The Absurdity of Fear
Overcoming Fear with Mindfulness
Fear can be rational and is, at times, necessary and important. And yet, it can be totally and completely irrational. These days, a lot of the time it is unnecessary and harmful. Differentiating between the two is about as helpful and important to our health and the health of all of our relationships, including the relationship we have with Mother Earth, as anything could be. Fear most likely exists as a survival response to danger; our most basic need is survival. Without surviving, there is nothing else. It may be our most important emotion (if that’s what it actually is). Even though survival and physical danger are pretty much a non-issue for most of us in our daily lives, fear in its pure form (of being scared shitless), or in the form of worry and anxiety, is all too common. Unwittingly, fear is the driving factor, guiding our lives in so many of our desires, choices, and decisions. Fear affects body image and can poison the relationship we have with ourselves. Fear can prevent us from seeing our own beauty and looking positively at our life and the challenges that are shaping us and strengthening us! Fear can dictate the way we dress or the job we want or have. Fear steers decisions like the friendships you choose. In the form of jealousy, fear can affect your relationships, and in the form of anxiety, it can affect your health and making clear decisions, and your parenting which obviously affects our children. In other words, fear is a real Motherfucker! I hope you’re not scared of that word. My guess is, fear is responsible for at least 80% of the negative news stories, and fear is why the media focuses on the negative (they’re scared of not getting good ratings). Government parties acting out of fear dictate policy decisions, corporations (and CEOs) acting out of fear (of the bottom line and job security) dictate quality decisions, and businesses acting out of fear dictate marketing decisions, location decisions, and employee pay and policy decisions. This is the biggest problem with capitalism. Its ideas and benevolent intentions are tainted by the fearful folks who are so scared that they don’t have enough, rationalizing toxic behavior and harmful shortcuts, because as my dad used to say, you can rationalize anything.
Most fears (not all) are learned behaviors passed to us by our parents and culture. Fears inhibit the actualization of our deepest desires of contentment and our Judeo-Christian values “do not judge” and “Ten Commandments,“ as well as actualizing our American Declaration of Independence ideals of equality. To live Jesus’s teachings, I need to transcend my fears; to adhere to the Ten Commandments, I need to face my fears. Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi risked their life (faced fear), as well as Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandela all demonstrated and propagated not a fearless existence, but an existence that was dominated by benevolence instead of malevolence (fear). Mohammad Ali was the greatest boxer of all time (sorry Floyd), yet his greatest act was outside the ring, his willingness to sacrifice all and go to prison for his beliefs. What we see in the news and what we disdain and detest most, is simply a reflection of the fear within us. Remember, “let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”
Incessant fear was a necessity for the Neanderthal. The problem for the Neanderthal was they didn’t have enough. They didn’t have enough food, warmth, and safety. Cold, hunger, and lack of safety were a constant threat! Now it’s the opposite, now we have too much. Our houses are too big and we eat too much etc.! Global warming due to energy consumption, and obesity and its by-products diabetes, and heart disease, are some of our greatest environmental and physical concerns. Fear was the absolutely most necessary mental state for the survival of our species. Now it’s our most unnecessary; our intellect has evolved, yet our emotions have not. The scariest thing to the Neanderthal was to be kicked out of the tribe. The tribe was necessary for survival, as each tribe member had a job, and not one person could do it all. So, our genetic memory makes standing out and possibly being criticized and ostracized really fucking scary for us. Risking monetary and social status (neither of which brings happiness or health), those things our culture values most of all is super scary. Each great being listed above were either ostracized or murdered. Just as fear was once a necessity for survival, now it is our greatest detriment to survival. The bombs and global warming have their roots in fear and greed (fear). Fear and greed have their roots in ignorance. Ignorance, because our safety is not an issue as it once was. The goal of yoga is enlightenment; this means “to see,” to “be aware,” which is the opposite of ignorance. The reason for this is that you cannot steer yourself away from fear if you are not aware that it’s got a hold of you! Awareness creates choice, and choice allows us to become the captain of our own ship!
