Fear is grounded in either the past or the future. When we feel fearful, we are either mentally attached to the past or the future, and often we are taking turns going back and forth from these states of mind. Living in fear is actually the act of moving back and forth from future to past. Fear, and the manifestation of it, is when we are afraid of losing something we already have or when we are afraid of not getting what we desire. Ultimately, fear is our distrust in life and our inability to remain present.
In yoga, we talk of non-attachment to the fruits of our labor. We’re taught to focus on the trees rather than the fruit that grows on the branches of these trees. We practice focusing on the present moment, the present task at hand, leaving worry about the end result, or product, the creations that stem from our actions, up to the Great Mystery, as known in Native American traditions, or up to the unknown. We practice surrendering to the Divine, or in layman terms, letting go and not worrying over the end results. If we practice, every day, being fully present in the moment, we truly begin to release our fears. By simply remaining present in the moment, we find balance in our lives. In balancing yoga postures, such as Tree pose, we focus on the breath and balance, and with a softened gaze, we begin to feel the other states of mind slip away. By focusing on the present, we allow the mind to remain grounded, like the roots of a tree, and we ground deeper into the present, thereby letting the past and future remain where they belong.
When we lose our focus in balancing postures, we’ve allowed our minds to travel outside of the present moment. The mind grows too active to remain calm and the focused energy grows scattered and then we lose balance. This applies to yoga and life. Obviously, one’s health, strength and flexibility factor into the practice, but even well-seasoned yogis find themselves teetering when they allow the mind to jump in and out of past and future thoughts.
When we dissect our fears we begin to look at ourselves more clearly. We begin to see how our minds work, the patterns and habits in our thinking, and we grow to see through this added awareness the pitfalls we need to stay away from, as if seeing red warning posts along the street in our minds that enable us to drive more safely.
The ultimate fear that we all possess is death. Even if we talk of not being afraid of death all one has to do is to hold their breath long enough to prove that instinctively everything strives to live. By holding our breath we see how the body naturally responds to the desire to live. We automatically gasp for air when it is taken from us. In our most natural state, we strive to live. Everything, even a blade of grass, grows up towards the sun, reaching to live. Everything strives to live.
If we open our hearts to the present moment, we open ourselves towards living as creative beings. When we allow judgment and expectation to release their grip on our minds, their hold on the past and future, we open ourselves more deeply to the present moment and all the gifts that are openly found there, the gifts that can only be found in the present.
While driving one day, I allowed my mind to listen for the creation of my own mantra rather than reciting one I had learned because I instinctively felt the need to chant something that came out of my complete being. I needed to connect to my innermost being, but I didn’t know how. I wanted to chant something created out of my own heart. I didn’t know why. I simply allowed it to surface and seemingly out of nowhere, a raven, or crow, passed closely in front of my moving car. I softly gazed at it, as it flew by, then my chant appeared.
I am a raven cawing out your name,
Please hear my refrain.
I am a raven sending up peace,
Please feel my release.
Give your heart and peace.
Give your heart then release.
As if I were reading from an invisible book this chant welled up from my heart, and I began chanting it as if I had known it my entire life. It came as a blessing and it was exactly what I needed to hear. The worry about the outcome of my actions as a yoga teacher, a writer, a student of life, no longer existed because I was completely focused on my driving taking whatever appeared before me as my lesson. I was open to hearing my mantra because I completely surrendered to the truth that could only be found in the present.
The present offers us the gift of gratitude and when we replace attitude with gratitude, we grow grateful for the blessings that are found here. We flourish in gratitude. We wilt with attitude. When we begin to see the infinite supply of blessings all around us waiting for us to witness them, we begin to live more actively in the present.
How do we dismantle fear? We remain present, so that we can receive all the lessons that can only be learned in the present. Fears belong, live, and thrive in the past and future. Why be in the past when it is history, out of our control? Why participate in the future when it has yet to be made and requires the present in order to manifest? Our active awareness and participation in the present shapes the future, but it does not fully determine it because it is a Great Mystery. The Great Mystery is always within us and the great creations will continue to come out of the present. We must trust in the universe, ourselves, and why be anywhere else but the present? As Ram Dass so eloquently said, “Be here now, or be nowhere.”
Take fear out of the driving seat and allow the present moment to lead. I recently heard of a song by Terry Allen, “My ego ain’t my amigo anymore…” When we allow the present moment to lead we find our true best friend, our breath.
Reclaiming our lives is often as simple as remaining as present as we possibly can, and though it is often easier said than done, the more we practice taking a comfortable seat in the present, the more we are able to live comforting lives rather than stressful ones. When we give ourselves the opportunity to remain present, we begin to dismantle fears and take control of our lives, making choices out of a place of security, joy, love, and most importantly, truth.