The most deep rooted fear in us has to be our fear of death. All our survival instincts are habitual reactions to this fear of dying. And this deep rooted fear is the source for all kinds of other fears – our fear of rejection, fear of poverty, fear of not being loved, the list is endless.
But if we take a step back and closely examine our fear of death, we see that it is based on an idea of survival. Is it possible to overcome this idea and be free of fear?
If we analyze our own fears, we can clearly see that they’ve changed over time. I used to be scared of heights, and now I am happy to bungee jump off a bridge. It took a while for me to overcome this fear, but it was possible. So our fears change over time, we absorb new fears, and we let go of old ones. I can safely say that this is shared experience across all humans.
Now, I’m going to say something outrageous which you might disagree with, but please bear with me – Fear only exists so long as we pay attention to it. To give you an example, there are some people today, who believe that the end of the world is here. Im not saying that climate change isn’t real, but I’m talking about someone who just spends time thinking about the worst case outcomes and getting paralyzed by fear. And this fear is a virtuous cycle, because the more you think about it, the more you fearful you become. On the other hand, there are some people who think that this world is a beautiful place, working towards our wellbeing. Between these two, who would you consider is “right”? I’d say neither. But on the other hand, who has a more pleasant life experience? Definitely the people who believes in the latter. So at a surface level our fears come down to the things that we pay attention to. Let’s try to dig a little deeper though.
Why do we fear?
We fear because we project a fearful memory from the past into the future. Our bodies tend to remember fearful memories, and we produce the same physiological response to situations which remind us of those memories. When we say our animal instincts are triggered, our bodies are producing a habitual response from stored memory which we call fear. So when we see a snake on the ground, we instinctively react with fear, but the moment we realize that it’s not really a snake, but a rope, the fear is gone. The snake was imaginary, and we unnecessarily generated fear to an imagined object. The moment we realized that it was not really a snake, the fear completely dissolved and disappeared. This is quite fascinating because it proves to us that we fear only because of our imaginations. There are some people who love snakes, and even if they saw a real snake, they would not generate any fear.
So is it possible to live a life without any fear?
The short answer is yes. How? We have to pay attention in each moment, and notice how our mind and body responds in each moment. A fearful response to a situation is an indicator, that we have an attachment, some idea that we are unconsciously holding onto. Once we understand the mechanism of fear, it become easier for us to let go of our fears. Our habitual responses to fear is just that – a habit. So we have to spend some time undoing our psychological complexes that we have absorbed over time. One by one, we pluck them out. And the more you do this, the easier it becomes to discern. And you don’t just do this in your meditation seats, you practice this out there in the world. In your jobs, your relationships, in mundane interactions. Every moment becomes an opportunity to practice your Yoga. And the world will bring you exactly what you need, the things you fear. An opportunity to be free.