What to do about all this? For this, I will quote Mahatma Gandhi: “Be the change you want to see,” because it will not shift in the world if it does not shift within me! It’s hard to make this shift alone, but don’t worry, we got your back. You could interpret the great law of attraction that states “like attracts like” to mean that you draw to you that of which you are. This means you are responsible for all that you see and experience. It is all a reflection of our mental state, and we will not see a shift on this planet until we shift our minds. This is most likely why every great person to ever walk on Planet Earth said, strengthen the benevolent qualities of your mind. Jesus said “non-judgment,” Buddha “moderation,” Gandhi “non-violence,” Mother Teresa demonstrated “compassion.” They never said stretch your hamstrings, analyze your alignment and cultivate a six-pack (none of that has anything to do with health). This is why when you travel to India, the motherland of yoga, 99.9% of all yoga does not include physicality; it’s all about devotional practices and meditation. In other words, practices that affect your mentality! Now we live in a culture where most everyone is running around like a chicken with its head chopped off, trying to accumulate more (money, materialism, and social status), trying to fill a hole that’s not even there, yet we have been convinced it is thereby the marketing gurus that care more about us buying their products than actually being healthy and well. Psychological law states “the more you see something, the more you believe it.“ We call it the rat race and do not like it, but no one knows how to get out of it. The yogi sees through this “Maya” (illusion) and will not partake. Yet in not partaking, you will stand out, and that can be scary. But fear not, you do have a culture that will support you! Just visit poweryoga.com; our classes, events, training, blogs, and community are here to support you. Why else would we have founded donation yoga here in the Western world? Now you can develop a yoga practice that was created for wellness. Created to nourish benevolence and health. A practice-based on feeling good. The tone and shapeliness you get from these exercises is a by-product; the goal here is balance and healing. It isn’t easy, but it’s very sweet! It is not easy standing out and being alone, but remember, like attracts like, and it will not be too long before your new community finds you.
Much Love and hope sincerely,
P.S. Here’s an initial exercise to get things rolling in a benevolent direction: Next time you feel scared, in any form (jealousy, anxiety, fear, etc...), maybe your boyfriend is talking to another girl or your child might not get selected for something they want, or an employee may want to leave you and take their/your clients with them to another employer or maybe you cannot pay your bills, etc. Stop for a few moments and take 10 deep breaths. This can be calming and the time that those breaths take may lend some perspective. Maintain your integrity. Be honest with yourself that you are scared, and be honest with those involved. Without truth, there is no chance to transcend the situation. You may feel vulnerable, but that’s because you are. You are simply being honest. Do not allow your fear to rationalize why it is okay to sacrifice your integrity. Remind yourself that challenges exist to facilitate growth and are unavoidable. Remind yourself that no situation can hurt you, only strengthen you. Remind yourself that if you sacrifice your integrity by lying, cheating, stealing, being manipulative, or controlling to protect yourself from feeling afraid, then you can never expect to conquer your fear or shift towards healing. You may also start to understand and see why others sacrifice their integrity (empathy), because they too are scared (this could lead towards compassion), and they are acting to protect themselves from what is scaring them instead of facing their fear. When all is said and done, you will notice your fears are gone, and all is well.
I will end this blog with a little story:
One day after a really deep yoga class, I was mopping the yoga studio floor, and I heard a terrifying scream. I ran outside to find one of my students who must have left my class so stoned on oxygen that they did not see the open manhole on the sidewalk, and they actually fell into it. Somehow this guy had managed to pull himself out and he was lying on the sidewalk next to the manhole, and when I got to him, I had noticed his lower leg was broken so bad, the shinbone was cracked in half and had busted out of the skin and was sticking up in the air. I ran up to him as he was screaming and I cradled his head in my arms, and I told him to breathe. I reminded him that this is a difficult situation but it’s perfect, and this situation is an opportunity for him to be less reactive and more accepting. He looked at me like I was crazy; he said, what do you mean this is fucking perfect do you not see my leg? I said to him that this situation is what we have been practicing for in our yoga class (yoga practice), to face the difficult moments in our life less reactively, this is the real-life situation we have been practicing for. Again, he looked at me like I was crazy, as if it would be wrong for him to be less reactive and dramatic and it would be wrong for him to try to stay calm in this incredibly difficult situation and actually trust that this incident is a perfect part of his human experience. This mind state could reduce the intensity of the situation and put a positive spin on things. Well the ambulance arrived and I climbed into it with him and we drove to the hospital. He was removed from the ambulance and wheeled away. To make a long story short, the doctor who treated him became his wife, and ultimately, he became incredibly thankful for this injury, as something incredibly beautiful had blossomed from this incredible challenge. Yet this man was a very jealous person and eventually, his wife left him, and when I saw him in class, he was so very sad. I asked him what was wrong, and he told me his wife had left him, and I gave him a hug and told him to breathe and this too is perfect. Again, he looked at me like I was crazy, he said to me, she is the love of my life and she is leaving, how can this be perfect? I said, I do not know how it is perfect, but I know that challenges are necessary and important and are given to us for our growth. Again, he did not seem to understand. But he was a smart man and he knew that his wife left him because of his jealousy, and he worked on himself to free himself from his fear and jealousy, and eventually, he met another woman and they married, they had children, and they have been together happily since, and now every day he is thankful for his first wife and that divorce, as it has brought him into the situation he has now.