February 18, 2016

Here’s What I Learned from the Voice of Fear.

Joshua Earle/Unsplash

Fear is an interesting thing to witness.

We all face it at some point in time, in some way or another.

But what do we do about it? Do we let it paralyze us? Do we move through it? Or do we have the tools to simply witness it?

Let me be clear in the fact that I am no good at simply witnessing fear with non-attachment.

Fear paralyzes me, it destroys my confidence and my hope and my joy. Fear wreaks havoc on my self-esteem and self-worth. In a matter of moments, fear can bring all my thoughts crashing down around me and leave me in child’s pose on the floor.

For whatever its worth, I know I’m not alone.

I know I’m not the only person who, when fear creeps in and teams up with ego, is left witless and confused and a little destroyed (if not completely).

We all have moments when we are halted by nothing more than our own inner critics and fears. We all handle that in different ways. I like to blame my often sarcastic sense of humor for the particularly nasty tone that fear and ego typically take on. They seem capable of taking sarcasm to such a level that my every ambition, joy and hope are made inferior, impossible and ridiculous.

The worst of it though comes in allowing those thoughts to penetrate the bubble of light within to believe that I am deserving of the cynicism, bashing and belittling; to believe that somehow, through some actions of my own, I deserve whatever ends my fears and ego are concocting and spewing at me. This is when you’ll find me in child’s pose, under a blanket, too afraid to peek out.

Most of us have had experiences in which fear has played a major role. For me, when my fifteen-year marriage ended and I found myself starting over in a way that I never thought I’d have to face, fear took the stage and left me crippled.

Not only was I starting over, I was desperately looking for a new identity. I was no longer a wife. I could no longer cling to the idea that no matter how unhappy I was, there was at least someone else in the boat with me.

I could no longer cling to the socially and culturally acceptable ideas that I had accepted as my own of what my life should look like.

In that moment, fear and ego were the loudest voices. They weren’t just conversing, they were screaming and shouting at me. It didn’t matter that I had been unhappy. It didn’t matter that the relationship was unhealthy. What mattered in the moment was that I had failed. I was a failure and the ideas of myself, the way I had identified with my roles in the world, had been vanquished. I was paralyzed with the fear of striking out on my own, and paralyzed with the fear that the next thing I tried might also fail. I spent the first month after my divorce cowering in safe small places when I thought no one was watching.

But then something interesting happened. When I hit that place that felt completely hopeless, when I felt the inner onslaught of negativity crashing like mighty waves and all I could do was surrender and prostrate myself on the floor (albeit under a blankie), the “I” that was being tortured began to feel separate and the witness moved in. Perhaps it is a coping mechanism. Perhaps it is all the spiritual literature and workshops and yoga classes and meditation finally sinking in.

Whatever it is, I am grateful.

The beautiful thing about the witness is that it allowed me to breathe and find my ground. The witness looks at the situation and says, “Oh, this is happening,” and just kind of shrugs and continues to watch in a nonplussed way. The witness sees me prostrate on the floor with a blankie and there is no judgment. The witness doesn’t join forces with Ego and Fear, it’s just there witnessing. “So you’re on the floor. Okay.” No judgment. No encouragement either. Just witnessing.

Turns out that was exactly what I needed. My parents tried to be supportive, but they couldn’t mask their disappointment. My friends were either encouraging me to start dating or fueling the “taking sides” hate war that often happens when a couple splits up. So, when the witness appeared it was like an invisible shield. Suddenly ego and fear weren’t quite as loud. And the quieter my internal naysayers became, the easier it was for me to turn down the external negative influences.

Suddenly I could breathe between the crests of the waves and I noticed that the tide of negativity was going out and I could stand up again without being immediately knocked back down. Just noticing the Witness gave me the opportunity to reflect on where fear and ego got their steam to begin with.

Developing the Witness is something every spiritual guru talks about. Gurdjieff, Patanjali, Einstein, Shakespeare, Rumi, Ghandi, Maharaji (Neem Karoli Baba), Ram Dass, the list goes on and on going back thousands of years to the oldest spiritual texts. We are here as a part of the Lila, or the play; this is a stage and we are all just players. The stage is internal too, not just the external world we participate in but the conscious (our external world) and subconscious (our internal world) ones we participate in too.

Developing the Witness and Witnessing where Fear and Ego get their ammunition is an inside job.

I am just learning. “I am just me,” as I say so often. I am no enlightened teacher or guru. I am a beautiful human mess and I am still working on keeping things in my internal world in happy harmonious order. I am learning to move through the experiences, even when they are uncomfortable, even when they are painful in order to connect more deeply to the ever-flowing universal consciousness from which flows only love.

The biggest lesson I’ve learned from that connection: Fear is an interesting thing to witness.


Author: Ariana Almaee-Nejadi

Editor: Caitlin Oriel

Image: Joshua Earle/Unsplash

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