There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.. (1 Jn 4:18 NKJV)
While fear is less and less a part of my life, there are still several situations that can cause me to panic. One is hypodermic needles. That’s improving. Another is sudden financial problems. The other day I opened my bank account online expecting to find a healthy balance only to find myself severely overdrawn. It turns out that when I had tried to make an online payment for $100.00 I had instead typed in 100,00 (a comma instead of a period). The company had processed a payment for $10,000.00 instead of $100.00 It took a week to straighten out, and my immediate reaction was panic to the point of having trouble breathing.
Fear is an instinctive reaction designed to make us alert and cautious in the presence of danger. This may be a very useful reaction when crossing a savanna teeming with lions. Unfortunately, our modern minds can create the mental experience of danger when there is no real physical threat. In the case of my mangled bank account, the actual situation was a matter of some pixels on a screen. There was no immediate threat or danger. My fear was the result of mental scenarios that my mind began to construct as it tried to process the implications of the error. Unfortunately, the mental reaction of fear was totally unhelpful in this situation. I needed a sense of perspective, clear objective judgment and cool reason. Instead I got tunnel vision and a body prepared to jump up a tree to escape a lion.
The spiritual roots of fear are even more destructive. Our ego, convinced of its separation from everything and everyone else, and conscious of its own mortality, constantly fears its own annihilation. The mind under the dominion of ego lives with a persistent background noise of existential fear. How do we escape it?
Since fear originates in the mind, practice in quieting the mind is a very helpful discipline to control fear. Meditation has many benefits, and this is one of them. A mind disciplined by meditation, like a well-trained horse, will not panic and throw its rider at the first sudden noise. Even if the horse jumps, like my mind did at the first sight of my negative bank balance, it can quickly be brought under control by the steady hand of consciousness. Meditation also shifts our consciousness away from the fearful ego and toward the greater Self, which is immortal, indestructible and beyond the reach of fear.
The passage from 1st John at the beginning of the article also suggests another spiritual practice that can help us. The way to escape the fear that torments us, says the author of John, is through perfect love. The Greek word for love here is “agape”, which is a rather difficult word to translate. It is not a simple human love. It is a divine, selfless openness and acceptance. It is a complete and total lack of resistance to the reality of the present moment, a surrender to the wisdom of God and the universe. It is a pure love for all that is, including the present situation.
In a post I did earlier, quoting from David Hawkins, I mentioned that this unconditional and universal love and acceptance is the first step to enlightenment. As a side benefit, as you perfect it, fear begins to disappear in your life.
There are other spiritual practices that can help transcend fear. People who have had near-death experiences report that the experience leaves them with a complete lack of fear. While we can’t deliberately have a near-death experience simply to cultivate this benefit, many of the same benefits can occur when we master astral travel, or out-of-body experiences. By having first-hand experience that we are more than just our physical bodies, and that our consciousness transcends our physical life, we lose some of our fear of physical dangers.
For particular phobias, hypnosis and self-hypnosis can also be helpful tools to rearrange our mental wiring.
Have you had good success with a particular method for overcoming fear? Share it with us in the comments.