“I admire you! You are so brave! I want to do it too, but I’m too scared!” I hear this a lot lately. People are too afraid to get out of their comfort zones, to change something they don’t like, to travel, to say no, to get out of a relationship that doesn’t make them happy, to change the job they hate…
I don’t know where people get the idea that I am not scared 😀 Every single time I want to change something in my life I am full of doubts and fears. Every time I try to escape my comfort zone I’m terrified! My mind goes crazy and tries to convince me that I shouldn’t change anything because “it’s not that bad”. My mind is afraid of the unknown, and the comfort zone – even if it’s not making me happy – at least is something I know very well. So I have news for all the people who are afraid: I am afraid too! We are very similar, I’m not fearless. But what I do is taking action DESPITE the fear.
What are we afraid of?
Fear is a very funny thing. We have a saying in Slovenia that fear is hollow on the inside, and on the outside – there’s nothing. That means we are afraid of something that is not there! When we are worried we are thinking about different scenarios that may or may not occur in the future. How is this helping us? We are afraid of an imaginary thing instead of dealing with whatever is happening in the present moment.
I recently watched the movie Bridge of spies. Every time the American lawyer asked the arrested Soviet spy if he is not worried about what could happen to him, the spy replied: “Would it help?” Worrying is truly pointless.
All fears come from one
Did you know that all of our fears are only reflections of the basic fear – the fear of death? According to Osho (and also Patanjali, the founder of yoga), if we go deep enough into any fear, we will find the fear of dying, the fear of ceasing to exist. Are you afraid of heights? It’s because you could fall and die. Afraid of snakes? They could bite you and you would die. Afraid of flying? The plane could crash and you wouldn’t survive. Ok ok, these are easy. What about fear of public speaking? You could be so humiliated you would die from embarasement. Fear of our partner leaving us? We cannot imagine life without them, we feel like we could die without them. I know it sounds a little crazy, but our ego works in strange ways. That’s why looking into the fear can help a lot. Because sometimes analyzing the fear makes us realize how meaningless it is. Or in Osho’s words:
Go into your fear.
Silently enter into it, so you can find its depth.
And sometimes it happens that it is not very deep.
In his book Fear Osho says that the root cause of fear is the false ego, created by not looking in, by continuously looking out. No wonder modern people are full of fear, stress and anxiety (which are the consequences of living in constant fear) if we are constantly keeping our attention outside ourselves. And according to Osho, not being able to go inside ourselves gives the fear even greater power.
Another thing that feeds our fears is not living in the present moment. As Judith Lasater says in her book Living your yoga, fear always exists in relation to the future. If we find ourselves in a dangerous, life-threatening situation, we are not afraid. That moment our sympathetic nervous system will be activated and we will be prepared to fight or run. It is only when we start thinking what could happen that fear arises. Fears are connected to our thoughts. If we live in the present moment, we don’t have thoughts of what could happen, so we cannot be afraid.
Of course, it is easier said than done. In this world that we live in, it’s very hard to always live in the present moment. Some things still need to be planned. For example, we need to buy a plane ticket a few months in advance if we want it to be cheaper (unless we are working for the airline! 😀 ). But we can at least try not to live in the future too much. When we are afraid the best thing to do is bring our awareness to the present moment. How to do that? For starters, try concentrating on the breath and meditating. Just relax and breathe.
Years ago I had all my life planned. I thought not knowing what will happen was a bad thing, so I needed all these plans to make the future more certain. Of course, that didn’t work and the future was still very unpredictable. When something didn’t go as planned I was disappointed. And even when things went as planned I was still disappointed. Why? Well, one of the reasons is society: making us want more and more all the time, and never being happy with what we have. But also, by the time I reached that one goal, I changed, and what I thought would make me happy in one period of my life, a few years later didn’t work for me anymore.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s bad to have goals or some kind of plan for the future. We need some kind of motivation to keep us going forward. But we should understand that everything is constantly changing, WE are changing, so our goals and plans can change too. By having too many plans and focusing on them too much, we start living in the future and not in the present.
That’s what happened to me. I was so focused on the future I couldn’t enjoy my life in the present. I was constantly worried and stressed, which made me very unhappy. So a few years ago I decided to try living in the “now”. It didn’t happen overnight and it wasn’t easy to change my mindset. I still worry about the future sometimes, but I don’t let it control me. By concentrating more on the present, I noticed that most of my fears disappeared. The only time they arise again is when I’m thinking about the future.
It’s normal to think about the future when we are making big decisions in our lives, like resigning from a job or moving to another country. We are leaving something familiar behind and going into the unknown. Our mind gives us all these scenarios of what could go wrong. The main thing is not to let these thoughts stop us from taking the decision. Like Carrie Fisher said: »Stay afraid, but do it anyway. What’s important is the action.« In my experience, the best path is the one that scares me the most.
Go into it
So how do we destroy fear? We don’t. Osho says fear cannot be mastered or eliminated. It has to be faced and understood. Whatever frightens you, go into it, says Osho. Sometimes it’s not easy and it takes courage, but none of the things that matter are easy to get. Living a life of fear is like living in a prison, not being free. It’s up to you what you are going to choose.
If you ask me, life is pretty simple: if we want to be happy we need to do the things that make us happy – and change the ones that don’t. That means sometimes we have to make some scary decisions. I think fear of change is the main reason why people choose to stay unhappy. We are afraid of change because we are afraid of the unknown. Which takes us back to the fear of death. What happens when we die is unknown to us, that’s why we are so afraid of it. We hear theories about after life, but we don’t know what really happens until we get there ourselves. And our ego cannot accept that it will just cease to exist! Transcending the ego is the key. To do this we need to turn inwards.
I think it’s hard – if not impossible – to live a life without any fears. And maybe it would be boring. I see fears as a good thing too: they keep giving us new challenges in life and once you overcome a fear you feel pretty amazing 🙂 The purpose is not to live a life without fear, but a life in which we are FREE of the bondage of fear. By living in the present moment and showing fear who is really in charge, we will achieve anything!
»Whenever you see there is fear, go against it and you will be always moving, growing, expanding, coming closer to the moment when ego simply drops – because its whole functioning is through fear. And the absence of the ego is enlightenment; it is not something plus. Just a simple principle: remember, anything that makes you afraid, fearful, is a clear indication of what you have to do. You have to do just the opposite. You are not to become a follower of fear, you have to fight your fear. The moment you decide to fight your fear, you are on the way towards enlightenment.«
Osho, From the False to the Truth, Talk #26
Let me know your thoughts about fear in the comments 🙂