“And if it is a despot you would dethrone, see first that his throne erected within you is destroyed.
For how can a tyrant rule the free and the proud, but for a tyranny in their own freedom and a shame in their own pride?
And if it is a fear you would dispel, the seat of that fear is in your heart and not in the hand of the feared.”
~ From “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran, on Freedom
From media to government, from military to medicine, fear is being dished up to us for breakfast, lunch and dinner, including snacks. And how did it get this way? Partly through our own collective abdication of responsibility as a society. For every fear that has come our way through the years, we look to authority figures in government, military or corporations to solve it for us, to keep us “safe”. So we in part have created a system that now wishes to seize complete power and take care of us as it sees fit, ostensibly “for our own good” but actually more for the good of the corporate coffers. One of the first steps to solving any problem is taking responsibility for helping to create it in the first place. We are facing, with the swine flu situation and much more, losing our right to choose how we would like to care for ourselves. To many of the things we now face that are frightening, we must simply, as a collective voice, say “No!”
It is hard to take effective action while in the grip of fear. So first to deal with the fear.
Fear works us up, stresses us out and exhausts us. We become hyper-vigilant, trying to foresee or predict our future and plan for multiple contingencies. Adrenal exhaustion becomes a way of life, and our bodies become depleted of serotonin, running on too much cortisol until it becomes a chronic condition. Our immune system suffers. We become run down. And yet fear continues to barrage us in more and more areas of our lives.
This takes on even more of an impact if you are one of a growing majority who are seeing the deliberate dumbing down of people across societies, beginning in schools. More and more transparent are the smoke and mirror ploys of government, military and corporate machinations of using everyday common people to make themselves rich and powerful, from wars on terror to now trying to force [dangerous] swine flu vaccinations on a protesting and resisting public. We become even more wary and hyper-vigilant of our own government, working to protect ourselves from those who are supposed to serve us and our best interests.
The only real moment is the present one we are in, moment to moment. But most of the time, fear requires that we live in the past or the future. In the past, reviewing and reliving what has happened to us at some time, our minds cast about for some plan, some strategy to protect us from it in the future. In the future, the imagination takes over, fed by the scary scenarios being spun out all around us, on television, radio or the internet, and the reaction is the same – planning how we might protect ourselves from catastrophe. But if the only moment that is real is the present moment, all the time spent ruminating on past/future takes us mentally out of the present moment, while our bodies in that present moment are subjected to the damaging results of fear.
Deepak Chopra once cited of a study done on neuropeptides generated in the body simply by groups of people who watched two specially selected movies, then they measured the neuropeptide results in each group. One test movie was The Sound of Music; inspirational, showing people caring for each other, triumphing over adversity. On the negative side the movie used was The Omen, a movie in which terrible things happen through an evil child, who lives on at the end to go on wreaking more devastation. In each case, the different neuropeptides generated by each film stayed in the bodies of the movie watchers for about one month. But the effects were vastly different. For the frightening film, the neuropeptides were destructive within the body, lowering immune response, increasing the effects of free radicals on the various body systems, affecting moods adversely. With the inspirational film, the neuropeptides generated had the opposite effect, aiding in moods of hope, happiness, peace and contentment and the immune system was enhanced and strengthened, and other body systems functioned in a more optimal manner.
When we look at all the images, words and sounds we take in each day, including our own thoughts and feelings, even what we dream at night – all having an effect on our bodies biochemically, the importance of keeping our thoughts on positive, inspiring and loving imagery the majority of the time becomes clear.
I’m not saying that you should not pay attention to what is going on around us all in the world. We need to be informed and pay attention, gather data and make the best decisions for ourselves and our families in these trying times that we can. But if it crosses the line over to not being able to let go of it at some point and find relief in more uplifting and relaxing pursuits, then we might be opening ourselves up for the very kinds of things we fear actually happening to us on some level.
We need to remember that the only real moment that counts, is the present moment.
What You Can Do
Nothing can stress us out more than unformed or half-formed fears lurking in the back of our minds that we often make ourselves too busy to identify and deal with. So the first thing to do is identify exactly what you are afraid of, and it can be one thing or several. Write these things down and know exactly what it is that you’re afraid of or worried about.
The next step is to face each fear on the mental visualization screen of your mind. If this thing that you are afraid of was to happen, just how would you deal with it? How would you respond to it the moment that it happens? How would you like to respond to it? Knowing that many terrible things have happened on this world and people have lived and moved through such things to tell how it was, how might you be able to muster up the courage to take a deep breath, respond to what is happening moment to moment, and move through it? Close your eyes, visualize the feared thing, and see yourself moving through the experience to the other side, in a way that leaves you whole and intact. Do this with each fear you identify. If you can see yourself successfully moving through circumstances that you fear, those fears will lose their power over you.
If it is death you fear, begin to understand that you are not your body, you dwell within your body. It is a sheath, it is not who you are in your essence. Do some reading on near-death experiences (NDEs) and out-of-body experiences (OOBEs) to make this more real for you if you haven’t had such an experience yourself or haven’t really considered it before. While most all of us would like to keep our lives in our bodies, and would avoid dying in every way possible, if it comes it is not the end of us. Our essence, our soul, our spirit is never born, nor does it ever die. We are eternal.
