If there’s one thing we learn as life goes along, one lesson that keeps presenting itself in different ways to us until we get it, its that we’re all essentially the same at our core level of humanity. We humans all experience fear, pain, loneliness, worry, regret, joy, love, and peace – the whole range of emotions and states of being. We often fail to see this, blinded by judgements, assumptions, stories we tell ourselves and surface-level differences. But as we get to know and allow ourselves to connect with other human beings, we begin to understand that behind all of the very well-thought out, deeply engrained, yet ultimately useless personas we present in the world, we begin to see that we all experience fear – of being hurt, of intimacy, of loss, of the unknown, of failure, death.
Fear is what has the power to make us act in the lowest possible form of enlightenment. When we are paralyzed by fear of something – with or without knowing it – we are taken emotionally to a vulnerable time in our childhood when we could not protect ourselves. The last time I was afraid of something – two days ago – I found myself craving a big loaf of fresh bread – interesting! I didn’t eat it. When I was a child, or in my many weak moments, I would have.
We become stuck here if we do not recognize our patterns and choose to act differently in the face of them, as the capable and wise adults that we now are. Ever have the feeling that you are experiencing the same disappointments over and over again in your life? The same yucky feelings just keep coming up? These are your signs to awaken.
What makes us different as people in the world is how we choose to deal with this unavoidable presence of fear in our lives. The key is in recognizing the fear, so that we can observe how it makes us behave and begin to move past these habitual behaviours, to act out of love in the face of fear.
To act in the face of fear, to realize your fear and choose to act anyways instead of running – this is true courage. And this is the highest of human virtues. Know that the people who seem the strongest, who seem like the aren’t afraid of anything, are the ones who have simply mastered acting in spite of fear…transforming it into love. And the strongest of us all is he or she who can admit to being afraid.
This is what we are all commonly seeking – the avoidance of suffering and the discovery of love.
What are you afraid of? Today or this week (whenever a negative, sticky situation comes up), I challenge you to recognize this fear, become aware of how you feel like acting, and then consciously choose to act differently this time. Please note: it is useful to know that ALL negative emotions find their root in fear – be it anger (a big one!), sadness, anxiety, depression. Next time you are any of these things ask yourself, what am I afraid of right now? – and be honest. Be prepared to feel exhilarated and full of love and life!
And because our own personal journeys with fear and love are directly connected to the broader human experience – we must realize the importance of this mission to alleviate personal suffering and to find peace. All of the negative, fear-inducing situations that are present in the world today – shootings, wars being started and fought, diseases spreading – their bases are all rooted in fear. And their peaceful resolutions are dancing above us, waiting for us to have the courage to reach towards love instead. Its a choice, and it begins with you.