Let’s deal with fear

Fear is able to grip you only because you haven't seen it for what it is

Little girl hands shadow / fear concept

Once upon a time, there was a mouse who lived in constant fear of the cat. One day he approached a miracle man who was known to help the needy. The miracle man heard his plight, took pity on him and turned him into a cat.

For a while, the cat was happy and relieved but soon he became afraid of the dog. So he again sought the miracle man, who turned him into a dog. But the dog began to fear the panther who lived in the nearby cave. So the magician turned the dog into a panther thinking that this was the last time he’d see the distraught creature. But it was not to be. The panther, with all its strength and abilities, still lived in fear—of the hunter. When the miracle man learned this, he turned the panther back into a mouse, saying, “Nothing I do for you is going to be of any help because you have the heart of a mouse.”

This allegory has a deep lesson for those of us who, like the mouse, are always afraid. So many of us live in perpetual fear: fear of not having enough, of illness and death, of rejection, of losing or separating from loved ones...even fear of success.

How do you deal with fear?

Most people try to protect themselves from threatening situations and circumstances by building a cocoon around them. What they don’t realise is that no matter what they do to change their circumstances, their terror will not go away. That’s because, it resides inside their heart.

To be sure, I am not referring to the instinctive fear that all of us feel when we sense physical danger. Such primal fear is necessary—it helps us identify and stay away from legitimate threats.

The real problem is with the irrational fear of uncertainty that keeps us wanting to cling to everything in our lives—money, possessions, relationships, reputations, you name it. The miracle man is reminding us that this fear has little to do with the outer world. We may acquire good health, lots of wealth, and a great social standing—but will continue to live in fear unless we strengthen our hearts. In other words, we may acquire the body of a lion, but it’s of no use if we continue to have the heart of a mouse.

The only way out of the cage of your fears is to face your mental and emotional insecurities—your personal demons—head on. When you do so, they disappear, leaving you free as a bird. This happens because up close, you see the fears for what they are—an illusion created by your thinking.

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When a fearful thought arises, instead of panicking or running for cover, stay with the feeling—allow it to immerse you in its flavour. Observe the feeling without condemning or judging it. Try to touch it, feel it, smell it. What’s the texture? Does it have any colour? Any taste? Like Pema Chödrön would say, get intimate with your fear. Get to know it inside-out. Doing so will strengthen your heart and fortify your spirit, and fear will never again be your nemesis.


A version of this article first appeared in the June 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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