Change and loss mark life on the physical plane. We will ultimately lose everything, including our loved ones, possessions, and ultimately, the body. At death, we must face the abyss, the infinite unknown. Fear, a natural and intelligent response to these changes, has two key functions. It identifies the nature of the dangers we face, and it helps us fashion the best strategy for survival.
Fear becomes a problem itself, however, if we avoid it. If we run, it takes on a life of its own. Although we may temporarily gain comfort by pushing our fear into the subconscious, it does not remain dormant. Rather, it infuses the conscious mind with fearful fancy, chronic worry, and doubt. It may escalate to panic or terror. Irrational fear ties up energy, impairs judgment, adversely affects health, and obstructs psychological and spiritual growth.
Fear is often difficult to detect: we design all kinds of creative disguises to avoid it. If we dig deep enough, however, we can find our fear hiding behind anger, jealousy, addiction, dependency, self-importance, and rigid beliefs. To master fear, we must first strip it of its many costumes, experience it directly, and face it with courage.
Courage is the bridge between fear and peace. When we courageously work through our fears, new levels of peace and strength slowly emerge. If we face it until it is gone, we eventually reach the grand prize, the fearless peace of the soul.
In ordinary consciousness, we feel insecure, knowing that we can lose what we have at any time. In spiritual consciousness, we feel safe, since there is nothing to lose. The soul is conscious, immortal peace. Nothing can touch the soul. It is eternally protected and safe. With sustained spiritual practice, we can shift from the fear and insecurity of the material plane to the permanent peace of the soul.
The key to maintaining peace is the mind. Everything that happens is perceived by the mind. The mind, in turn, determines the bodyís response. The mind is conditioned to respond to events with fear or tranquility. If the mind reacts with fearful thoughts, the body responds with an elevated heartbeat, sweat, shortness of breath, butterflies in the stomach, dry mouth, and a feeling of impending doom. If the mind stays calm, the body stays relaxed.
By practicing spiritual methods, we can recondition the mind to remain calm in frightening circumstances. Ordinarily we use a small percentage of our concentration, our minds thus remaining susceptible to thoughts of fear and insecurity. A concentrated mind maintains its focus on the peace of the soul, no matter what. In effect, our work is to change thoughts of fear to those of peace by practicing mindfulness, meditation, the presence of God, affirmations, yoga, and other techniques. With sustained practice, the mind remains calm, positive, strong, and focused under all conditions. Eventually, we can achieve the superconscious state of fearless peace.
There are three stages of fear. In stage one, we try to avoid fear. This makes it grow. In stage two, we face all of our fears with courage. Slowly, peace replaces fear. In stage three, we reach the permanent peace of the soul.
Fear is an enemy only if we run and hide. If we ride its waves until they dissipate, it will give us its power. The following process offers a way to help us achieve mastery over our fears:
1. Introspection 2. Spiritual practice 3. Grace 4. Mastery
To gain soul-peace, we need to identify our fear whether it presents itself directly or in disguise. We may experience fear directly as an increase in heart rate, respiratory rate, tremors, butterflies in the stomach, dry mouth, or a feeling of impending doom.
Fear can also manifest indirectly as anger, rigid beliefs, self-importance, domination, aggression, or addiction. To get to deeper states of peace, we need to face these hidden fears. We can start by unmasking our defenses through introspection. Then we are in direct contact with our fear.
To unmask the defenses that cover your fear, retreat to a quiet place. Practice deep breathing and meditation to achieve stillness. Go deep. Ask your subconscious and Higher Power to guide you to your hidden fears. Be patient. Listen for the soft voice within. Let nothing stand in the way of the truth. Eventually, you will realize that fear is hiding behind your many defenses.
2. SPIRITUAL PRACTICE
Fear is a difficult emotion to master, but we can do it. We can become masters of fear if we face it. We must stand our ground, step into the fear, and stare it down. This is difficult, painful, and requires long-term practice. With persistence and perseverance, we can slowly reduce our fears, expand our peace, and eventually reach the permanent peace of the soul. As soon as you become aware of fear, practice one or a combination of the following techniques:
a. Breathe: Practice deep abdominal breathing.
b. Progressive muscle relaxation: We can tense and relax our muscles.
c. Affirmations: We can affirm the existence of the immutable peace of the soul even if we do not feel it. We might also practice affirmations related to strength, courage, heroism, endurance, faith, trust, belief, confidence, power, and immortality.
d. Visualize: We can picture ourselves in fearless peace even as we go through our trial.
