Changing Fear to Love
Fear has a purpose. It helps us to perceive when there is danger and kicks in our body's fight, flight or freeze response. We may make a decision to fight if we are prepared, or to flee from the perceived threat. This decision could save our lives. Our body reacts to fear with metabolic changes that enable us to be able to react quickly. Our heart rate speeds up, we breathe more rapidly and our mental focus sharpens, enabling our survival. However, fear can also be out of control, irrational and cause harm to ourselves and to others when we react inappropriately because of our fear. What if your fear starts to cause anxiety that prevents you from making decisions to improve your life? Perhaps you are afraid of failing or afraid of change, so you don't make the move or take the job that will ultimately bring you abundance. Being afraid to leave a relationship that is no longer serving you, or causing you harm could result in draining your energy, or at worse causing you physical, psychological or emotional harm. Fear can also be used by others to control our behaviors. Dogma, indoctrination into belief systems and blame can be used to create fear of others. When we fear others who are different from us - who look different or worship differently, or fear things that we don't understand, we can cause harm to others. The first principle of yoga is ahimsa or "non-harming". We must strive not to harm others because of our own fears. How do we do this? First, we must recognize our fear. This is where mindfulness can be helpful. Notice how you behave towards others who are different from you. People from another culture, or who have different social or religious beliefs. How do you treat them? Do you avoid them? Notice how you react the next time you are around someone who is different than you. What are your thoughts about them? Cultivate the Witness Self. Ask yourself why you have these thoughts. What are you afraid of? Perhaps spend some time doing the loving kindness meditation (see below), and wishing peace for that person, and freedom from suffering. Imagine how we are all connected in life. How we are all in a human body that breathes air and has a human heart. We all feel joy and grief and anger and fear. Once you can recognize your own thoughts, feelings and actions towards others as being fearful or judgemental, you can begin to change them. Interact with others who are different than you. Ask them how they are doing or if they need anything. Most importatnly, listen to them. Get to know people in your community who may be different than you. Volunteer. Offer to lend a hand when one is needed. This is how we start to trasnform Fear into Love. When we can recognize that the same Light that exists in us - the Light of God, or Creator, or the Universe, your Higher Self, however you like to think about it, exists in all beings, we cannot be filled with fear or hatred towards them. Loving Kindess Meditation: This is a meditation of kindness and love for oneself and others. It can help transform feelings of fear or anger into love. The loving kindess meditation is one of selfless love - it comes from a place of selfless service. Find a comfortable seat with a long spine. Place your palms together in front of you heart in Anjali mudra, or perhaps touch only the thumbs and pinky fingers together with the middle fingers separate in Padma mudra - the Lotus Flower. Close your eyes or gaze towards the floor. Take several deep breaths, feeling the breath in your belly rise into your chest. Bring your awareness to your heart center. Take several breaths here - breathing into the heart space, notice the expansion. Exhale to soften. Begin to generate feelings of kindness towards yourself. Feel your heart softening, noticing (without judgement) any feelings of self-judgement or self-criticism that come up. Breathe into your heart. Let those feelings go. Soften your heart. Say to yourself, "May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be free from suffering. May I live my life with ease and peace." Repeat this affirmation 3 times out loud or silently, to yourself. Now bring to mind a friend or dear family member and repeat the phrase again 3 times, holding that person's image in your heart and saying" May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you be free from suffering. May you live life with ease and peace." Next, bring to mind a neutral person - perhaps someone in your neighborhood that you do not know well, or the woman who checks you out in the grocery line. Repeat the affirmation 3 more times. Finally, bring to mind someone you do not like or have difficulty with. Hold the image of this person in your heart and repeat the affirmation 3 times. If you have difficulty wishing them peace, stop and breathe into your heart. Feel it to expand. Feel how big your heart can be. You can say, "To the best of my ability, I wish you happiness, health, freedom from suffering and peace. Feel loving kindness spread throughout your body and mind. Finally, hold all beings in your heart and radiate loving kindness to all beings. "May all beings be happy. May all beings be healthy. May all beings be free from suffering. May all beings know peace." Take a few more breaths sitting in silence and slowly open your eyes. Notice if your heart feels lighter. Check your fears. See if they feel as strong. If you have a lot of fear in your life, I would practice this meditation every day for a month and see how you feel and whether or not there are any changes in your life. There are other versions of this meditation out there, so find one that speaks to you. I sometimes shorten the meditation and just bring to mind someone that I know needs peace in their life. Namaste.