This week as we focus on replacing fear with love, we’ll begin with an important distinction between healthy fear and the fear that keeps us stuck in unhappiness. Healthy fear is an instinctual response rooted in our drive for self-preservation. It’s the biological warning system that is automatically triggered when we hear the rustle of a potential predator in a dark forest or alley. It increases our sensory alertness and releases a host of biochemical changes that prepares the bodymind to fight, flee, or “befriend.”
The second kind of fear, which we could call “unhealthy fear,” stems from our ego’s sense of separation. Not realizing that it is an inextricable part of the universe, the ego feels vulnerable and constantly struggles to survive in what it perceives as a hostile world. This is why the ancient sages of India taught that fear is born of duality. When human beings think they are separate from the universe, spirit, God, or whatever name you prefer for this infinite field of pure potentiality, they immediately become afraid of what might happen to them.
At bottom, the reason why we’re scared of rejection, failure, intimacy, embarrassment, abandonment, loss, the unknown, being judged, being alone, losing control, expressing our true feelings, and so many other things is that we’ve mistakenly identified ourselves with our limited ego self. When we know ourselves to be one with the ground of all existence, then nothing is separate or foreign to our nature and all of our unhealthy fears dissolve. This week’s lesson is dedicated to gently releasing the grip of our ego’s fears – and expanding our awareness of our true nature, which is infinite, whole, and unbounded.
Cultivating Your Intentions
Just for a moment, ask yourself,What would I be afraid of if I didn’t have a past? The answer is evident: nothing. Fear is the product of memory, which dwells in the past. Remembering what hurt us before, we put our energy into making certain that an old hurt will not repeat itself. For instance, if we experience a wrenching break-up or someone betrays our trust, we may become fearful of being open and intimate in our relationships. We may do almost anything to avoid another painful experience of rejection or betrayal. But trying to impose the past on the present will never eliminate the threat of being hurt. That happens only when we find the security of our own being, which is love. Motivated by the truth within, we can face any threat because our inner strength is invulnerable to fear.
Keep in mind that moving from fear to love is most often a gradual process of remembering and forgetting and then remembering again. For a few moments, a few days, or longer, we remember that who we really are is love. Then some old conditioning reasserts itself, we forget who we are, and we find ourselves immersed in anxious thoughts about the future. As you go through these natural cycles, a technique from meditation is invaluable: As soon as you’re aware that you’re acting from fear or telling yourself stories about the future that create feelings of anxiety, simply notice what you’re doing, without judging yourself or getting caught up in yet another round of stories. There’s no need to force or concentrate. Just observe yourself. See yourself, notice what your body and breath are doing, watch your behavior, hear your tone of voice − all of it. Then ask yourself, Who is it that is observing all this? That is your core self, your quiet center that exists outside of and independent of your fear.
Shift your center of identity to your authentic self, and from that place you can be with the fear without being in its grip. The fear then is only a disturbance within your larger field. This settled presence of your awareness allows the fear to be dissipated and resolved in the context of your love and acceptance. One day you will have eliminated all illusions and barriers to your awareness of your connection to spirit, but in the meantime, you have a way to deal with the doubts and fears that come along.
Releasing Fear and Addiction
At the root of every non-nourishing behavior is a desire to fill unmet needs for security, comfort, self-esteem, and love. Yet acting out a pattern of addiction or compulsion will never fulfill our deepest needs because this behavior is driven by our limited ego self, which is fundamentally fearful and insecure. In today’s meditation led by Nirmala Raniga, we will begin to release the fear and negative patterns in our lives as we tap into our own inexhaustible source of true peace, fulfillment, and love.
Nirmala Raniga is an addiction specialist and the founder of the Chopra Addiction and Wellness Center, a unique residential addiction recovery treatment center in Squamish Valley, B.C., Canada. In partnership with the Chopra Center for Wellbeing, the Chopra Addiction Center offers integrative mind-body recovery programs that combine modern Western medicine with Eastern healing traditions.
Consciousness In Motion
Say Yes to Change
One of the most pervasive fears is the fear of change, yet often it is not the change itself that we fear, but the fear that we will have to adapt our rigid sense of self to a new set of circumstances. We lock into an identity that defines us – married or single, rich or poor, young or old − and we view with suspicion any change that threatens that identity. Change can also make us feel out of control, helpless, and at the mercy of chaos.
Although we can’t stop the cycles of change from turning, we can learn to see change as friend rather than foe. One way of doing that is practicing seeing the possibilities in whatever happens, even if the situation seems dire. It means a willingness to take a deep look into whatever arises, even a sense of disappointment or loss. As the Sufi poet Rumi describes with heart-opening clarity, “Every need brings in what’s needed. Pain bears its cure like a child.”
If you don’t get what you expected, look at what happened and ask yourself,Where is the gift in what I’ve received? How can I transform this situation into an opportunity to learn? In this approach, change is accepted, not denied. A sense of spaciousness enters in.
On a profound level, every event in life has two possible causes. Either what happens is positive, or it is bringing up something you need to learn in order to create something positive. It’s the same with the body. What happens inside a cell is either healthy activity or a sign that a correction is needed. Although life can seem random, in fact everything is pointing to a greater good. Evolution is not a win-lose crapshoot, but a win-win journey to transformation.
Even when we succumb to the idea that life is unfairly arbitrary, the underlying principles of consciousness hold true. Change can be seen as the self-correcting mechanism that aligns us with our purpose in life. If we can bring ourselves − a leap of courage − to embrace change as our true teacher, our life hugely expands. We don’t try so hard to hold on to what we have, but learn daily to let go of the subtle attachments that creep into our minds. We find our own rhythm in the cycle of change: the expansion and the contraction, the light and the dark. Accepting change is the antidote to suffering. In order to find peace, we need to allow things to be in a constant state of flux.