“Fear is the cheapest room in the house, I would like to see you living in better conditions.” -Hafiz
Fear can at times be a constant companion, especially during times of transition and challenge.
So do we stand up to the fear? Drive it out? Or do we allow it to be there?
It depends. We don’t want fear to govern our lives. We also don’t want to stay in a harmful circumstance, fear has its place when in immediate danger. When I talk about fear here, I am referring to an indwelling fear that keeps us reactive in our daily lives. We all need courage, but sometimes we need to allow for what is here to stop a pattern of fear and reaction to life.
Fear has a very clear physiological response in the body: stress hormones go up, eyes become dilated and muscles become tense in preparation for escape. This response or “fight or flight” is how we are hardwired or said another way, how our bodies have evolved over millenia to adapt to large beasts and other things that may attack and/or maim us. Most of us no longer have this burden of being chased by wild animals, instead we have the burden of our minds that keep us jailed to reaction and fear. External technology has evolved but our internal technology has lagged behind in caveman times.
Over time, chronic fear causes adaptation in the body resulting in diabetes, heart disease, depression and anxiety, and for some post traumatic stress disorder.
To work with fear, mindfulness trainings and other presence based modalities all emphasize working with the sensation of the body. The assumption here is that you have gotten yourself to safety, and are in a place where the person can start to learn to sense deeply into their body.
But for many people getting to sensation, even if they can name it, can be painful and impossible at best. This is where “heart practice” comes in. When I say this, I mean remembering a moment when you felt the most loved. Not the moment when you felt most loved by the person that also violated you, but a non triggering time when you felt warmth in your heart or even a kindness. Having a focused meditation with a sensation at the heart can help in the early stages of learning to work with fear.
And just to note, even heart practice can be difficult…in myself and others I have found that when a feeling of love feels non existent, to call upon a “larger source” you believe in can help: Going out in nature and focusing on allowing for the rhythm and feel of the trees, water and air to touch your heart…asking for God or angels or an enlightened being to give to your heart…just asking for your heart to be filled with love. Faith and the practice of filling the heart can do wonders to balance fear in any situation. Over time this feeling of love can be extended and expanded to sensation in the body, and the practice of metta or loving kindness where a person extends love to others.
Here is an example of a short heart meditation…
May you in your day have the fullness of your heart and peace within.