The Rejection of Fear

“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.”  —Frank Herbert, Dune

FearisALiarFear is the mind-killer, the thing that keeps us from total self-realization. It is the thing that creates nightmare worlds and holds its inhabitants hostage. The good news and the bad news are the same; It’s self-inflicted. I inflict a lot of fear into myself. I’ve been afraid of what others thought or me in my youth. I’ve been afraid of what others could do to me now in my middle age. I’ve been afraid of not making enough money, of not having healthcare, and of not being able to take proper care of my family. I’m fighting the fear of what lies ahead if I live my truth now. I’ve lost a lot of time because of the fear I hold. But fear is self-inflicted and because of this reality, I can stop it. I hold the power to end my own suffering if I choose it.

Fear_Itself_intertitleEasier said than done. But once I said it, something interesting happened. The fear slowly started to lose its grip over me. It didn’t happen instantly, but over several days and weeks of meditation and setting an intention to lift my fears. Just last night as I was meditating on the Principle of Polarity (which I will write about at length later), I became aware that certain fears that had their talons sunk deep into me, didn’t seem to have such a strong hold any longer. Fears that could bring me to tears in a matter of a few seconds… didn’t! They simply do not feel as important as they did to me only a few days ago.

Like most people, I want a little certainty and stability in my life. I want the peace of mind that comes with it. But if I am being honest with myself, certainty and stability are illusions. These things can be stripped away at any time with the rise and fall of social customs, political agendas, and environmental catastrophes. Sacrificing my own truth One-Earth-Peace-Lovefor the illusion of certainty seems a particularly bad bet to make. In Hindu and Buddhist philosophy, they use the term maya* to describe the illusions in life that deceive us and keep us off our true paths. Deeper than that, maya is the illusion that this physical world is all that is, when a much greater Ultimate Reality exists far beyond this physical manifestation.  Hermetic philosophy teaches that we can come to know that Ultimate Reality through the exploration and mastery of our own mind. Our minds are made in the likeness of the Divine Mind and expressed in the axiom – As above, so below, as below so above.

I felt a strange and wonderful release of built up negative energy this morning. The fears that kept me off my spiritual path are letting go of my mind and freeing it to move about with a sense of wonder, curiosity, and anticipation of discovery. I also feel so much discoverywondergratitude for being alive right now and fortunate enough to live through this experience. Despite all the hardship and ugliness in this world, there is also wonder and beauty.

And here is the most important thing I’ve come to understand; suffering and pain are not to be avoided in this life. No one likes to go through it. It hurts like hell and sometimes it feels like it will never end. For some, it may even be too much. But if we survive it, there’s gold to be found.

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*Not to be confused with Maya, a manifestation of the Hindu Goddess Lakshmi.

Worthiness

Over the past few months, one of the most difficult realizations I’ve had to come to is that I am worthy of good things in life. I never actively thought that I was unworthy of anything, but through a lot of soul searching and meditation, what I found is that I have an ingrained unconscious idea that I don’t deserve anything. I am not wealthy and I struggle for almost everything that I have. At some deep level, I did think that I reaped what I sowed. That there was something wrong with me that kept me from success and that I was the architect of that failure.

I was correct about being the architect of my own failure, but not because I was inherently unworthy of anything. My early childhood was spent struggling with illness and bullying. I internalized both of these things and they became a part of my early psyche. I believed that it was my lot in life to struggle as the outsider. I didn’t believe that worthypart1.2I’d ever be accepted because I had poor physical coordination and I didn’t always understand what someone was trying to teach me due to my learning disabilities. My mother went above and beyond to find help for me — for which I am eternally grateful — but even that left me with the notion that I was a bother. Just dealing with me was to be put upon in my mind. I was embarrassed by that. I spent so much time trying to hide from the fact that I needed help, because I feared that I was too much of a burden. Every time I had to go for physical therapy or cognitive therapy for my learning disabilities, I felt extreme anxiety. My childhood and teen years were rife with internal feedback loops of negative thought energy.

One cannot simply breakout of these feedback loops without doing shadow work (perhaps the theme of my next blog entry). In short, our shadow selves are all the things Jung-Quote-5we repress from our conscious minds because they represent our dark selves; the things we don’t like to acknowledge in ourselves or share with the rest of the world. It’s not always bad that we keep these things about who we are quiet (for instance, if one is filled with thoughts of violent behavior). However, it’s not a good thing to be unaware of our shadow. By being aware of the shadow side, we can actually confront it and deal with it constructively. We can incorporate it in ways that are useful to us. When we keep this side repressed, it will bubble forward in unexpected and (typically) unintended ways.

My shadow side can be rather nasty. When I feel cornered, I can lash out in incoherent anger and frustration. So often in the middle of an outburst I can literally hear my mind screaming, “STOP! What are you saying?!” I am not quick to anger, but I do bottle things up so that explosions are the only outlet I have. I’ve learned through shadow work that I howSqbottle things up because I feel that to express myself openly about – anything really – is to bother someone. It is due to feeling nullified in my past. Shadow work is helping me to find small outlets for expression so that I cease the endless loop of suppression and explosion.

But those explosions were part of my problem of a deep seated unconscious belief that I am unworthy of happiness and a good life. Other things like the fact that I move slower and I’m more prone to physical illnesses because of my compromised immune system, have left me with an internalized feeling that I don’t work hard enough and that is why I am struggling so hard.

