The Message of the Heart: Do Not Fear

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By Tasha Friedman

Whenever angels appear to people in the Bible, they always begin with the same greeting: “Do not be afraid!”

This may be because the forms of angels themselves were so alarming to human sensibilities: these pure manifestations of the Infinite, breaking open the boundaries of limited perception.

Yet this can also be understood as a simple and direct message from the Divine to humanity.

There is so much fear in the world and so much suffering caused by acting from fear. Still, the gentle voice of the Heart whispers to us: Do not fear, trust, and remember that the essence of it all is Love.

The Root of the Ego

As a wise little green Zen master once said, “Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.”

So if you aim to reduce suffering in this world for yourself and others, you must first understand and learn how to overcome fear.

Fear, the base emotion of the ego, is the seed within all other “negative” emotions (all emotions that come from ignorance of our True Nature and create a sense of separation).

The ego perceives itself as a separate entity. As a shadow of the Supreme Self, within it is an indomitable love of life, but when filtered through that layer of ignorance, that love becomes a clinging to life in individual form. As its most primitive motivation, the ego fears its annihilation and will do anything to prevent it.

Fear drives us to protect ourselves at the expense of others — it is the root of all conflict, violence, and injustice. When we see the world only as a harsh and dangerous place, with limited resources that everything depends on, of course, the next step would be to try and hoard as many of those resources as we can and even put down others who we see as competition.

It sounds very stark in those terms. Easy maybe to see how wars and colonial exploitation form out of that mentality, but these are just the broadest expressions, turning the dial up to eleven on tendencies that are present in all of us to some degree.

What if there were another way?

What would your life look like if you were able to meet challenges from a foundation of trust?

As one big human family, we are all, in some subtle way, complicit in the world’s tragedies. Still, by the same understanding, we are capable of changing the course of history — each and every one of us, no matter how small and powerless we might feel.

Embracing Our Vulnerability

You won’t overcome fear by making yourself stronger. Even people who are the most powerful — whether in physical strength, authority, or money — are not necessarily free from fear. Sometimes these people are the most fearful and accumulated layers of protection around themselves to feel safe. (This would explain many of the actions of global leaders and the world’s wealthiest people.)

Still, the fear is always there that whatever you have will not be enough, that your defenses will fail and you will be left facing the world as the tender, helpless creature that you are underneath it all.

You can never build a hard enough shell to protect you from everything. But that shell can suffice to keep you locked within your limited reality, cut off from the beauty and poignancy of life in its full spectrum of appearances.

“But if in your heart you would seek only love’s peace and love’s pleasure,
Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love’s threshing-floor,
Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears.”

–Kahlil Gibran

Look instead at that vulnerable creature underneath your defenses — the one who is soft, innocent, unable to control the world but capable of experiencing all the changing currents of life so fully and directly.

To be this one, you must dive fully into what your ego fears the most: that you are nothing.

Yet, in being nothing, there is no longer anything to fear.

The wind blows clear through an empty channel.

From Fear to Surrender

If you are afraid, that’s okay too.

Life is full of uncertainty. At any moment, its course could take a radical turn, and everything familiar to you could change forever. Loss, pain, disappointment, and death are inevitable.

This human existence is fragile, sustained by a set of conditions so unlikely that it melts the mind just to consider them.

There is grace in feeling our fragility, the preciousness of this gift we have been given.

We can acknowledge fear, accept it, honor it, and move forward from it — or with it.

By becoming friendly with fear, you are no longer driven by it. Just because fear is there, it doesn’t mean you have to act according to it. You don’t have to try and fix your circumstances anymore to get rid of it.

You can be afraid and be present. You can be afraid and love yourself.

Fear, like any other fluctuation of the mind, says nothing about the underlying Reality. It does not affect that background of peace, just as no possible threat could harm existence itself.

Christ said that the meek shall inherit the Earth. Those who are gentle and soft, who do not feel the need to put a defensive wall between them and the world, are the ones who will find the whole world within themselves.

In this openness, fear can become awe; it can become reverence for the unknown and the unknowable; it can become surrender. It can become a prayer: Whatever I am afraid to lose, I offer to you. Thy will be done. I am limited; I bow before the Infinite.

Tasha is a Hridaya Yoga teacher and a frequent contributor to our blog. You can read all of her posts here.

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