Has anybody read or seen Frank Herbert’s Dune? It’s a brilliant sci-fi saga. I love anything set in outer space, I don’t care how bad it is, as long as there are no monsters. Sorry, Sigourney.
There’s this great quotation from Dune that I think speaks to our everyday struggle:
“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
Wham! That is the best shit ever.
Fear is not your natural state of being. Fear is a by-product of your body-mind’s reaction to external stimuli. We wrongly identify with fear all the time when we say “I’m afraid.” Fear doesn’t define you. You experience it, but you are not it. You are something greater than fear, brighter than the sun itself.
Here’s what I think are the five most common sources of fearful thinking. Fortunately, they also come with powerful antidotes.
FEAR OF FAILURE
This one tends to be the biggest source of fearful action. That’s because we’re conditioned to focus on outcomes instead of processes. Instead of being in-the-moment, we’re looking too far ahead of where we are and what we’re doing. This puts a giant blind spot right in front of us and it’s usually in those blind spots that we tend to have breakdowns.
The remedy here is to act without expectations. Expectations, darlings, always lead to disappointment. Simply avoid them. Be in the process of what you’re doing, even if it’s just washing the dishes. If you’re focused on being done your chore, you’re going to get bored and frustrated. Just wash the dishes. Watch as you get things soapy and rinse them. Bring the mind to stillness there in that moment, whatever it is: writing, skiing, walking, fucking, eating, gardening.
The mind loves to run ahead of you and distract you from the actual task at hand. Train it to sit still and focus. You cannot fail – You can only learn. A process is more dynamic than a rigidly defined goal. To be dynamic, stay present. Have goals, but embrace the potential for them to change. Most likely, things will turn out better than you expected.
FEAR OF UNORIGINALITY
I’ve heard this excuse: It’s been done before.
So what? There are 7 billion people on this planet. I think that’s a pretty big audience for what you’ve got to offer. Keep trying until you find your niche.
I’ve lived a long time in a small resort town by the sea. It’s a beautiful artist’s community, full of writers and painters. But those painters have been painting the same views of the town for a century. Why would anyone keep buying their art? Because each person’s perspective is different and resonates with different people than their peer’s does.
Every one of us has an audience waiting for our work. The only unoriginal idea is the idea that it’s been done before.
FEAR OF VOLUME
I’ve got a laundry list of things to do as long as this essay. Every day I’ve got to wake up and do my asana practice, practice my harmonium, have coffee, write on my blog, hit the gym, have lunch, read this, clean that, watch this, eat that. Plus I’ve got a yoga studio to run, clients to book, two rents to pay, a teacher training manual to write along with two yoga books and a fiction novel. It goes on and on.
Don’t overwhelm yourself with how much you’ve got to do. Simply do one thing at a time. Prioritize your tasks and do one thing to completion at a time. Don’t start and abandon ten different things every day. Don’t start a task unless you can finish it, unless it’s a longer term project like a book or building a website. Organize a set timeframe every day to tackle each project and you’ll find yourself much happier as you get things done. You just have to act without expectations.
FEAR OF THE UNFAMILIAR
We do love our comfort zones. Unfortunately, creativity comes from pushing those boundaries that we live in. This causes friction, which creates energy. Nothing moves when it’s stuck in a rut. And being stuck in a rut is a choice we make by choosing not to break our patterns, change our behaviors, try new things, or give things up.
You don’t know what fresh hell each day is going to bring to you, so make it fun. Be delighted by the unknown. Alan Watts said that variety is the spice of life. So spice it up! Excite your senses and break free from what you think works for you. It’s probably not working for you.
FEAR OF DEATH
You will die. One day, some how. The details don’t matter. Death only matters insofar that it reminds us to live.
I had a big wakeup call when my younger brother died in 2012. Fuck, I thought, if a 23 year old with everything to gain can die, what have I got to lose? I’ve got to make sure I squeeze all the juice out of this life that I can.
Squeeze life to death before it squeezes you.
A Course In Miracles teaches that only love is real. I believe this. I believe that this power within my heart is my Guide. When I don’t listen closely to it, I stumble or lose my way. Fear is fuel for the ego but love will save the day. Even some of the harshest lessons I’ve endured taught me again and again to return to love.
Love is surrendering to the unknown, to the potential to learn, to the process. Acting always from a place of love, which sits still at your center, is like making magic happen. Try it out: Each thing you do, big or small, consciously and intentionally approach it from your heart instead of your head. You’ll be surprised by miracles and you’ll abolish fear for good.