I’ve started to be conscious of how I physically feel whenever I start to think that I am lazy and just don’t want to do something. Sometimes I am actually being lazy. But about 75% of the time, I am now aware that what is causing me to avoid a task is the physical pain or discomfort I am in due to real physical constraints. It’s difficult for me to admit the real mental and physical reality I live with every day, because I so thoroughly internalized those early childhood bullies (not always other kids, but also many adults). This will be a struggle for me. Just yesterday I slipped back into the thought, “What is wrong with me? Why can’t I do this when everyone else can!?” My wonderful partner caught me and brought it to my attention, and I was able to correct the thought before it started to turn itself on me in a more significant way.

I am worthy of a good life and good things flowing into my life. I believe we all are. But we have to be open to it. We have to allow it to flow into us. I’m not pretending that there aren’t external obstacles to our happiness. There are, and they can be insurmountable depending on one’s circumstance. The external world can be unrelenting and swallow us whole, which is also another blog entry for a different time. But often, WE are the obstacle. We don’t believe we’re worthy of goodness and good things. The internalization of our demons keeps up down and we begin to believe, consciously and unconsciously, that we are undeserving. It follows us.

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The Cycle of Negative Thoughts

My current project is to eliminate the cycle of negative thoughts from my mind. Or more precisely, I don’t wish to be controlled by these negative thoughts and emotions any longer. I began this process back in April when I had my moment of clarity. I realize then that much of my depression and anger was due to painful events in my past that I never addressed. I didn’t even realize how much of my past I carried with me every day. I started to see that many of my friends were going through a similar experience and working through them in various ways – some more successful than others. But I read an article by Johann Hari in the Huffington Post that triggered me, The Real Causes Of Depression Have Been Discovered, And They’re Not What You Think. I cried when I read this article. I realized that many of my behaviors that were keeping me from living a more productive, healthy life were tied to bullying and abuse during my adolescent and Screen-Shot-2017-10-06-at-4.02.31-PMteen years. And much of that stemmed from earlier childhood health problems (a duration from age 3 to 5 years old) which made me stand out more as a target. I developed learning disabilities and had severe coordination issues from that illness. I was also an introvert. I don’t know if I would have been so introverted had I not had such serious health issues, but I do not remember a time when I wasn’t an introvert.

I was in the second grade when I started to notice there was a problem. My best friend in school stopped talking to me regularly. She began hanging out with the cooler girls and would barely acknowledge me. Most of the boys made fun of me. I didn’t understand why. My best guess is that I must have behaved awkwardly. Or at least I gave the impression that I did. Enough for it to have social consequences. Though a few years ago, my sister, who is three years older than me, told me that she had some of the same issues because we didn’t live in the same neighborhood as most of the kids in our class. We e855c3dc9d625b713948fbbef643e98flived in the suburbs and they in the city. Part of it may have been due to lack of proximity and that they viewed us as snobs (or perhaps their parents did and that perception transferred to the kids). My mother confirmed this was a problem she ran into at the school as well. Whatever the actual reason was, I was bullied from the age of 7 to 14. I was thrilled when I left that school behind and went to an all-girls high school. I remember those three years with much love, because I was finally able to have peace away from that abuse. Unfortunately, the school closed and I had to serve out my senior year with some of the same grade school kids that bullied me. One in particular was so bad that I occasionally still find myself thinking of ways to humiliate him.

I didn’t connect all of the negative behaviors I developed to this time in my past until I read the article. Now I see it as obvious. Little things I do to sabotage myself from breaking out of the cycle I am in are very clear to me now. This year on my birthday, the universe gave me a powerful download that made me realize that I’m carrying around painful baggage and I don’t have to do that. I never had to do it. The coping strategies that I developed to survive bad situations are no longer needed. I can let those go and choose something different now.

So, I set about changing my thoughts and ending the negativity cycle that I often get trapped in because of inertia. It’s easier to live on autopilot, but there are great consequences to that way of life. Growth doesn’t come out of that. The first step I took was to embrace my past and to start connecting parts of it with behaviors I developed. I needed to visualize the negative situation, the behavior I developed to cope with it, and then to see how the behavior was specialized to that situation. I could then see that today, that situation was no longer an active part in my life, so the behavior no longer served me.

I started to meditate daily and question everything that I said and did. I actually started to see some of the positive things that came out of my past in shaping who I am today. That was the real breakthrough step. As difficult as my life has been emotionally and physically, I cannot deny that much of it lead me on my path to discovery. My work in philosophy and religious studies is a direct result of my turn inward. My ability to think critically and to question the world and authority around me came out of a dissatisfaction with the mainstream world. And it is because of my spiritual journey that I can now pull myself out of the mental rut I’ve been in for decades.

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It’s also clear to me now that I developed a lot of insensitive and hypocritical tendencies that were rather self-serving and dismissive of others. I believe this is because I was so nullified as a child. So now, when I’m annoyed or find the actions of someone questionable, I first ask myself how I would act in the same situation. Do I do this myself? Are they being reasonable and am I annoyed or angry because it’s an inconvenience to me? Am I being unreasonable because my hormones are in flux? I run through a complex series of questions in my head. But here is the most important thing – if my answer is no, I listen to my inner voice now. I don’t make the assumption that I am wrong or invalidate my own experience, but rather I make room for the possibility that I am wrong and then I assess the situation.

Daily meditation allows me to be an observer of my thoughts. I can see them. I can see the little buggers that cause problems and I can opt to follow a different line of thinking. This has given me the ability to start the process of removing what no longer serves me.

Since I’ve been doing this, I’ve found that my depression is lifting. My interactions with my partner are far more positive and less contentious. I can actually see a positive future ahead of me with so much more to discover. It is early in the game. I do realize that it’s only been four months. But I also feel that my spiritual quest to eliminate the cycle of negative thoughts has given me new tools to cope with what life throws at me.

 

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For more information on stopping bullying, go to: https://www.stopbullying.gov/