Tag: 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.

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.

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.

Making the Right Decisions every time… the Spiritual Way

Making the Right Decisions every time… the Spiritual Way

We are faced with choices and decisions every day. Often, we wonder whether the choices and decisions we have made are the right ones. Have you ever wondered whether there is a fundamental guidelines in decision-making? Is there a fail-proof way of making decisions?

Well, in the spiritual sense, there is.

The best way to know whether you have made the right decision or not is by looking at the motivation behind the choice you made. When you distill all the complicated mental processes to their fundamentals, you will realize that all our decisions are driven by two basic and opposing emotions – unconditional love and fear.

We always make choices that we hope will eventually help us to attain our desires, wants and needs. In other words, we look outward for things to fulfill our desires, wants and needs. However, all our desires, wants and needs are ultimately meant to give us happiness. So the end goal is happiness.

Happiness, however, is not to be found from anything outside of ourselves. Happiness is our nature, our essence and can only be realized from within.

The question, then, is how do we realize this happiness that is already within us?

The answer is that in order to experience the happiness already within us, we need to remove all fears that are blocking us from experiencing the joy and happiness we already are. As Rumi said, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it”.

Once you have understood this, the answer to the above question becomes obvious. How do you know if you have made the right decision? You will know whether you have made the right decision or not when you are able to identify the motivation that drives you to make that decision – was it unconditional love, or was it fear?

Each time you made a decision out of fear, you have made the wrong decision, for you have not only perpetuated that fear but strengthened it. Remember that whatever you focused on becomes stronger. So, by basing your decision on fear, you strengthen the fear in you, and that will ultimately lead to unhappiness instead of the happiness you seek.

Likewise, each time you made a decision out of love, you have made the right choice, for in this instance you have perpetuated and strengthened love. As before, whatever you focused on becomes stronger, so a decision based on love strengthens the love in you. This will eventually lead to happiness.

Making decisions in this way not only benefits you but also everyone else. It benefits society as a whole since there will be greater love and lesser fear.

From the spiritual perspective, it is easy to see how all these made sense. After all, as a spiritual being, you are meant to manifest love. So, every decision that is based on love has got to be the right decision.

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.

Doubts
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.

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.