e. Mindfulness: Mindfulness practice helps us surrender into the moment, take a stand, and hold our ground. We are awake, aware, and ready for anything. This is the stance of a spiritual warrior.
f. Meditation: In the stillness of deep meditation, the peace of God dissolves all traces of fear.
g. Activities: When afraid, we can distract ourselves by engaging in constructive meaningful activity, such as recreation, socialization, the arts, and hobbies. We can practice these or other methods described in this book in any comfortable combination. We persevere, fight our battle with courage, and do our best. While we do our part, we can get additional help by turning to our Higher Power, a bottomless source of strength. To make contact with our Higher Power, select an image, practice the presence of God, pray, and have faith.
h. Select an image: We can choose an image such as Father, Mother, Buddha, Krishna, Christ, and so on. The image is symbolic of Godís benevolence. We can make our attachment to the image stronger than the fear that confronts us. We can apply all of our will, thought, feeling, and concentration to our image. We hold on to the image as the waves of fear move through our being. If the image is swept away, we bring it back.
i. Practice the presence of God: God is Omnipresent peace. In the face of our fear, we can practice the presence of God as the immutable peace within ourselves. It is there, just underneath the stormy weather.
j. Prayer: We can talk to God and ask for help. We can tell Her that we want to experience the changeless peace of the soul.
k. Faith: We can have faith in the Omnipotent healing power of God. She is there, helping and guiding. She cannot fail.
When we do our part, grace flows. We realize God is here, helping, protecting, guiding, and caring. Godís power is infinitely greater than our fear. On Her schedule, she comes to our rescue. The turbulent waves of fear subside. Peace comes.
When fear returns, we continue our spiritual practice. Slowly, we gain confidence and trust as we realize our effort, combined with Godís grace, can get us through anything. At mastery, we move forward fearlessly because we know God is there, taking us to safety. Here nothing can touch us, nothing can harm us, and nothing can ruffle us. We are fearless peace.
POINTS TO REMEMBER
- Fear is only the enemy if we do not face it.
We are afraid of what we cannot control. However, when we cannot change bad outer conditions, we can respond with courage. Courage is the bridge between fear and peace. Eventually, we reach permanent peace.
Most worry focuses on the future. We can break the habit of worry by learning to focus our attention on the present, living one day or one moment at a time. Focus on the present by practicing mindfulness, breathing, and affirmations. The current moment is all you have to work with, and it is all you need. When you begin to worry, feel insecure, and become afraid, use your will and thoughts to bring yourself to a state of faith, trust, belief, and positive thinking. You can learn to respond to any event with even-minded courage.
Despite the variety and excitement that the future offers, we resist and fear change and the unknown. When afraid, affirm unconditional peace. Even if you do not feel reassured, affirm peace with faith and concentration. Peace is inside, waiting to come out, if you will only battle with courage and perseverance.
- I am fearless peace.
I look fear in the face.
I embrace fear with courage.
I am calm.
Courage and faith dissolve my fears.
I have lived through many difficult problems. I can take the next thing that comes along.
I am steady and even-minded in the face of trouble.
I rise up every time I fail.
Love and faith give me courage.
I endure. I persevere. I have courage.
I stay in the fear one minute longer. My courage grows.
I stay in the fear five minutes longer. My courage grows.
I stay in the fear until it ends. My courage grows.
I have grace under pressure.
I will take whatever life gives.
I face pain, the unknown, and death.
God is peace. Wherever I am, God is. I am peace.
Effort is progress.
Peace consumes anxiety.
My Love is stronger than fear.
I stay deep in the ocean of peace, away from the turbulent surface waves that try to ruffle me.
I am fearless peace.
1. Discuss fear as a natural and intelligent response to life on the physical plane.
2. What happens if we do not face our fears?
3. What disguises does fear wear in your life?
4. Describe the relationship between fear, courage, and peace.
5. Describe the peace of the soul.
6. Discuss the importance of the mind in dealing with fear.
7. Describe and practice the four steps of the fear management process.
8. Face your fear. Step into the middle of it. Stand your ground. Stare it down.
Practice affirmations, breathing, the presence of God, mindfulness, yoga, and other spiritual methods with will, intensity, and concentration. Persevere and endure. Practice these methods throughout your life. Continue your fight as long as you live. In the end, when your soul exits your body, hold on to your image of God to help you withstand the thrust into the unknown.
Dr. Philip Shapiro is author of Healing Power: Ten Steps to Pain Management and Spiritual Evolution. He also began the Northwest Insitute for Healing Power, philipshapiro.com.