There’s too much fear and fighting going on in the world, between ISIS, Ebola, violent assaults and rape. We may feel completely powerless, unable to help, but perhaps the greatest thing we can do is to make friends with our own fear rather than blaming others.
We will always blame and condemn those we feel are responsible for wars and social injustice, without recognizing the degree of violence in ourselves. We must work on ourselves as well as with those we condemn if we wish to move towards peace. — Thich Nhat Hanh, nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King Jr.
Fear takes us out of the present moment and throws us into either the past or the future; it can paralyze and leave us unable to move. When fear is in control we become irrational, resistant to change and spontaneity; we get angry, defensive, hidden behind self-constructed walls of protection, which reinforces separateness, isolation and enmity. Fear makes us cling to the known while rejecting anything unknown. Unacknowledged, it can wreck havoc in our own lives and in the world around us, as seen in terrorist attacks, fighting, or forceful and abusive behavior.
As long as we push away, deny, or ignore fear, it will hold us captive, keeping us emotionally frozen.
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself – President Franklin D Roosevelt in his first inaugural address
However, we can turn fear around and face it, get to know it, and release resistance to it. When we acknowledge and take responsibility for our own fearful and aggressive tendencies, when we see that the enemy within is actually more harmful than the enemy without, then we have the ability to change not only our own lives but the world as well. Fearlessness is not a state of being without fear. Rather, it is the experience of fully feeling the fear, naming it, and getting to know it.
Letting fear in and making friends with it does not necessarily come easily; fear is a powerful feeling that demands understanding and patience, but by recognizing fear when it arises and just being with it, rather than reacting to it, we reduce its power. Attempting to stop or repress fear will create further resistance and tension.
If fear is rising, we can use the breath to keep open, breathing consciously into our heart area while naming the fear as fear. Say it softly. Watch what happens to the body as fear tries to take hold. Fear comes—we can breathe and let go. Fear comes—we can see how the mind needs reassurance and tenderness. As long as we keep the body open and stay in a place of complete acceptance, it will be very hard for fear to establish itself.
Practice Meditation: Meet and Know Your Fear
Sitting quietly, breathing gently, staying open, name the fear.
Keep breathing gently, with the emphasis on the out breath.
Now go underneath or behind or into the center of the fear to find its source.
There may be sadness, loss, inadequacy, and tenderness there.
Keep going deeper, just watching and releasing.
As you do this, so fear will begin to move through you without stopping, without landing.
You will be able to see it, know it, and keep going beyond it.