Lately, does it seem like we live on Planet Fear instead of Planet Earth? Do you feel consumed by fears of survival? Are you desperate to find some way to overcome fear?
I don’t think anyone would argue that we’re living in extreme times. Things are not only changing faster, it often seems like there’s more madness in the world as well. Institutions that once supported civilized living are failing. Greed and self-interest predominates in leadership. There is overwhelm for so many trying to keep their heads above water in a rigged system. If one focuses on the daily news pushed like a drug over the airwaves, hopelessness, confusion and fear can ensue. This is no joke. We’re in a fight for our sanity and discernment.
One of the greatest teachings I ever received that is coming in very handy now more than ever is recognition of the moment. We hear it often enough…the call to be “in the now” from the likes of Eckhart Tolle and Ram Das. But what does it have to do with feelings of fear? And how can we practice it? I share with you here four steps to overcoming fear, a bit of selfcare that can totally change the game.
1) Notice Fear Arising
The first hurtle is noticing when fear is arising. Literally millions of people have no idea how deeply fear is impacting their lives; they might even deny that they feel any. But if one looks, fear might start with a tightness in the belly, or a catching of the breath, or perhaps a shorter temper or growing defensiveness after watching some news story or being in conflict with someone or some situation in your life. The contraction is a signal that you’re lost in your mind and out of the moment, living in some imaginary scenario or illusive future. This is a giant step, make no mistake. Often, once taken, it may seem that fear is always arising. Don’t judge. You’re just finally seeing it, and that’s huge. That’s you taking the first step in to your power over fear.
2) Turn Away
Now that you see it, if something is provoking fear in you, turn away from it. We often hear the advice to face our fears, but this is a different approach with a similar result. Unless your life is in actual immediate danger, shift your focus back to this moment. Breathe. Look at the trees. Smell the fresh air. Feel your heart beating. That’s what’s real. That’s your life. Right there. Everything and anything else is no more substantial than a dream or desert mirage. It doesn’t matter how personal something might feel. If it isn’t an immediate threat, turn away from it. Look at something right in front of you. Move your eyes around the room. Feel your body. Feel your feet. Sing a song. Or get up and do something…take out the trash. Bake something. Go for a walk. Short circuit the habit of fear. Be ruthless with it and build the muscle that can free you from fear.
It’s no good if we try to turn to such a practice only when we need it. It’s called a practice for a reason, after all. We need to have some skill with it under our belts in order for it to function when we are facing a challenge. So make it a daily practice of being in the moment in whatever way works for you. For example, I sit every night before bed. I allow the day to dissolve, noticing places where I might still feel attachment or aversion, and I cut those cords. I breathe and remind myself, “This is all there is. This is the only moment.” And more and more, it is becoming a spontaneous awareness throughout the day. It brings a huge wave of relief with it every time. It is easier and easier to catch the seeds of fear and to starve those seeds of my attention. And that brings other gifts…patience, tolerance, compassion, and understanding. Perhaps most importantly, it provides the space necessary to discern in today’s topsy-turvy world in which everything operates as a distraction to what’s real.
4) Don’t Tempt Fear
Finally, if you find that watching the news or skimming social media or other activities provoke fear, why indulge? Why feed the monster? What on earth could exist in you that would want that? It’s an honest question worth asking yourself. Don’t be satisfied with the first answer that may come. Keep digging. Fear has very deep roots in human psychology, in propaganda, in advertising, and in so much of our daily lives. Get curious about why that is and who it serves. Pull back the curtain and free yourself through your inquiry.
And for anyone who is really hard core with their practices, you might want to read this post, Insights from Dorje Drolo: A Practice for Our Times for further inspiration in working with fear.