Over the past few weeks I’ve discussed with my classes the four obstacles that prevent us from recognizing things as they really are. To review, the obstacles (as described in the Yoga Sutras) are asmita (ego), raga (attachment), dvesa (aversion) and abhinivesa (fear). This week I’ve focused on abhinivesa, and thought about how we go about reducing fear. On a very basic level we can reduce fear by cultivating within ourselves the opposite of fear…but what exactly is the opposite of fear?
T.K.V. Desikachar, son of Krishnamacharya, says “fear is perhaps the most secret aspect of avidya (misunderstanding) and its expression is found on many levels of our everyday life.” He gives examples of fear expressed as uncertainty, doubt, anxiety, shyness, hesitation and more. But just as the expressions of fear are many and pervasive, so are the expressions of the opposite of fear. I asked one of my classes this week what the opposite of fear was, and the room echoed with so many words: love, courage, peace, belief, trust, passion, determination, joy.
Fear is an insidious obstacle because so often the fearful voice within comes across as very logical and therefore trustworthy. But when our lives are guided by fear we begin to limit our potential and restrain the very life force within us. Cultivating the opposite of fear builds our life force, giving rise to an ever growing prana. But this rise of personal internal power is often the thing we are most afraid of because it means stepping into the big unknown of our full potential.
When I really think about it, all fear is fear of the unknown. So my practice to cultivate the opposite of fear this week is a gentle reminder that every possibility within me, simply because it is part of me, I already know. These big scary unknowns seem far less mysterious when you stop and see them as already a part of yourself.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ― Marianne Williamson
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