You hear them late at night, or at work, or when you are talking with your significant other. They whisper at you from the shadows, when you are watching the news, or perhaps when you are alone in your car.
Sometimes, they seem relentless. No amount of meditation, yoga, affirmations, vision boarding, or positive thinking can make them go away.
You have experienced something of the world of mystery and spirit. You have witnessed miracles. You have had dreams, understood Tarot, been amazed at the accuracy of your horoscope. You have known the joy of transcendence, felt the love of community, and been overwhelmed at the beauty of the Universe.
But still…they whisper.
Fears. Or more accurately…FEAR.
Fear is your greatest obstacle, and your most clinging vulnerability. No amount of spiritual growth or experience seems to mitigate or evaporate it.
I have counseled and encouraged thousands of people throughout my life…and have been amazed at how fear always seems to present itself, even to the most mature and grounded.
But before I get too pedantic about FEAR, let me clear something up. There is nothing wrong with FEAR. Fear is…what it is. And what it is…is, in many ways, good.
Fear is how our brains identify and give meaning to the biological process within us that is the release of adrenaline. We, as humans, stuck with this body for at least this period of time, are subject to physiological processes. One of those processes is the release of adrenaline whenever we feel threatened or our physical life is in danger. Adrenaline gives us the capacity to do what we evolved to do…and that is GET AWAY from the threat or the danger, or to face it and fight it. Adrenaline increases our heart rate, sensitizes our nerve endings, and enables our muscles to operate at maximum efficiency. That physiological process made it possible for our ancestors to flee or fight the saber-toothed tiger that wanted them for breakfast.
Eventually, however, humans began to figure out - due to our enhanced and enlarged brain - that we could change the threat or the danger by learning how to outsmart it. Therefore, many things that caused that release of adrenaline vanished; the adrenaline surge, however, did not vanish…and we began to create fearful scenarios that justified or made sense of the feeling of anxiety, surging heart rate, and nervous energy that accompanies the release of adrenaline.
As Ian Boccio notes in his column, at the core, fear is ultimately the fear of death. The threat and danger our ancestors felt at the saber-toothed tiger was not so much about the tiger as it was about the result of the tiger eating them…ie, death.
For us, in the absence of the saber-toothed tiger, death has come to symbolize many things - emptiness, confusion, ignorance, absence, pain, suffering…unknowing. We no longer have to fight or run from hungry beasts; we do, however, wrestle with “death” and the many faces it wears - job loss, poverty, pain, illness, divorce, war, injury.
And, ultimately, the fear of the UNKNOWN.
Which brings us to this month’s Aquarius, and the ongoing art work of Keith Prossick as he examines and meditates on the meaning of spiritual awakening and the expansion of personal consciousness.
When we begin the journey of spiritual awakening, we encounter many strange new realities. In fact, that journey itself often begins with the intrusion of something strange, or painful, or at the very least unsettling. As we grapple with that, our awareness of truth outside of commonly accepted “realities” leads us to many ideas, wonders and experiences that defy explanation and even understanding.
As cool as that is…it can also be very disturbing and terrifying. Exposure to any new reality causes fear…mainly because it is exposure to an unknown.
And let’s face it…any movement forward is a movement into the unknown. UNKNOWN…that is what the future is, even the next moment, regardless of what the horoscope may say. And so fear is a very familiar companion, and the truth is, it will always be so.
I am of the opinion that we cannot cause fear to end. It is a part of our very essential humanity, the physical nature of our being. It will not - indeed, cannot - go away.
However, we can overcome it, move through it, and move beyond it. The issue of fear in the development of consciousness is not decided by eradicating fear, but by learning how to embrace it, move through it, and overcome it.
Fear is not wrong, it is not sin, it is not evil. It just is…a very human, physical and emotional reaction to perceived threat and danger.
When we learn to embrace, rather than eradicate, fear, we experience an objectification of fear that allows us to examine it and to understand it.
One of the most important things we discover about fear is that it is almost always based on PERCEPTION, not reality…and that PERCEPTION is the result of filtering and interpreting data based on factors that are not fact-based.
We all have biases, preconceived notions, and images that are in our brains that have been fine-tuned over lifetimes. These serve as filters; they exist between us and what we experience in the world. When what we see and experience enters our consciousness, it enters with biases, preconceived notions, and images…and those things are the triggers for the fear that arises.
By embracing that fear, and asking ourselves “what, really, I am afraid of”, we will often discover and identify those biases, preconceived notions and images that shape and distort our experience. We can hold them at arms length, and examining them, we discover that they are not fearful…and that fear is not called for.
Don’t fight your fear, or feel ashamed by it. Instead, embrace it, examine it, and ask yourself, “what is really happening here? what, really, am I afraid of?” Once you do that, you are ready to move through your fear.
MOVING THROUGH FEAR
You’ve heard the old saying, “a hero is not one who does not fear - a hero is one who fears, and acts anyway.”
If you can embrace your fear, you can become empowered to move through it. Moving through fear is simply taking action that dismisses the fear that we feel.
I used to be afraid of heights. I would avoid going anywhere that required me to be on a high spot. However, when I began to understand that fear was only the interpretation of a perception…and that it was most likely a wrong interpretation of a false perception…I decided to do something about it. What did I do?
I went rock-climbing. Up a sheer rock wall, over 150 feet high, with nothing between me and the ground but a rope. It was terrifying. I wanted to stop and go back down a hundred times. But I kept going, until I got to the top. When I made it there, I wanted to shout a victory shout!! I had done it!
I still tremble a bit when I am up on a high place…but being high never stops me. Ever. And I know, the fear will subside and I will get the most amazing view of my environment.
You can move through fear.
By embracing fear and moving through it…we overcome it. Whenever we move through what we fear - like I did by rock-climbing - we never go back to the fear that controls and limits us. We don’t stop feeling fear (though the feeling of fear lessens); instead, what happens is that fear no longer controls us, or serves as an obstacle to our life path.
Fear whispers. It never really stops. But we can learn - we must learn - to move forward, and not stop to listen to the whispers. When we do, we discover that we move into a world greatly expanded, and the possibilities and opportunities afforded to us become virtually limitless!