We all have fears. Fear of what may happen in the future, of skeletons in the closet, of failing others and ourselves. We fear what if our worst fears come true. Most of our anxiety stems from such fears. We read self-help books that tell us to "not worry" or "be positive". But, it doesn’t work most of the time, certainly not every time. Someone asked me the other day, "Is there a way to rise above your fears?"
Well, it depends on the nature of your fears. If you have paranoia, phobias and worries resulting from excessive thinking then surely a calm mind is of immense help. My focus today is not on unfounded fears arising out of the chattering of a restless mind though. I’ve written and spoken a fair bit on that in the past. Instead, in this post, I talk about genuine fears. Those where a calm mind doesn’t appease your anxiety, fears where all forms of affirmation fails. Only one thing works in the face of such fears. What is that, you ask?
Let me share with you a little story first.
Many years ago a farmer owned a large farm along a certain seacoast. That region was particularly prone to violent storms making it rather difficult for him to prevent the damage. He was always looking for strong and strapping men who could safeguard his barn, pen and hay. But, no matter how well the farmer paid, everyone would leave after facing a storm or two.
One day, a petite and short man approached him for employment. Looking at the thin build, the farmer was quite skeptical about his fitness for the job. He explained to the applicant that it was a physically demanding job and he couldn’t see how his small body would handle it. The man, however, assured him that he was more than capable.
"Everyone leaves after facing just one storm," the farmer said.
"Actually, I sleep peacefully in the middle of a storm."
The farmer, although intrigued by his answer, hired him anyway for he was desperate for help.
The little man proved to be an efficient and committed worker. He worked well around the farm, busy from dawn to dusk, and the farmer was satisfied with his work. One night the wind bellowed loudly and a massive storm began building up. The power went out immediately and it was pitch dark everywhere. Jumping out of bed, the farmer grabbed a flashlight and rushed next door to the hired hand’s quarters.
Deafening thunders roared through the sky. Battery of lightening and mighty winds turned the quiet seashore into a horror scene.
"Wake up!" he shouted and shook the little man. "A storm is coming!"
The man squinted at the light in his face and closed his eyes again indicating he was in no mood to get up. In utter disbelief, the farmer threw a quick glance around his room to ascertain if the worker was actually drunk. But no, the room was clean.
He shook him even more severely this time and yelled at the top of his lungs, "What the hell! Get up and tie things down before they blow away!"
"No sir," the little man said rolling over in his bed. "I told you, I sleep peacefully in the middle of a storm."
Enraged by his indifference, the farmer hurled a few slurs and rushed out to prepare for the storm. Outside, however, the haystacks were already covered with tarpaulins. The cows were in the barn, hens in the coop, and the doors were barred. The shutters were tightly secured. Everything was tied down. Nothing could blow away.
Pleasantly surprised, the farmer apologized to the worker and went back to his bed too. To sleep while the storm raged.
The word is preparedness.
When your fear is genuine, arising out of a reasonable anticipation or a certain action (or lack of it), preparedness is the only way to help you face the fear. For example, if you fear failing an exam tomorrow because you haven’t prepared for it, it’s a genuine fear. Positive talk or self-affirmation won’t really help you. Only preparedness will.
And, at the root of readiness is a simple affirmation. Putting your hand on your heart, if you can say I did the best I could then you’ve done your bit. The rest must be left to the Nature, Fate, Karma, God, whatever you want to call that element. We can only do what we can and ultimately, we can only do so much. If you’ve prepared as well as you could, that’s all that matters. We don’t control everything that happens to or around us. There’s little sense in fretting over things beyond your control.
If you’ve put your seat belts on and you are obeying the traffic laws while driving carefully, worrying about an accident is a pointless fear. You’ve no control over it. Worrying about a plane crash while taking a flight is another example. Excessive thinking is the mother of such fears. Any specific fear you can’t get out of your head is a phobia. Either way, good meditation, counseling or other similar methods can help you overcome them. For all genuine fears, though, readiness is the only way as far as I know.
An old lady asked her co-passenger, a forty-something burly man, on a domestic flight, "What are the odds that someone could be carrying a bomb on our plane?"
"I wouldn’t worry about it," he said confidently. "It’s one in a million."
"Hmmm..." she nodded.
"And, what are the chances that two complete strangers could carry a bomb on board?" the old lady asked after a few minutes.
"More like one in one hundred million," he said and went back to reading his magazine.
"Well then," she said and opened her handbag containing explosives, "I just massively improved our safety odds."
It sounds funny but that’s often how a restless mind tries to tackle fear. We try to get rid of our worries by worrying more about them. It doesn’t work. The storms in your life depend on your potential. The more you have to offer, the more nature will throw in your way. This is the only way to take you to the next level, to help you reach your potential and then cross it.
Pigeons don’t have the same scale of challenges as falcons. The bigger your existence the more powerful the storms. Those storms may be the inner tempests of emotions or blizzards of thoughts, they may be external gales of adversities or hurricanes of circumstances. Regardless, if you wish to sleep in peace in the face of a storm, you’d better be prepared for it in advance. It begins by being mindful of and responsible for our choices and actions. There’s nothing we can’t learn, from being happy and positive to mastering the self — all is possible.
Storms will come. Let them. For, the joy of quietude and calmness is a million-fold thereafter. Every storm leaves you with a lesson. Such lessons alone make up the wisdom we acquire in our lives. Wisdom, further, is the ability to see in muddy waters, to steer your boat in choppy seas. You can’t escape the storms if you wish to enjoy the vastness of the ocean. Let’s step out, dive in, go deep. What’s there to lose? The whole universe is yours for the taking. Why live any other way?
Prepare. Play. Pause. Ponder. Repeat.