Fear. It’s a very potent emotion. And ironically, a devoted spiritual practice can sometimes bring us an awesome amount of experience with this emotion. And a full-fledged awakening can open the doors to an overwhelming face plant into the bowels of it. Raw deal, eh? Very rarely does the meditation hall hand out this warning.
Fear is an emotion that is cranked out from your primal survival system. It’s called primal for a reason: it’s old, it’s crude, and it’s coming from a bunch of false beliefs, an ancient system of beliefs that you are a) a separate body/mind and soul, b) separate specifically from a harsh and scary world and c) needing protection from said harsh and scary world. And, it can get any number of add-ons from your family-of-origin’s belief systems.
However, they are false beliefs. For instance, you and I can see that if we hold up our hand, there are fingers and a palm. It can seem that the fingers end and the space between them begins. But does it? Where exactly does the energy stop? Is the energy actually separate? When exactly does it separate and become the space between the fingers? Really? Can energy separate? Superficially, it can appear that way, but all we can really say is that it’s different looking; the space between the fingers looks different from the fingers. Because if we really look, we notice it’s all energy, it’s not really separate. And you might notice that the energy just continues on to include everything, it’s not separate from anything at all. And you might notice that the fingers don’t need to protect themselves from the space between the fingers, for instance, set up a system of defend and attack, thumbs unite against the space between pinkies. That would be silly, but that is the basic operating order of your primal survival system.
And okay, that survival system will make you jump when a car suddenly crashes through the living room, or a mugger puts a gun to your head. But, luckily, you do have a much more sophisticated survival system helping you out. Just before the car comes through the wall, a better survival systems sends a strong impulse that makes you want to get up and get out of the room. Perhaps you feel like getting a glass of water or you suddenly feel like going to ask your neighbor if they would like to come for dinner. It’s a deeper movement, a feeling, an intuitive sense. A sudden sensing that you don’t really want to walk down that dark alley just now. Sadly, most of us have been conditioned to ignore those strong sensibilities, and we walk right into danger. But those instincts are there, and that’s your true nature, offering all kinds of protection, before the danger is upon you.
So, our primal survival system is the primary source of fear. We don’t need to throw it out, but we can double check to see if the more sophisticated system, our true nature, is in sync with it.
And, my point, and the irony of the whole business, is that almost everyone who sits in a lot of silence, or listens to hours and hours of satsang, or reads a ton of very well written spiritual books, will begin to experience fear. Some folks get very stuck here, and that is most unpleasant. Others experience a glorious spaciousness from core beliefs and pain, and begin to stand in true nature and “wake up,” and then terror descends.
What is happening is that this primal survival system is getting jolted. And as my lovely friend refers to it, fear is a mighty beast. So fear, and it’s intensified state, terror, are primal survival being jolted. All that peace and stillness and ease is oneness not separateness, and your primal survival system gets rather agitated, and begins to put up an aggressive fight. “I am separate, and I need protection from this harsh world! This peace is dangerous stuff…where is my separate stance? Where are the cold, harsh, separate others! ALARM! ”
So, here’s what you need to do: upgrade the primal system. Plug the cruder version into its more sophisticated source. Create a network of systems. The primal survival system is its own operating program, so you’ll never be able to override it. Instead, with your truest intentions, check in with fear. Check in to see if it would like to upgrade…say, from this crude unpleasant feeling, to the more peaceful, spacious, softness you sometimes feel in the background, or for some of you, the foreground. Touch the fear with the peace. Let the fear know that peace is really intelligent, so intelligent that it’s the fingers and the space between them. It’s the car and the driver, and the neighbor, and you, and it loves you all, and knows best how to take care of everyone. Ask the fear if it would like to go from its current crude self, say a 1976 Honda Civic, to its true nature, a new model Jaguar? Nothing has to let go, or surrender…nothing sooo scary like that. Just let fear feel the peace, and join it. And then that peace will tell you when something is off, when something is out of sync and heading towards distortion and pain. Usually 100 times better than primal fear can. And, it feels so much nicer, way easier to hang with.
So, fear, it’s a potent emotion, and it helps tremendously to know what is really going on, why you are suddenly flooded with it, and to know its able to join forces with peace. It needs an upgrade. Practice for yourself letting the fear touch into the peace. It might take a few minutes…upgrades, you know, old cranky things upgrading, take their own sweet time.