“Being present to what is is the prelude to its disappearance.”
If you look into the heart of fear, what do you find? Nothing.
Fear: it’s a word, a set of letters that we agree has a certain meaning. It’s a label for physical agitation in your body and a way of thinking that distorts things to look negative, pessimistic, and hopeless.
But what is it really? Nothing more than a belief, something we take to be true, an unquestioned emotion that dampens our enthusiasm.
Here’s what I wish you knew about fear: that it is absolutely possible to live in this world without being driven by it. How do I know? I’ve experienced a lot of fear, and I’ve seen through to the truth of it.
Not Driven by Fear
Notice I didn’t say we could live without fear. Fear may arise—it’s a normal experience in the human body, but it doesn’t have to be a problem. You get to the point where you’re not driven by it, you’re not interested in it, and it doesn’t touch your wisdom and clarity.
If you see it clearly for what it actually is, shining the laser light of conscious awareness directly on it, it falls apart and stops affecting you.
Whenever I think I might be afraid of something (which hardly happens anymore), I question what I’m experiencing, and the fear slips away, like sand through my fingers. I don’t attach any meaning to it, so it completely loses its power.
The Power of Fear
Fear creates all kinds of chaos when we buy into it. We’re afraid to be alone, afraid of not having enough money, afraid of getting too close to people, afraid of failing (or succeeding), afraid the truth about ourselves will be exposed, afraid of stepping outside of our comfort zone, afraid of death.
It’s at the root of procrastination, addiction, compulsive behavior, neediness, clinging, inadequacy, guilt, and envy. Not to mention prejudice, hate, wars, and violence of all kinds.
Fear divides, separates, and alienates. It conceals love, which is the essential fabric of everything. It makes us feel like we’re half-alive, hitting walls everywhere as we bumble through life. We miss out on the juice of actually living.
When we live in fear, we’re caught in tunnel vision. And we overlook the actual reality of who we are. Who you are is not this fearful, limited being cowering in the face of life, although you may be a master at playing that role.
When you see what fear is and it falls away, this becomes clear: you are luminous, already fulfilled, naturally loving, effortlessly grateful. This is you in this very moment!
I invite you to not take fear for granted. Don’t be resigned to a life ruled by fear—it’s optional, it’s a choice, and it doesn’t have to be your reality.
How to see through fear? Rather than run from it, question it. Take a moment when you are experiencing fear, and be willing to investigate it to see what is actually happening.
Don’t assume that what I’m offering here is true. Follow through on your own with these inquiry processes about thoughts and feelings. Then you will directly see through the fallacy of fear in your own experience. You will know it to be false.
Inquire: What thoughts are present?
Notice that the content of fearful thoughts is negative and limiting. They are pure imagination: imagining that an undesired outcome will happen in the future, imagining that you are perceiving a person or situation correctly, when you’re not. They close you down to the truth.
What is the truth? You don’t know what will happen. Whatever the thoughts say is one of an infinite number of possibilities. Isn’t it just as likely that something amazing could happen? Or something mildly pleasant, or neutral? Isn’t it possible that your view of the person or situation is just plain wrong?
Fearful thoughts expect the worst. Realize that this is fear-fueled, distorted mind and not true reality. To say it simply: don’t believe them. Instead, say, “I don’t know what will happen.” Or “What is really going on here?” Don’t listen to your mind. Be so incredibly open to every possibility.
When fearful thoughts arise, take a breath. Say, “Wait a minute.” Be still for a moment. Stop going headlong into this familiar way of being. Then shine the light of presence on your experience to see what is true. Abandon the false ideas of fear. They don’t accurately describe you, others, or the future.
Embrace what you actually know to be true—your present moment experience right now. You don’t have to be attached to what you think will happen in the future and run your whole life around it. It’s just not logical. Because you can’t know it anyway.
If you are awake to your life as it unfolds, you can trust that you will know exactly what you need to know. It is revealed in the moment. This is a fact.
Inquire: What feelings are present?
We call fear an emotion. What exactly is the experience of feeling afraid?
Move your attention away from it to observe. And when you do, you notice how much the experience of fear is physical. When you name your experience as fear, there are lots of sensations in the body—vibration, fluttery feelings, tightening, contraction, nausea. These sensations can be very uncomfortable and difficult to tolerate.
What else is present? Thoughts about fear—and all of them are distorted. Like we saw above, they are really like a horror show, making you think negatively, and incorrectly, about yourself, others, and the world.
If you lose interest in these thoughts, what remains? Physical sensations. They may be strong, but do they have any inherent meaning? No. Just the experience of sensations coming and going through you.
It’s so simple: welcome these sensations as they are. Don’t create stories about them or make them into something they’re not. They are only physical sensations.
When you realize they are present and you stop ignoring them, you are simply here with your experience. Where’s the problem now?
Good for you…you have untangled fear! You can see it for what it actually is: physical sensations and distorted thoughts. Now that all of this is conscious to you, can you see any reason to let fear rule?
If fear has been your companion for a long time, you may by now define yourself by it. But it is not who you are.
Without the identity of fear, who are you? What do you do? How do you function?
By focusing on fear, you overlook so much. Once released from seeing through the limiting eyes of fear, everything is fresh and new. How your body feels, the choices you make, how you relate to others—the possibilities are infinite.
Without fear, the feeling of separation from yourself and the world falls away. You are open, available to what life offers, primed to say “Yes!” rather than that old familiar “no.” You are released from the bondage of fear. Blinders off, you are peaceful and calm. Anything is possible.
What About You?
So now you know what I wish you knew about fear. And I hand the baton to you. Will you apply this knowledge to your own experience? Are you struggling? Have you seen through to the truth of fear? Please feel free to share in the comments. I’d love to hear…