Today we ask that you ease up on the pressure.

Ease up on the pressure.

Most people live out their days as if they were in a movie or TV show, where the stakes are high and the clock is ticking.  And yet most people are not dealing with spies, or political intrigue, or tense courtroom dramas.  Most people are just going to the office or the supermarket.  They are picking up their children from school, and paying bills.

Even so, they are tense and wound up, pulse pounding — as if they were on a mission of global importance, with villains out to get them.

That is because the human mind has a very poor sense of perspective, when it comes to dramas.  It does not matter what the scale of the drama is.  Talking to the customer service representative is as pressured as being interrogated by the police.  Everything is high stakes, even if it really is inconsequential.

This poor sense of perspective is easy to observe in small children, for whom getting the cookie or the toy can easily become a high stakes drama, worthy of screams, rage, and throwing yourself on the floor.  It is okay for toddlers to have a poor sense of perspective — they are just toddlers.  The problem arises then the parent also loses all sense of perspective and screams back at the toddler.  When this happens, the toddlers learn that grown-ups throw tantrums too, that tantrums are a valid way of asserting control.  So educated, the child grows into a tantrum-throwing adult.  Only instead of throwing tantrums over cookies and toys, he throws tantrums over traffic jams and taxes.

Ease up.  Ease up.  Put things in proper perspective.  It is fine to feel your emotions, and healthy to do so.  But when drama escalates in your mind, when the body feels stressed and tense, then it necessary to give yourself a “time out.”  Step away from the tantrum-inducing situation.  Focus on becoming calm, so that you can see things clearly.  

Generally speaking, whatever is going on is not a high stakes drama.  It is true that some situations are more dramatic than others — dealing with true emergencies, life-threatening events, and so on.  But such situations are not everyday and common, for most people.

Consider everyday, mundane situations around which you feel a great deal of stress and pressure.  How can you ease up on this pressure?  How can you put things in perspective, so that what is happening doesn’t feel like a life-threatening emergency?

This is done by gently questioning your beliefs about whatever is happening.  Usually in a drama, there is a strong attachment to things working out in a particular way.  You must meet the deadline.  You must win this person’s approval.  The meeting must go well.  You need this electronic device to work right now.  You need to hear back from this person right now.  And so on, and so on.  All these things people get very worked up about.

When you are feeling pressure in these situations, when you feel cranky and on the verge of a tantrum — take a step back.  At the very least, take ten slow, deep breaths.  Go for a walk, if you can.  Do whatever you can to calm down your physical body.  Maybe you just need a drink of water, or a bathroom break.  Create some space in which you can gather your wits.  Give yourself a “time out,” so that you can regain clarity before you send that text, or make the remark you will regret.

When you feel calmer, then ask yourself, is there any way to make this situation less stressful?  How can I ease up on the pressure?  How can this feel better?

Almost always when you invite the mind to be helpful in this way, an answer will appear.  There may be a barrage of arguments, at first: it can’t be any less stressful!  But if you give the mind some space the protesting will usually subside after a while, and you will perceive a less stressful path.

For example, let’s say you are playing a game — any kind of game.  It is meant to be fun, but it is not feeling fun.  It feels stressful and pressured.  Perhaps you wish to impress your opponent with your skill, but you are making many mistakes.  Perhaps you are a very competitive person, and losing triggers you.  Perhaps you are an athlete and winning or losing has real significance.  Perhaps you have bet money on the game.

So how can this be less pressured?  Well, quite simply, in this scenario, you must recognize that the world will not end if you lose the game.  This is true even for a professional athlete.  The world will not end if you lose the game. 

Once you really accept this, the game is less pressured.  It can be fun.  You are playing to play, not playing to win.  Ironically, you have a much greater chance of success in any game if you play from this position.  

This is true for almost all everyday stressful scenarios.  The world will not end if you do not get the thing you are attached to getting.  Just like the toddler’s world does not end if he does not get the toy or the candy.  This is the key to ending tantrums.  Relax.  The world is not going to end.

The more you clench and tighten up around things, the less likely it is for situations to work out well in any case.  This is obvious in romantic pursuits, where feelings of pressure dull desire.

So even if you live in a society that promotes the story that a high stress, pressured lifestyle is the only way to be successful — this does not mean you have to live that way.  Societies have promoted many crazy beliefs.  People have believed in witch burnings and slavery, genocide and the healthy properties of cigarettes.  Some people still believe in holy wars.

True freedom in this life lies in freedom from cultural conditioning.  Just because the people around you believe certain things and live in a certain way, does not mean you have to.

If everyone eased up on the pressure and put things in proper perspective, there would be no holy wars.  


Today we ask you to stop worrying.

Stop worrying.

Most people don’t like to worry about things.  And yet if you suggest that they might feel better if they worried less, they would get defensive.

Worrying about things is necessary.  Only a very irresponsible person doesn’t worry about things.  And such a person will suffer for being so irresponsible, when bad things happen to him because he wasn’t worried.

That is the story.  It is important to worry about things, because then you take measures to stop bad things from happening.

But is this really true?

For the most part, worried people are miserable not because of anything that is actually happening to them in the present moment.  Nor do their worries truly protect them from future misfortune.

That is because it is impossible to predict the future.

Consider the person who worries all his life about saving up enough money to retire, then is diagnosed with a terminal illness.  Such things happen often.  There is no way to control the future.

That is not to say, people shouldn’t make plans for the future, or that people should behave irresponsibly or self-destructively because one can die at any time.

The question is, is it necessary to worry about things?  Does worry generate responsible behavior?

Consider the parent who worries about his child’s future.  This begins early on — he agonizes over getting the little child into good schools, so that someday the child can get into a good university and so on.  The child feels pressured and stressed by all this parental worry, causing the child to act out against the parent.  By the time adolescence arrives, the child engages in substance abuse — to relieve tension and also perhaps to meet academic pressures.  

