Dealing with Fear
“Fear is irrelevant to the journey.
You are going to have to take the journey anyway.”
– author unknown
The quotation above is framed on my meditation wall. A friend penned it for me when I packed up and moved cross-country. Fear is a natural emotion. We all feel and have felt fear. In some instances, it is caused by an event that can be changed by preparation and courage. The first time I had to stand before an audience and teach, I physically trembled. Today it comes easily because I pushed out my boundaries by simply doing it. There are many excellent books on the market to help one face personal fears such as this. One I highly recommend is Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan J. Jeffers.
But sometimes we can do nothing to change the event itself—a loved one going off to war, cancer, loss of a job, the events of divorce and death. These are a fear of an unknown future. We are not in control. We feel alone and exposed. Even as we marshal our resources to survive the event, the fear remains underneath.
Many people mask this kind of fear with addictions — sex, alcohol, work, compulsive shopping, an endless list of possibilities that can include anything that keeps one too busy to notice the fear. Yet the only way to dissolve the fear is through spiritual work. While existential fear can be cured overnight, most of us take our own sweet time to surmount it. It begins with a change in perception that cannot be brought about simply by doing something. It requires awareness on our part. And it takes belief and trust in a benevolent universe. For some it begins with experimentation with the promise that we are guided and protected.
There is no one size fits all formula to finding freedom from fear, but almost, if not all, religions have a method; there are many paths. The Sufi (Muslim) poet Rumi shares it in his poetry, which is a true love affair with God. The words of Jesus (Christianity) define it. The teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda are alive with it. The Old Testament gives us the prayer that begins “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalm 23:1.) The mystic branches such as the Kabala (Jewish), the native practices of the American Indians and the shamans of many different peoples in many different places, as well as the Eastern religions of the Hindus and Buddhists and others, all lead to the same center. The answer lies in finding a path that speaks to the individual.
On the journey to peace, challenges to society’s and religions established beliefs may arise. Facing those challenges, and testing established beliefs, is seldom easy. It takes courage to look within and remove old beliefs and road blocks. At one time Galileo was imprisoned and censored by the Roman Catholic Church because he taught that the earth was not the center of the universe. Science later proved him right, but that didn’t prevent his challenge, that of staying true to his belief in the face of his punishment. He would not recant.
If you were brought up in a conservative Christian religion, as I was, you will fear looking within for you have been taught that you were born in sin and are somehow tainted. Thus, you may have an unconscious anxiety over trusting yourself. Should this be the case, the measuring stick for evaluating your experiences is summed up in Jesus’ teaching parable of “the good tree bearing good fruit.” (Matthew 7).
You don’t have to be religious in the sense of organized religion to find a path of peace. Many find it in nature or in the older, more ancient practices. Whatever method is attempted, review and evaluate the experiences, the results will speak for themselves. Keeping a journal is a valuable tool. Learning to relax and quiet your mind will be of value. It can be done as a deliberate meditation, but valuable experience in this area often arises while weeding a garden, taking a bath, scrubbing the kitchen floor, or simply listening to relaxing music.
If you are ready to explore, there are many excellent books on the market. Here is a beginning list. Pick one or more to include in your summer reading.
A Religion of One’s Own: A Guide to Creating a Personal Spirituality in a Secular World by Thomas Moore.
Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda
Entering the Circle: The secrets of ancient Siberian wisdom discovered by a Russian psychiatrist by Olga Kharitidi
Love Without End by Glenda Green, (Roman Catholic)
The Re-Enchantment – A Shamanic Path to a Life of Wonder by Hank Wesselman, PhD
The Four Insights: Wisdom, Power & Grace of the Earthkeepers, by Alberto Villoldo, Ph.D. (shamanism)
Transform Your Life by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso (Buddhism)
72 Names of God -Kabala (Jewish) lovely meditation tool
Love Poems from God, translated by Daniel Ladinsky (12 voices from different religious paths)