How that fear shows up is different for each person and unique at each stage of the spiritual journey. At one point it may look like the fear of rejection, the fear of looking stupid, the fear of intimacy, or the fear of failure. Further down the path it may look like the fear of letting go of one’s beliefs, ego, or even the fear of death. However fear currently manifests in your life, it always feels daunting to face. In some ways, while growing up I was fortunate to be someone who was practically afraid of everything. That meant it was almost impossible for me to avoid facing my fears.
In recent years, as I looked into the research done on people who have reportedly awakened, a few things stood out to me. First, a common report is that awakened folks don’t worry about or resist the difficult aspects of daily life. Their level of fear of virtually anything has been reduced to just about zero. Second, it’s not that they can’t or don’t experience fear, resistance, or anxiety. It’s more a matter that they relate to these common experiences differently than most people. Instead of fear being a scary thing to avoid, they relate to it as momentary sensations passing through a quiet and spacious field of awareness. To the enlightened, fear and anxiety are no big deal, and since they’re no big deal, there’s no resistance that would keep them around for long. Of course, this new relationship with fear has to be learned, and in my case, I had plenty of opportunities to deal with stuff that I found distressing.
The human mind is a rather paranoid, fear inducing mechanism. This is probably due to our evolutionary past. Two hundred thousand years ago, there were basically two types of humans: people who were highly paranoid and fearful, and people who were mellow and relaxed. Unfortunately, when a tiger would rustle through nearby bushes on the African plains, the mellow people would think, “Oh, I love hearing the wind swoosh through the leaves.” Then, a tiger would eat them and they would fail to pass down their mellow genes. On the other hand, paranoid people would hear the slightest sound and run, and would live to see another day (and perhaps another child). Thus, we (and our minds) are the descendants of hundreds of thousands of years of fearful, paranoid apes.
Due to our evolutionary past, nowadays we all have minds that are good at worrying and focusing on potential problems. To make matters worse, we habitually believe whatever our minds’ conjure up, thereby making us almost continuously worried or anxious. The antidote, of course, is to face one’s fears and worries and see that they consist of just thoughts that have little or no substance behind them. This is not easy to do.
It’s amazing what you can achieve or receive if you are not influenced by the fear of rejection or failure. For “The Experience of God” book I edited, I desperately wanted to interview Ram Dass, the famous author of “Be Here Now” and other classics. Ram Dass, along with his mentor Timothy Leary, had been a major inspiration in my life. Ram Dass, on the other hand, desperately wanted to avoid me. Finally, after thirty letters and twenty-five phone calls to his secretary over a six-month period, I received a phone call directly from Ram Dass himself.
Ram Dass began the phone call by stating, “I get over 40 requests a week for interviews, and I have just decided to not do any of them so I can spend more time raising money for charities. I hope you understand.”
I told Ram Dass, “Well, I appreciate your situation, and I thank you for letting me know directly.”
Then, Ram Dass continued, “But I must say, I’ve never seen anyone quite as persistent as you. So, the real reason I’m calling is I want to know if you’re on a mission from God or if you’re a complete lunatic.”
Of course, I told Ram Dass, “Well, sir, I’m on a mission from God, and I don’t let little fears like the fear of possible rejection get in the way of my mission.”
Ram Dass chuckled, then said, “You remind me of me. Okay, you got me sold. You have time for an interview right now?” I did, and we ended up doing a lengthy and wonderful interview.
Getting over my fear of rejection not only opened me up to a better love life and cherished spiritual connections. It also opened me up to living a life not dictated by petty anxieties or the need for constant safety. I started to see that my fears were simply thoughts going through my head that I was identifying with. If I could dis-identify with those thoughts, I could experience greater peace and freedom. After all, if there is no resistance or fear around facing a certain situation or emotion, it has no place to “stick.” The result is that it does not persist and block one’s path to peace. Eventually being able to face and “sit with” discomfort and anxiety led me to overcome much of my ego’s fear. Once my mind was less focused on avoiding fear, my true nature of peace and stillness became much more evident to me.
We experience many different types of relationships in our lives. We have romantic relationships, as well as relationships with our kids, friends, and even a “relationship” with ourselves. Yet, perhaps the most important relationship we have in life is the one we have with fear. Usually, the relationship we have with fear is that of master (fear) and servant (us). Whenever fear and its many disguises show its menacing face, we usually run in the other direction. Yet, sometimes by chance or grace or act of will, we decide to face a fear. Perhaps we want to connect deeply with a lover, and we realize our fear of intimacy is blocking our path. Whatever the fear is we feel compelled to face, it’s in such moments that most personal growth and transformation are born.
As I have faced my various fears, I have realized they are paper tigers. They seem big and menacing in my head, but are often easily overcome. In the past, this realization blossomed into the “hobby” of facing my fears. Throughout my life I would often ask myself, “Why am I doing this?” and if my conclusion was I was trying to be as safe and secure as possible, I would attempt to change course. I soon noticed that my choice of job, my plans for the week, and even who I dated was usually based on a desire for more safety. It became apparent that I was conditioned by my parents, society, and my own mind to always seek maximum security. Yet, I also knew that the endless seeking of more safety was not where true aliveness was located. After all, each time I veered from the path of seeking maximal safety, I was quickly rewarded with more freedom, joy, and growth.
There is no “one size fits all” recipe for how to face one’s fears. Once you know the value of overcoming the ways fear limits your life, you search for method(s) that work for you. Some common methods include talk therapy, deep breathing, acting as if you’re fearless, facing fears head on and seeing you survive, as well as many other valuable methods. In my case, the practice of meditation and seeing that fear was just a made-up story in my head–or simply sensations moving through my body––lessened my fears. Perhaps the same method will work for you.
Jonathan Robinson is the bestselling author of “The Enlightenment Project,” and 12 other books. For a free download of an ebook and audio meditation of the 5 best ways to quickly find inner peace, go to www.TheEnlightenmentProject.net and put in your email address.
Read and Watch Part I Here: Awakening Is Really A Shift In Identity, From Your Personality And Ego, To Pure Awareness.