What is Fear?
By Gina Shaw
I woke this morning to take my families wonderful and affectionate dog out for his routine run around the front yard. His excitement rose as I unlocked the door, the anticipation of the familiar sound almost too much for his little body to handle. With a quick release of the door handle he snaked himself outside, ready to engage the world with a playful curiosity. I often find his enthusiasm for the present moment refreshing, gently reminding myself that it is in things such as the simple pleasures of a morning routine that comfort and peacefulness may arise. Just as he had made his first lap around the perimeter of the fence, an unexpected clap of thunder shook the ground. A quick and fleeting sense of fear touched my heart being caught off guard, but quickly attaching the concept of ‘thunder’ to the intimidating noise was I settled once more. However, our poor dog was unable comprehend such an ambiguous and daunting sound that he quickly scurried to the porch, the look on his face begging to be let inside. Shaking uncontrollably, he climbed into my lap so feverishly it took me fifteen minutes to soothe his fear enough to slip out from underneath him.
While it isn’t difficult to dissolve the fear of something one can easily make sense of such as the sound of thunder, this experience left me contemplating the nature of fear, how it arises within and how sometimes we find ourselves feeding its fire when we can’t find clarity in its existence. For a being who does not necessarily have a conscious awareness of the cause and effect relationship of feeling and thought, our dog was fully immersed in his experience; fully consumed by his emotion.
I felt my heart go out to him in his terror and saw that he too, has the same suffering we all have. The suffering that occurs when we find ourselves wrapped up in a particular emotion, or thought pattern, unable to make sense of it.
Fear and anger are good emotions to observe because of their intense nature. We become anxious over deadlines and expectations, judgment and failure. We become angry when we feel we have been ignored and misunderstood, when we experience loss and injustice. These are inevitably part of our experience, yet what do we do to dismantle these unfavorable thoughts, pacify their unforgiving currents? Do we feed into the experience like my poor dog found himself in? Or are we able to create awareness around these feelings, understanding them and bringing clarity to the workings of our minds.
Our minds are deeply intelligent and powerful entities yet often quite unruly. We see the value of a clean space to live in and recognize the benefit of harmony and order in our external world, yet we find it difficult to clean the spaces of the mind and bring order and peace to its chaotic ways.
To rise and fall, all things have their time to exist and fall away. The body comes into the world and inevitably decays. All life is subject to this pattern of birth, death and rebirth. The chant sa ta na ma, represents these patterns; sa, Infinity, totality of the Cosmos, ta, life (birth of form from the Infinity), na, death (or transformation), ma, rebirth. We cannot escape the natural fluctuations of these experiences but we do have a say in how we interact with them. Are we dropping our fear or holding onto it? Are we continuing to give these emotions purpose or do we see their inherent impermanence?
Kundalini yoga approaches these concepts by cultivating our three minds; the positive, negative and neutral. They all serve in valuable ways and are needed to cultivate proper training and a wholesome relationship with the mind. In this way, we are able to take our anger and look at it authentically; see where the thoughts of resentment and injustice may very well exist from the protective negative mind, but use the positive mind to rationalize whether or not a sense of defensiveness it truly needed. Our neutral mind has the ability to see both positive and negative, two sides of the same coin. With this objective awareness, we drop the fear, anger or jealously that does not serve us. We see if for what it really is and no longer feed fuel to its fire.
Our mind is the greatest tool we have and we can be at a loss when we feel we need to challenge thoughts we don’t like, the behaviors that we wish we would stop engaging in. To train the mind is to become friends with its ways, to assess the way it functions and find clarity in each moment of sadness, fear or anger.
Yogi Bhajan said, “Your mind is your projection. Your mind is not your confrontation. When you get mad, that is the time to remember this. Every problem in life, spiritual and non-spiritual, starts when you confront your own mind. If your mind is with you, it acts as your leverage, it is your powerful friend. Then you can confront the whole world. Man jeetai jag jeet—one who conquers his mind has victory over the entire world.”
Sat Nam and many blessings.