We all experience fear, and we all want to overcome it. Whether you fear giving a presentation in the boardroom at your company’s monthly meeting, snakes, or even death, fear has the tendency to take over our ability to think clearly and rationally.
I tend to think of myself as a courageous, mentally strong person. However, the other day while visiting an aquarium, my subconscious unleashed an underground fear that I had never before experienced. While walking past an exhibit on freshwater fish, I noticed a group of children congregating around a large, open pool containing large sturgeons. The pool was an experiential learning display encouraging visitors to touch the top of the massive, prehistoric fish while they swam past. I noticed an immediate discomfort arise out of nowhere, but out of curiosity my rationality overrode my feelings, and I went forward to touch the fish anyway. As the black, slimy fish approached my hand, I felt a panic kick in, and as it’s back grazed my fingertips, my hand shot out of the water and I ran away from the tank with a racing heart. So...I learned that fish terrify me.
After experiencing such an irrational fear over which I had little control, I realized that I what I needed at that moment was a tool to calm and remind myself that I was still alive that that everything was going to be ok. So, I sat with my eyes closed, observed my breath, and meditated for a few minutes. Within a matter of seconds, I felt a calm wash over my body as I reconnected to my inner storehouse of strength and stability.
What is Fear?
Fear is nothing but love upside down. Think about it: what are we scared of? Often, we fear what we do not like or is unknown to us. Fear has a concrete purpose, that being to keep us alive. When being chased by a tiger, it is natural (and healthy) to feel fear, as it triggers the release of adrenaline and gives us the jolt to keep running. However, when we fear irrationally, we unnecessarily trigger adrenaline and deplete our adrenal glands. Even worse, our irrational fears hold us back from experiencing life fully and enjoying the present moment. Fear and stress prevent us from being happy and feeling good NOW, which is what truly matters.
So, how do we flip fear back on its head and convert it to love? The first step in overcoming fear is learning how to face your fears. And to do so does not require immersing yourself in them. Meditation has the power to dissolve the seeds of fear, heal the subconscious, and connect you to a space of inner peace.
Dissolving the Seeds of Fear
#1: Get rid of past baggage
Often, our fears are based off of past experiences. If you are scared of dogs, it is likely that you or someone you know had an unpleasant experience in the past.
You may notice that children have few fears. As children, we do not yet have the impressions and traumas that cause our fears to crystalize and haunt us later in life. But as we grow up, we compile a stock of good and bad experiences that embed themselves as impressions in our minds. Some of these impressions turn into fears and phobias, such as the fear of darkness and heights.
Practice meditation for fear and anxiety. Meditation removes past impressions and allows for the experience of freedom from within. When we meditate, we melt away past traumas and stress, aligning ourselves with the present moment.
#2: Face Anxiety with Strength
If you have ever had an interview, then you are most likely familiar with the anxiety that comes days and hours before the event. You feel anxious and your mind gets stuck in a whirlpool of uncontrolled thoughts: “What is going to happen? What will they ask me? Will they choose me? What if they don’t like me?” The bombardment of thoughts only increases feelings of fear and anxiety around what cannot be known or controlled.
The next time you experience an onslaught of anxiety related to a future event, meditate and notice the difference it makes. Meditation calms the nervous system and provides a feeling of inner strength. When we feel calm, our feelings of faith increase. And when we have faith, we know that no matter what happens, it is for the best.
Meditation helps us drop the anxiety we feel about the unknown future and bring our mind into the present moment, which is the only actual moment where action is possible.
Breath is the most powerful tool available to us when it comes to fear. Numerous scientific studies have found that every emotion has an associated pattern of breath. When in a fearful state, heart rate and blood pressure increase as well as respiratory frequency (breaths per minute).
Just as certain emotions trigger certain patterns of breath, certain patterns of breath trigger associated emotions. By learning how to breathe for relaxation, we can bring ourselves into peaceful, energized states within minutes (even seconds)! Practicing a few rounds of pranayamas, such as Bellows Breath, Ujayi, and Alternate Nostril, is all that is needed to eliminate fear.
Imagine what would happen if people had no fear at all? Students had absolutely no fear of failure - would they study? If you had no fear of falling sick, would you take care of your health? So be wise and acknowledge the usefulness of having a little fear in you.
Small doses of fear, of course, can be helpful. If students had absolutely no fear of failure, would they study? If you had no fear of falling sick, would you take care of your health? Fear becomes problematic when it prevents you from living life fully.
To experience the ultimate freedom from anxiety, enroll in a Happiness Program course near you, where you will learn techniques for daily practice that get to the root of trauma and fear.
Inspired by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's wisdom talks
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