Even suffering can be met and dealt with, because we only have to deal with it one moment at a time. Stories of how people have dealt with suffering and lived, and even been transformed by the experience somehow, are there in those who survived the WWII Nazi concentration camps or other challenging or painful situations, such as Tibetans under the Chinese occupation of their country. Check Amazon, other online booksellers or your local bookstore for books on how others survived and moved through suffering, from the personal to wartime, societal and cultural.
Meditation can help and there are many systems of meditation. One of the best is vipassana meditation because it allows you to develop a good relationship with the inner observer or witness we all have within, that part of our own consciousness connected to the collective and the universal consciousness that is experiencing life through each of us. There are many wonderful “meditations” that guide you through a visualization, or a series of visualizations, and these definitely have their uses, but vipassana empowers you to learn about the inner witness part of yourself by simply observing your relationship to your thoughts and feelings and connecting with that calm inner strength we all possess. Even meditations where you just can’t keep your focus on your breath for the mental chatter are equally valuable learning experiences as you observe how the mind resists calming down and realize that you are not your busy mind, and how much mind is connected to ego. You simply make following your breath the focus of your attention and watch all the thoughts and feelings that arise in the mind and body as you do so, also noticing how much of the material is unreal in that it is past memories and future imaginings. For an excellent audio course in vipassana, Google “The Inner Art of Meditation” by Jack Kornfield for various places to get this audio course online.
Learning to clear and sharpen the mind and body is a pre-requisite to getting in touch with your innate intuitive gifts. Vipassana teachings tend to underplay this, teaching us not to get caught in anything that takes us out of our connection with the meditative state, but our expanded senses are an important part of who and what we are. Developing them is important. These also function best in the present moment, helping us to respond optimally to life as it happens moment to moment.
One of the pitfalls of vipassana, at least for me, was getting caught in “process”… endlessly processing over and over the same emotional, mental or physical material in different ways. One of the 4 Noble Truths of Buddhism is that suffering exists. However, joy also exists and to become caught in endlessly processing different forms of suffering over and over while meditating serves nothing nor anyone. Use it as a tool for becoming quiet and developing the relationship with the inner observer. Once you realize that your mind and your emotions are not who you really are, you are truly empowered with CHOICE about how you will direct your spiritual creative energy and attention.
Read, or listen to on CD or MP3 download, “The Power of Now”, by Eckhart Tolle, again using Google to find the version of your choice. There is a great deal there as well that is useful, spiritual and not attached or connected in any way to any organized spiritual teaching or discipline. It is like distilled essence of spiritual teaching without any fetters of Buddhism or Christianity or other systems.
Use Google to find a copy of the DVD movie, “The Celestine Prophecy”, from the book of the same title by James Redfield. This movie shows us where the current shift and expansion in human consciousness could be taking us. It shows people staying present and using their intuitive faculties in the moment to move through many challenging, even dangerous, situations. The real ability to respond to any situation lies far less in planning and strategies, far more in the ability to stay calm and present, assess situations and take appropriate action in the present moment as it arises.
Developing the ability to tune into yourself as consciousness, sharpening your expanded intuitive senses that can be used to guide you moment to moment is one of the best securities you can provide yourself with in this challenging, chaotic world on the edge of great change. Practice it, learn how to use it and trust it. Learn when the true inner guidance is at work and discern when other voices of desire, or emotions like fear are whispering in your ear. As Yoda told Luke, “You will KNOW when you are quiet.” He also told Luke that “always in motion” is the future. This is because the present moment and how we respond to it determines the future. We want to make the best present moment choices we can, from clear, quiet centeredness enhanced by calm steady full breathing.
Speaking of breathing, breathing is one of the best ways to identify what you are feeling if you have been knocked out of your center and feel out of balance. Short shallow breathing or barely breathing at all usually accompanies feelings of fear and anger. Just as our breathing mirrors our emotional states, choosing to slow and deepen our breathing can alter our emotional states quickly for the better, as well as enhancing optimal body functioning.
Last but not least, taking in so much information each day that our minds perceive as threatening builds up a charge in our bodies, like a human capacitor. To continue allowing that charge to accumulate, without discharging it is harmful in the ways mentioned previously here. Exercise, from aerobic walking or running, dancing to various kinds of music, to weight-lifting can discharge the build up of energy in our bodies. Make your exercise even more powerful by setting the intention to discharge all negative emotional energy as you do it. Exercise is as vital to our mental and emotional health as it is physiologically.
All these strategies are those I used myself to develop my own way of facing fear and moving through it. For many years, I felt that I had a lot to be afraid of and for far too long, I gave my power away to my fears of what would happen to me and kept silent when I could have, and should have been speaking up and out. You can read a brief version of my story here: http://www.ufodigest.com/news/1208/dreamland.html
Pay attention to the world around you. Be informed, and as best as you can, be prepared in the ways you deem necessary. Face your fears and tune your inner witness and intuitive skills. Have the courage to say no to any form of tyranny, because bowing to it and accepting it will only strengthen it and increase it. It’s scary to face and say no to powerful tyranny, but it is necessary and can be done when you have faced all your fears successfully.
Then shift your attention and perspective, seek out and revel in all the wonder and beauty life has to offer in endless way… in the present moment.
(If you would like some help in dealing with fear or other issues, see my “About Body-centered coaching” page for more information. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in a session.)