Arriving Home :: How To Choose Faith Over Fear
Faith and Fear
Fear is an everyday human experience. It is not only unique to us humans though - everything at some point in a life span experiences fear. Insects feel fear, animals feel fear and human beings can have a very layered relationship with fear.
When fear is present, we unconsciously react with the well-documented stress response of Fight, Flight or Freeze. Since fear is often an emotional response tied to past experiences and our conditioning (unless you have fear from an immediate threat), we react to it like stress. We tend to resist it and fight it, wishing that it would not be present and go away. Flee from it - turn the other way, bury our heads in the sand and do things to completely avoid the cause of our fears.
Fear also freezes the mind. It immobilizes us. What may seem like easy everyday decisions suddenly become difficult. Bigger decisions become rather unapproachable. Overall, you feel stuck at a cross road, talking to yourself over and over about which way to go without taking a single step forward, because you are so afraid of what any decision will bring. Fear clouds your vision and freezes your heart, body and mind.
There is a way through fear though. I am not here to tell you it will always be obvious, easy or without challenge. Yet the path through fear largely rests upon choosing to feel something other than fear, and that choice is faith.
Faith is one of the strongest antidotes to fear. It is rooted in the wholesome virtues of wisdom, love, surrender, grace and trust. When you have faith, you turn over the need to control, fix, change, stop or manipulate what is happening. So often we try to think or "fix" our way out of a problem. We insistently think about all the ways to get ourselves out of the current predicament as fast as possible. Choosing to feel faith is the decision to put all of that down - to forego the strain of fixing our way out of where we are and to move beyond all of these ego-based mental states into a deeper knowing, a more faith-based way of being.
Faith requires you to let go into who you really are, your practice and trust in life itself. Faith is the ability to surrender into this trust and inner-knowing, even when it is wildly uncomfortable to do so.
Faith is the ability to stay connected to love and your deeper-knowing, even at the crossroads or when the ground you thought you once had is dissolving beneath you.
Four Steps For Choosing Faith Over Fear
In my own spiritual journey, whether I like it or not, I have to admit that over and over again I have been confronted with this teaching. I have found myself in groundless situations, facing the beautiful moment of having no choice but to choose faith. If I hadn't chosen faith, I would have stayed in the immobilizing state of indecision and fear.
Here are my mindfulness-based steps that have helped me and my students move beyond fear. Follow these steps over and over until you feel your faith becoming strong again, moving you back into a state of freedom.
Step 1 - Recognize fear for what it is: fear
The very first step towards change is always awareness. Once you are aware that you are in a state of fear and having an experience that's close to a classic stress response, you will begin to be able to take a step back and see your fear for what it is. Until you are aware that fear is running the show, you will be unable to see clearly enough to move forward in any way. So, name it and say, "Ah - I'm totally in a place of fear."
Step 2- Listen to your fears - don’t just brush them away
This is an important step that can also be quite uncomfortable. Once you become aware of your fear, you must slow down and care enough to see it for what it is and to listen to it. Fear often has a story to tell us. There are causes, effects, feelings and thoughts associated with our fears. Instead of continuing down the road of fight, flight or freeze, here we turn and face our fears, but we meet them with respect, compassion and understanding.
Step 3- Choose something different: choose faith
When you listen to your fears and learn from them, you are already moving into a state of faith, love and wisdom. Choosing faith is the pivotal step to acknowledging your fears, and also saying, "now I am going to choose something different". It becomes time to be in movement once again.
Step 4- Move into actions based on faith
One of the quickest ways to get unstuck is to just keep moving. But often, your fear has made it really hard to make a decision or trust any kind of step forward. When you choose faith, you can also trust that ANY movement you make will be in the right direction. When you have surrendered your need to control and fix, then your actions will become aligned with the trust that has been restored in life and in yourself.
Living with faith will bring about a new level of freedom that was most likely lost while you were living in fear. Even if things aren't better yet, or you're still at the crossroads, or you're just beginning to take your first faith-based action steps, faith will allow you to feel better and more free while navigating life's inevitable moments of fear.