In light of a recent death of a 12-year-old by suicide in my rural, mountain community and the recent school shootings in Florida, the topic of fear is on the forefront of my mind. The U.S. has evolved into a fear-based, take-no-responsibility culture and what we are witnessing on a national level is a reflection of this collective mindset. I think I can safely say that we don’t like it, we want to change and we feel at a loss for how to change it. I’m going to propose some practices that I believe can help, though it’s not a quick fix solution and frankly, we didn’t get here overnight so a quick-fix solution won’t do anyway. This is about a creating a cultural shift that begins in with each one of us.
Energy flows where awareness goes.
Let’s start with Fear. Fear is just an emotion like all the other emotions. It’s what we allow fear to do that is the problem. First, we aren’t even aware fear is in the driver’s seat, but it is. When we react impulsively from the emotion, our energy continues to flow into fear, which creates more fear. My husband had a wonderful experience with this over the past week. One of his students was obsessively checking her phone during his class to find out “what’s going on with the shooting.” He went over to her and said, “Stop. First, there isn’t going to be any new news every few seconds. Try just checking between classes if you have to, though once a day is just fine. Second, do what you can by being kind to those around you here. Go to the person who looks like they are having a bad day and talk to them.” He reported she paused and said, “Yea.”
This is such a good example of how focusing on the fear can consume us, create obsessiveness, react, react, react and end up feeling overwhelmed and powerless. My teacher, Prasad Rangnekar, says, “Fear Divides, Love Unites.” Think about that statement and reflect on what our society feels like right now…pretty divided.
Then we come to take-no-responsibility. I had the opportunity to live out of the country for two years in India, a culture much different from the U.S. When we came back, one of the first things I noticed, in the airport, were all the advertisements for attorneys…everywhere. There were NONE of these in India. Now I don’t think having no access for help from wrong doing is good, but I can certainly say we in America have taken it to extremes. It's to the point that we rarely take responsibility for anything. Just look at our political system today. It’s a blame game, take no responsibility, admit no wrong and ‘the people’ are frustrated and angry about this. I ask you this: Are you taking responsibility for yourself, your actions, your judgements…? Most likely not. When we blame, we give ourselves the message, “I’m not responsible,” which ends up being disempowering. It ends up with a sense of powerlessness. Be honest. Do you feel this often? If so, you aren’t taking responsibility.
REMEMBER: what is happening at a national level is a reflection of when is happening, collectively, with each individual.
Energy flows were awareness goes.
Where do you want your energy to flow? My guess is to feel more at peace, more content, and more joy. So, let’s get to it!
1. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY
The first step is to start taking responsibility. YOU have a part in this, YOU are responsible for working towards this new mind state, YOU have to take the action steps. It’s not always easy, it’s not always fun and it TAKES TIME. All of us have been born into this cultural mindset and we all have parts of it that come from fear and not-taking-responsibility. Think about a large tree that has been growing for hundreds of years and you realize it’s no longer healthy, so you decided it's to get rid of it. When you think about getting rid of this tree, does it instantaneously happen? No! That’s the beginning! You have to start with the branches, cutting those away. Then slowly work down the trunk and those are the easy parts! Next is moving into the roots, which are deep and strong. It takes time to work through those, uprooting and getting as much as you can, continuing to uncover more and more of the root system. It’s the same process with changing mindset. We have one mindset that has been occurring for decades and it takes time and effort, but the work creates empowerment, freedom, and movement towards peace, contentment and joy.
The beginning of the journey is awareness. We can’t change what we aren’t aware of. I can’t start cutting down the tree by starting at its roots. I’m going to start with what I’m aware of and continue to take responsibility to become more aware of the layers (self-understanding) to focus on. There are many ways to practice awareness in the body, breath and mind. Start with some of Samya Yoga's YouTube Videos for practice.
3. SLOWING DOWN
I order for awareness to grow, we have to become quieter and still because inner awareness is the key. When I can feel in my body and breath what fear feels like, I can learn to pause and listen to what thoughts come along with these sensations and emotions. I am now meeting fear and can take the step to consciously choose how I want to respond versus react. Most our lives are on the go, rush here and rush there, and we collapse at the end of the day (and for some the mind keeps running). It is imperative that you start to slow down. Find moments to pause, breath, notice your body, close your eyes. Put time in the week that is to do nothing, just pause and relax. Relax by listening to soothing music, breathe, or listen to a guided meditation.
One of the easiest and most accessible tool to us for slowing down and relaxing is the breath. It’s always with us. Set an alarm on your phone or watch to remind you to pause and breathe every hour. Start your day off or end your day with a breathing practice. In these modern times, we do not breathe fully. With the rushing, we are in hyper-arousal mode, which means we breathe through our mouths and just into the upper chest. In turn, we aren’t getting enough oxygen and our whole body system, especially the nervous system and brain, are over stimulated. Learning and practicing to breathe fully can instantaneously help everything to slow down and move into a clearer mind state.
5. The Practice of GRATITUDE
When we are coming from fear, our mind usually is thinking about lack, what we don’t have. Shift that awareness to gratitude, what you do have and what you are thankful for, and watch the energy flow into a more peaceful and joyful place. We are living in abundance, it’s just a fear-based mind state distracts us from remembering this.
These are all places to start to create the change you’d like to see in everyone. It begins with us and it takes practice, practice, practice. Move from fear and powerlessness to a more loving, compassionate state of mind and watch the ripple affect start to happen. Each of us creates the world we live in. Take action and be a part of the change!