Or we just get angry and blame someone else.
Fear causes us to turn life into a battlefield. It creates an adversarial relationship with the world.
Einstein said the most important question we may ever ask is:
“Is this a friendly universe?”
If we believe it to be unfriendly, then it follows that both fear and anger will be part of our default system. And we will worry a lot, as worry is based in fear.
It’s easier to feel anger than fear because anger puff us up—temporarily giving us the courage of our convictions—right or wrong whereas fear causes a feeling of helplessness.
Feeling the inflation of anger we get busy perhaps harming someone or at least blaming others instead of feeling the fear that is underneath the anger, which takes us to the heart of the matter.
There is a belief that showing fear is a sign of weakness, but I think it takes strength to admit we feel frightened and that we aren’t sure what to do. This is honesty, which leads to authenticity.
When we can feel our feelings we don’t have to act them out. We take time to choose appropriate behavior.
Fear tells us that we don’t trust the world. “And why should we when it’s always changing?” we ask. How can we trust something that is constantly shifting? This seems impossible, yet perhaps it is the impossible that we are here to do.
Given the truth that everything is impermanent, how will we meet this forever changing scenario?
Shall we let fear bully us around, or will we face this day, this moment, not knowing how it will turn out?
Will we engage with whatever is flowing through us, happening within us, each moment?
Will we admit when we are afraid—of being alone, feeling unloved, afraid someone will leave us, or that we won’t have the resources needed, etc., etc?
There are so many things we can be afraid of.
Our response comes from how we are seeing—our view. Is this a friendly universe, here to help us live by meeting whatever comes?
Living fully includes the ability to die fully, to let go and trust. For life is always passing away and becoming. Birth and death.
We have choices. We can resist and push against what we don’t want, which will cause the problem to escalate in some way—either now or later—or we can turn around and face that which causes discomfort.
Acknowledging each emotion as it passes through us is a very skillful way to meet all of life—both the pleasant and the unpleasant.
This requires softening towards our emotions, inviting them into our awareness and finding where they are felt in our body. This is actually becoming friendly with our emotions, with our feelings, without completely identifying with them.
We are not the fear. We are not the anger. We are not our feelings.
We have feelings. They pass through us. They are not us.
When we refuse to acknowledge the emotion that is passing through us (scientific studies have proven that emotions only last 30 to 45 seconds), our ability to find helpful solutions decreases.
But as we develop this skill to engage with, watch and feel each emotion, we create new neural pathways. We stop walking down that old familiar route of fight, flight and freeze.
We begin to soothe.
To soothe is to soften. We learn to soften the belly consciously, calm ourselves by slowing down and breathing deeply. As we do this we create new neural pathways.
“Waters, let stand, become clear.” The Tao.
Through this process we discover that feelings don’t kill us. But repressing them can!
We gradually realize we can sit with our fear in small moments at a time.
“Little and often” is the best way to learn anything.
Gradually new ideas emerge, fear decreases and we navigate the storms of life more skillfully.
My husband was a career pilot who learned how to navigate by discovering that you can’t learn this skill in the midst of a storm.
A good navigator systematically and carefully studies the navigational manuals and the plane’s operational system during quiet times so that the brain can absorb this vital information.
It was clear that if you don’t already have navigational skills before the storm, you aren’t going to get them during the storm!
So it is with life. Meeting fear skillfully requires quiet times of meditation so that we can watch the mind. Emotions rise and fall away just as the breath rises and falls away. We sit with each emotions as best we can.
We learn to watch the fearful, discouraged mind states as they arise and slowly fall away during these quiet times. We sit with them, patiently.
And amazingly we find the gifts that life brings us. We slowly make more healthy choices. We develop wisdom through patience.
Thus fear becomes our ally.
Life is not an adversary, nor does it punish. Life continues to help us to see more clearly and act more thoughtfully, with more sensitivity and compassion.
Yes, truly this is a friendly universe. It keeps right on evolving us year after year. We grow more complex, more aware.
Otherwise how would we be here right now with the brain and nervous system that is within us?
For we are a product of evolution. During these billions of years we have engaged with the elements and found new strengths.
It is a slow process, but thorough.