of fear is delusion. Thus the often quoted acronym for fear – False Evidence Appearing Real – is very appropriate and accurate indeed.

In managing fear, the goal is simply to find relief. Once relief is found, it can be a springboard to better and more positive thoughts and emotions.

Some of the thoughts that I find useful for me in finding relief from fear are listed below:

1. We are spiritual beings coming here for a physical experience. We are NOT physical beings coming here for a spiritual experience. This thought removes us from the trap of seeing ourselves from the perspective of a physical being, and elevates us to see ourselves as spiritual beings. This important shift is necessary as it frees us from the attachments to certain expectations and outcomes that we desire but may not get.

2. Nothing real can be threatened. Nothing unreal exists. Herein lies the peace of God. This passage comes from “A Course in Miracles”. In viewing the situation from a spiritual perspective, we are reminded that Absolute Reality cannot be threatened by anything. The physical world is simply a mind-created world, and is often regarded as an illusion or “maya” by the ancients. Since our essence is of the Absolute, our safety is assured, although in our delusional thoughts this fear for our safety is the underlying root cause of all fears.

3. “Lord, grant me the courage to change the things I can change, the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, and the wisdom to know the difference”. This is from the Serenity Prayer of the Christians, and is a strong reminder that there are situations that we can do something about and situations that we cannot do anything about. In the first situation, we need courage to affect change. In the latter situation, we need serenity to accept what we cannot change. Acceptance may be easier to come by if we have faith in the fairness of the universe, in knowing that whatever unfolds for us is just and appropriate for our spiritual learning and growth.

4. What-Is is done. Direct our attention to what we can do NOW. This is a reminder that whatever we are experiencing now is the fruition of our own manifestation. Through our unconscious mental habits in the past, our present reality is the unfolding of those negative mental habits or kamma. So What-Is is already done. We cannot do anything about it. What we can do, however, is how we respond to this current reality. We can choose to respond to it unconsciously and negatively as we have habitually done before or we can choose to respond to it more consciously and positively. In choosing to respond more consciously and positively, we can affect a better outcome and experience.