Because the basic mechanism of fear is of animal origin and a prerequisite to survival, it is built into the very structure and physiology of the human brain.
The capacity to analyze and abstract the perception of time and its concept of the future provides an endless variety of real or imaginary conditions along which fear can be projected. Thus, the multiplicity of fears promulgates endlessly via the mechanism of imagination and fantasy.
David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D.,
Transcending the Levels of Consciousness
It was explained to me this way: Let’s say you’re walking in the woods and you hear a twig snap behind you. Your body has an immediate fight or flight response. Downloads of all the stress chemistry: adrenaline, epinephrine, norepinephrine, cortisol, each doing its part in preparing you for battle or quick movement. And as the body is preparing itself in this way, what is the mind doing? As you are turning your head to see what made the sound, your mind is making a list of all the possibilities of what could have made the sound–lion, tiger, bear, murderer–in order that you will be most fully prepared to face the actual threat. The list will not include benign ideas as to what made the sound, because things like bunnies and children and Golden Retrievers will not require one’s survival skills to be brought to bear.
When we are walking around in our day to day life, carrying the amount of stress that the average American carries, many sensory perceptions may be experienced as possibly threatening–loud noises like traffic or machinery, people yelling, loud, aggressive music, quick movement in the periphery of one’s vision. In fact there are times when we may feel threat as the undercurrent of our day, everything and everyone experienced as one more weight dragging me down into the morass that threatens to drown me. When this is the case, our mind continually will run a list of all the things that could go wrong in the next moment or hour or day, along with a litany of suggestions as to what we should have done yesterday or last week that would have put us in a better position today, neither of which categories are particularly useful in structuring a healthy experience of Now.
This happens. This is the way the mind works. When my mind is telling me what I should fear, it actually is doing its job. It is not broken. There is nothing wrong with my mind. There is nothing wrong with me. Where we go wrong is when we make the mistake of identifying with this thinkingness, when we take these thoughts and feelings of fear as defining us and how we are doing.
These thoughts are. They will continue to run whether or not I have given them permission. I can’t make them stop. I often times can’t change them to more pleasant thoughts. What I can do is to know myself as other than these thoughts. I am something other than my thinking. From this something else I can have a point of view on the thoughts, I can see the thinkingness there as I experience myself here. I can remind myself to get present, to be in the world rather than in my thoughts about the world. I can remind myself that it is my duty to be happy joyous and free and then to share that happiness joy and freedom with the world. I can feel my feet on the ground, the sun in my face. I can listen to what my friend is telling me, I can see the way his eyes may want to smile and I can give him permission to do so by leading the way and smiling myself. I can begin to know myself as awareness itself, and from this place, the thoughts and the fear simply flow through on their way out of my body. And then we’re on to something else.
Today I will notice the difference between my senses and my thoughts, and when I find myself lost in thoughts and speculation, I will come to my senses.
Dune, Death Valley, CA
All original material copyright © 2018 Jeff Kober