Fear and the Everyday Mind
Colin Bondi, Guest Writer
Fear is a force to be reckoned with there is no doubt about it. There is hardly anyone alive on this planet that does not to some extent have to contend with fear. I want to be clear as to what I mean by the word fear. Fear is a psychological state which has nothing to do with real world danger. If you are walking down the street and a man jumps out and sticks a gun in your face, you could say you would react with fear. However what happens in such a situation is really a biological reaction to danger, it’s the fight or flight response, and all animals have this to some extent. It’s natural and part of the survival mechanism of the species. Usually in an acute life threatening situation, the mind and its thought processes freeze and we are thrust intensely into present moment reality as the body forces us to deal with the immediate crisis.
However unlike any other animal human beings project a label on the intense energy of the danger response and call it fear. The problem with this is we create a mental/emotional entity called fear which we then experience in relationship to imagined situations that have nothing to do with any real world event. We might fear that we will be robbed on the way home or that we could be fired tomorrow, even though in the moment neither of these things is happening, we feel a low level danger response. A mental construct is connected to a biophysical response which gives a feeling of reality to the imagined situations we fear. They seem real because we feel some of the same physical response to them as we do to a real world threat. Low level fear is often referred to as anxiety, and you could say that almost all of us experience some level of anxiety regardless of our life situation.
So why does the mind do this? It is an extremely dysfunctional way of existing as it distorts the experience of life and puts the body under much unnecessary stress. But that’s my point right there, the everyday mind is fueled by fear and its counterpart, lack. The mind is often fearing some kind of internal or external threat or it’s in fear of not having what it wants whether that’s money, sex, love or a material object. It’s a process of continual fear and deprivation. At times this may not be apparent when things seem to go well, but it’s just that these things are operating under the surface and so aren’t as easily noticed. But again why does the mind do this?
This brings us to the root of it. What we call mind is simply a process of consciousness, the process of thought and memory. The mind is thoughts and without thoughts there is no mind. In a state of complete internal stillness (called Samadhi) there is no mind just consciousness or awareness. However, we tend to collect bundles of thoughts and create an identity out of them and then take that to be who and what we truly are. We identity ourselves as being the body and the mind but the body is a temporary thing and the mind is just a constant flow of thoughts. So this identification is both very unstable and very limited. We’re so used to taking ourselves to be the body/mind, to be something tangible that there is intense fear at the thought that we might be no-thing at all.
The body was born and it’s going to age and die. The body will get sick and it is very fragile and subject to damage at any time. The mind when you really look deeply into it doesn’t exist except for thoughts that constantly come and go. Both of these things are going to generate fear if this is all we take ourselves to be. Our existence is like a bubble on the front of a wave. We usually deal with this fear by distracting ourselves from looking into it. We project the fear and its protective expression, anger, onto external objects such as partners, governments, groups we don’t agree with, bosses, society or just about anything that takes us away from looking within. The real distraction however is the incessant thought process of the mind. Most people’s minds almost never stop except for deep sleep, and it’s a good thing for that because we sure need that rest. The mind must remain in motion, that is, generating thoughts or not only will it soon be shown to be nonexistent but what we take to be the world will fall apart. The world as most of us know it is a screen of our projections. This is why so many people have a hard time with silence and stillness and deep meditation. The mind cannot afford to be still lest it lose its illusion of existence. Boredom is a version of fear in disguise, causing us seek stimulation, anything other than being still. The mind is very adept at keeping the illusion going.
None of this reflects our natural state or who and what we truly are. On a spiritual level I think the challenge and the opportunity for us all is to confront the root fear of our own nonexistence to uncover the truth beneath that. This root fear of the mind is a threshold we must pass through if we are to truly know ourselves. To pass through this threshold requires the absolute surrender of everything we have ever taken ourselves to be. The fear must be transformed into fearlessness, the unknown embraced unconditionally. Given the temporariness of the body/mind we really have nothing to lose in this surrender that we aren’t destined to lose anyway. Why not consciously, intentionally dive right into the truth of who you really are right now? The gift is the freedom of reality but that is nothing we can conceive of, all thoughts and imaginations about the Divine are not it. What we are cannot be grasped by the mind. There is an intelligence somewhere deep within us that is calling us home to the truth, to freedom, it’s just a question of when we’ve had enough of the fear-based illusion?
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