I love the way life throws unforeseen situations at you. Not because it is always pleasant. But because you always learn something from it.
Two years ago someone broke into my flat in London. I had all my valuable belongings stolen – and I never owned a lot really. It took me forever to safe up to actually be able to afford my Laptop and I have lost many precious photos that I failed to back up onto an external source (of course…why would this ever happen to me, I thought). It was a pretty daunting sight to come home to and find your flat in a mess. The only thing I was hoping, is that no one was in the flat and that I would be safe.
Thank goodness my cat was ok (who is like a daughter to me) and my boyfriend was at work. Possessions can be replaced, in the end. Because I experienced intense fear in this moment, or something like “instinctive shrinking back from danger” as Tolle explains it in his “Power of Now”, I thought after a few days: What must it be like if you are constantly living in fear? And so many people in this world have to go through these terrible emotions all the time. They never feel safe. So, immediately, I thought, I´m lucky that it was just a brief moment of fear. I am actually quite lucky. It could have been worse. My whole life could be worse. I actually have a pretty awesome life!
Over the next days, after the incident, I also observed a different kind of fear that many people live in. Humans tend to live in a self-created fear. Some of us- all the time. “What if this will happen to me in the future?” or “What if something horrible I experienced in the past will happen again?”. “What if I fail my test?”, “What if my partner dies in an accident?”, “What if I will never find a boyfriend?”, “What if I can´t have kids?”.
And often with fear, a state of victimization creeps in: “Why do these things always happen to me?!”.
Eckhart Tolle explains this state in a very powerful passage in his book “The Power of Now”:
“How does fear arise, and why is there so much of it in people’s lives? And isn’t a certain amount of fear just healthy self-protection? If I didn’t have a fear of fire, I might put my hand in it and get burned.
The reason why you don’t put your hand in the fire is not because of fear, it’s because you know that you’ll get burned. You don’t need fear to avoid unnecessary danger – just a minimum of intelligence and common sense. For such practical matters, it is useful to apply the lessons learned in the past. Now if someone threatened you with fire or with physical violence, you might experience something like fear. This is an instinctive shrinking back from danger, but not the psychological condition of fear that we are talking about here.
The psychological condition of fear is divorced from any concrete and true immediate danger. It comes in many forms: unease, worry, anxiety, nervousness, tension, dread, phobia, and so on. This kind of psychological fear is always of something that might happen, not of something that is happening NOW. You are in the here and now, while your mind is in the future. This creates an anxiety gap. And if you are identified with your mind and have lost touch with the power and simplicity of the Now, that anxiety gap will be your constant companion. You can always cope with the present moment, but you cannot cope with something that is only a mind projection – you cannot cope with the future.
Moreover, as long as you are identified with your mind, the ego runs your life, as I pointed out earlier. Because of its phantom nature, and despite elaborate defense mechanisms, the ego is very vulnerable and insecure, and it sees itself as constantly under threat. This, by the way, is the case even if the ego is outwardly very confident. Now remember that an emotion is the body’s reaction to your mind. What message is the body receiving continuously from the ego, the false, mind-made self? Danger, I am under threat. And what is the emotion generated by this continuous message? Fear, of course.
Fear seems to have many causes. Fear of loss, fear of failure, fear of being hurt, and so on, but ultimately all fear is the ego’s fear of death, of annihilation. To the ego, death is always just around the corner. In this mind-identified state, fear of death affects every aspect of your life. For example, even such a seemingly trivial and “normal” thing as the compulsive need to be right in an argument and make the other person wrong – defending the mental position with which you have identified – is due to the fear of death.
If you identify with a mental position, then if you are wrong, your mind-based sense of self is seriously threatened with annihilation. So you as the ego cannot afford to be wrong. To be wrong is to die. Wars have been fought over this, and countless relationships have broken down. Once you have disidentified from your mind, whether you are right or wrong makes no difference to your sense of self at all, so the forcefully compulsive and deeply unconscious need to be right, which is a form of violence, will no longer be there.
You can state clearly and firmly how you feel or what you think, but there will be no aggressiveness or defensiveness about it. Your sense of self is then derived from a deeper and truer place within yourself, not from the mind. Watch out for any kind of defensiveness within yourself. What are you defending? An illusory identity, an image in your mind, a fictitious entity. By making this pattern conscious, by witnessing it, you disidentify from it. In the light of your consciousness, the unconscious pattern will then quickly dissolve. This is the end of all arguments and power games, which are so corrosive to relationships.
Power over others is weakness disguised as strength. True power is within, and it is available to you now. So anyone who is identified with their mind and, therefore, disconnected from their true power, their deeper self rooted in ‘Being’, will have fear as their constant companion. The number of people who have gone beyond mind is as yet extremely small, so you can assume that virtually everyone you meet or know lives in a state of fear. Only the intensity of it varies. It fluctuates between anxiety and dread at one end of the scale and a vague unease and distant sense of threat at the other. Most people become conscious of it only when it takes on one of its more acute forms.”
Basing your present-moment decisions on fear for what might happen in the future, almost never has a good outcome. We are often faced with tough decisions in life and you may just decide differently- if you allow yourself to just not fear for what might or might not happen in future. Living in fear or out of fear is a daily determination we have to make. It is a daily decision.
Imagine how your life would be, if you did not fear?