“Meditation can be described as learning how to stay with the itch and the urge to scratch without scratching it.” (Pema Chödrön — “Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears”)
For starters, I must say this article does not bring the answer to end our fears. In fact, if there was some sort of magic pill that would keep fears from bashing into my mind, unattended, just know I would have already taken it. Plenty of them, to be honest.
On my self-healing and intuitive journey, I have walked many different paths. Maybe more paths than I wish I’d had, but I’m grateful for the experience all these paths brought me because eventually, they all led me to the beauty of mindfulness.
Mindfulness is not overrated like some may say. It’s not a fad of modern spirituality nor it is a label created to make us look more “enlightened.” Mindfulness doesn’t mean you need to sign up for Yoga and Meditation retreats, much less spend some time hanging out with monks.
Mindfulness is simply being aware of our breath, our emotions, and our surroundings. It’s the essence of who we are. An essence that has been forgotten because of our addiction to the future. Also, our addiction to our ego, which needs constant feeding. With a blend of attachment to the future and to our egos, we have a recipe for disaster. And the proud child of this disastrous marriage is fear.
I’ve had plenty of fears in my life. From small, rational fears to phobias and fear of death. We’ve all been there, let’s simply admit it. For the longest time I’ve tried unsuccessfully hiding and pushing away my fears, and sometimes I even appealed to my spirituality and prayers.
But nothing has ever brought me so much peace as mindfulness meditation. Hey, I shouldn’t even use the word “peace” here because meditating surely hurts like hell at first. Mindfulness teaches you to sit down with all the parts of yourself that you loathe — in my case, my fears — and it forces you to show up when you may just want to escape.
There is no promise of grace and peace after you meditate. On the contrary, it may make you very uncomfortable when you start doing it. So you’ll need to allow it to be uncomfortable.
Instead of pushing my thoughts away, I simply sat there the first few times I tried mindfulness meditation. It couldn’t get any worse, I’d thought. And it didn’t. Mindfulness doesn’t mean blocking your thoughts and emotions nor it means letting your mind run wild. It’s a safe space between these two extremes. You start by focusing on your breath. One in, one out. Once you do that, you realize that you find pleasure in being at that moment, regardless of how pleasant or unpleasant it might feel.
In that present moment, you find your safe haven. Fear can be there too, so if it stops by to say hello just invite it to sit next to you. By being there with your breath and aware of your feelings, you soon start to notice that fear gradually loses a bit of control over your mind.
When thoughts come, just let them pass by and return to your breath. Simple like that. One in, one out. With mindfulness practice, I learned to love and embrace my flawed self — including my fearful self. Now whenever fears stop by, I say, “thanks for warning me. But I can take care of myself.” One breath in, one breath out.
The interesting thing is that when I started practicing mindfulness, the fears kept knocking at my door more often for a while. It was like my mind was battling me with all worst-case scenarios types of fears so it could beat me and take control. So here is something to be aware of: the mind will try to win! But trust me, your “ego-mind” isn’t real. It doesn’t have the answers to everything nor it knows about your future. It just likes to blabber. And once you make that connection with meditation, the “ego-mind” will feel threatened and will try to fight its way back.
Think of your “ego-mind” as that super judgmental friend you used to hang out with when you were a kid. A kid who just wanted to be accepted and loved. We’ve all been there! At some point in our lives, we loved to “appease.” We want to be perfect in the eyes of our judgmental mind. And that’s how fear beings.
So who needs that kind of friend anyway? You wouldn’t tell your kids and loved ones to keep a friend like that, would you? So it’s time for you to ditch the fearful, “ego-mind” the mindful way. By ditching it I don’t mean to block it. If you try to block your fearful thoughts, get ready to see them piling up and attacking you with a grenade. So please don’t try to “block” anything! You just need to acknowledge these thoughts whenever they come and then let them go. Gracefully, kindly. “Thank you, MIND, for being so concerned about me. But I’ve got this.” One breath in, one breath out.
The beauty of mindful meditation or everyday mindfulness is that once you go past the clouds of fears and bad thoughts, you’ll eventually find the light. You will connect with the deepest essence of yourself — which a lot of people call the “higher selves.”
You’ll definitely be able to tell when you connect to your higher self. Your higher self has a different kind of “mind.” You will find that mind to be the total opposite of your ego-mind. It will never judge you. It’s kind and compassionate. And it will most likely tell you that everything is all right. That there is nothing to worry about.
Even if you do have something to worry about, like for example, when you face imminent danger, that mind will let you know about it, but you won’t feel that panicky sensation that your ego-mind wants you to feel. That panic that rocks your world and accelerates your heart. That mind will warn you with kindness and will advise you on how to act in your best interest.
My mother recently told me a story about something that happened to her. One day, she was walking alone on the sidewalk and she was “warned” she was going to be robbed. She still doesn’t know how she knew that, but she knew it. She could have acted out of fear and panic and started to walk faster, but she didn’t. She kept walking with mindfulness because she had a feeling she would be okay. Then a guy showed up in a motorcycle and asked her for directions. She kindly told him where to go. Then the man told her, “I don’t want to cause you any harm, but I need your bag.” I laughed when she said the man was the world’s most polite thief. Then my mom told him, “I’m coming from the gym, so I have nothing with me.” Without any fear, as if she were in some sort of trance, she stared at him, maybe waiting for him to ask for her bag again. But the man simply went away on his motorcycle.
This is just an example that shows how connected to the “higher mind” my mom was. Despite the fearful situation of real danger, she was calm. It wasn’t the ego-mind that had warned her — the ego-mind doesn’t know sh*t! That’s right, you heard me. The ego-mind is nothing but a blabbermouth. The higher mind warned her of something truthful and at the end of the day, my mom was not only calm but she also felt peaceful. Not going too deep into spirituality here, but the “higher mind” is basically pure light and connection to all that there is. That’s why you don’t fear when you hear that mind.
Mindfulness will teach you how to get access to that “higher mind” faster and you will soon go past the illusion of fear. Mindfulness will teach a lot more than that, actually, but that is a story for another time. What you need to understand is that instead of fighting off your fears, you will need to face them so you can transmute them. So you can see them through the eyes of your higher mind.
By living and walking with mindfulness, you’ll soon be able to stop finding reasons for punishing yourself for things that are not real or things you can’t simply control. And living in fear is ultimately self-punishment. We need to be kinder to ourselves, and also let go of control.
There are tons of guided mindfulness meditations online you can find, if you want to try. I just like to sit in silence, though. I don’t need any candles or music anymore. I just need to go within. But I’ll be honest. The fears still knock at my door. But today I know I don’t have to push them away. I just need to connect with my “higher mind.” And as soon as I make that connection, I notice how unimportant my fears become. My ego-mind still wants to be fed and from time to time it comes up with more reasons for me to be concerned about. When that happens, it’s a sign I have to meditate more. I have to breathe more. I have to live more in the present.
As my fears get transmuted, I soon realize where they come from and the real reasons behind them. Sometimes they’re pure self-punishment. Other times they reflect my fear of not being loved or accepted, or they’re simply a call for attention.
At the end of the day, no matter the reasons behind my fears, I know that I would never be able to reach that place of awareness had I not found mindfulness. And that’s why I say that mindfulness is the essence of our beings.