So in that situation, it is apparent that worry is not useful.  It is actually destructive.

This is the case in the majority of situations.

Worry is a state of mind in which one experiences fear around imaginary future scenarios, around things that have not yet happened.  Sometimes the fears are based on past experiences: something bad happened in the past, you are worried it will happen again.  Other times they are based on fearful stories other people spread.  Your family and friends tell you that you should worried about this and that; the news tells you that you should be worried.  

The problem with this is that these imaginary fears produce very real stress and tension in the physical body.  And this stress in turn produces poor decision making, impulsive behavior, and physical and mental illness.

In short: worrying is bad for your health, and causes destructive behavior.

Therefore worrying is not responsible.  It is not the mark of a responsible person.  It is, quite simply, not good for you, and not good for the people around you — the same way addictive consumption of alcohol is not good for you or the people around you.  And worry is addictive.  Many people are heavily addicted to worrying — spending their days absorbing fearful news and imagining scenarios of doom.

A voice may argue: what about the proverbial story of the ant and the grasshopper?  In this story, the hard-working ant saves food for the winter, while the freewheeling grasshopper doesn’t save up and starves.  Surely it is because the ant worried about his future, and so saved for a rainy day and didn’t fritter away his resources.  The grasshopper didn’t worry, and met with disaster.  Surely worrying about the future generates positive behavior, like taking steps to conserve the environment, and so on.  

In nature, animals do not “worry” about anything.  They behave in intelligent ways — stockpiling food for the winter, migrating seasonally, and so on — but at no point does “worry” enter the picture.  Animals behave instinctively, which is to say that their complex patterns of migration are actually part of a higher intelligence that governs the natural world.

Humans can also access this higher intelligence, but many humans have cut themselves off from this good and powerful force because of their mental processes — including neurotic thought, and worry.  In other words, if birds and butterflies and whales were capable of experiencing stressful worry about their migratory patterns, they wouldn’t get anywhere.  

It is entirely possible to intelligently plan for future events without worrying.  For example, one can plan to take a trip somewhere, and make all the necessary arrangements, without experiencing the state of worry, or having fearful projections about things going wrong.  While many people do worry and experience a great deal of stress when they plan trips, worry and stress are not useful in this process, and in fact inhibit the ability to make good decisions and move efficiently.

It is also completely possible to engage in intelligent financial planning or environmental conservation without being dominated by fear, stress, and worry.  Anxiety actually leads to paralysis, not wise action.

That is to say, the more you worry, the less effective you are.

This is not to suggest that fears should be ignored, suppressed, or swallowed.  But the best way to deal with fears is to look at them from a calm, clear place, the way a parent shines a flashlight under a child’s bed to dispel the child’s fear of monsters.  It is poor parenting to tell a scared child to shut up about the monster under the bed and go to sleep.  That will, in fact, produce a worried, anxious child.

Therefore what “worry” really indicates is that some fear is running away with you, you are in the grip of the monster under the bed.  The thing to do is shine a light on it, which can only really happen when you calm down.

So when you are worried, the best course of action to take is to engage in calming activity — meditation, gentle exercise, going for a walk outdoors, listening to music, getting present with an animal or small child.  Only when you are calm will you be able to think clearly about the matter, and make intelligent plans if they are required.

Only when you are calm can you access the higher intelligence that governs the migrations of birds and butterflies, dolphins and whales.  That higher intelligence can tell you where to go — but only if you are quiet and calm enough to hear it.  


Today we ask that you let go of needing things to happen in a certain way.

Let go of needing things to happen in a certain way.

Needing things to happen in a certain way is a recipe for misery and suffering.

The more a person is attached to life unfolding in a certain way, the more he suffers.

Imagine going on a trip to another country with a strong need for things to unfold in a certain way — the plane flight just so, everything going according to the schedule and itinerary, perfect weather, etc.  You can see that this is a foolish way to travel, and that such a person will probably wind up quite miserable.

Life itself is like a journey, a trip.  The more you need everything to be “just so” in order for you to be okay, the more unhappy you shall be.

Life has a way of wreaking havoc with one’s carefully laid plans and schemes.  Nothing goes according to the itinerary, and there are always unexpected storms and roadblocks.  

The good traveler is open to unforeseen twists and turns in the road.  While he may have a destination in mind, he is not really so attached to getting there in any particular way.  He is open to unexpected adventures.  Roadblocks, bad weather, delays — these are embraced as opportunities to stop places one would otherwise pass, to see things one would not otherwise see, to meet people one would not otherwise meet.

The good liver of life is like a good traveler.  He may have destinations in mind, but each day he is open to unexpected adventures that may detour him from the main road.  He does not expect his journey to unfold in a certain way, everything just so, everything going according to the schedule and itinerary.

Every day, from the moment you awaken to the moment you surrender to sleep, is its own journey.  If you desperately need the events in your day to be “just so,” if you demand that things unfold as you plan and expect them to, then you will be a miserable person today.

And that is how many people live life, of course.  Like travelers who complain about everything — the plane flight, the lodgings, the food, the weather, the delays.  Meanwhile the trip is happening, but they find no joy in it.

Here is a truth of the life experience: the more tightly you cling to expectations of how things should be, the more likely it is that things will go awry and defy your expectations.

In other words, the more you need something to happen in a certain way, the more fixed and rigid you are in your expectations, the more likely it is that life will not give you what you want.

Whereas if you are more open and loose in your desires — for example, if you simply wish to experience joy today, without being specific as to the how or what or why of it — then it is very likely that this wish will be fulfilled.  

Does this make sense? 

If a person says to the universe, I can only be happy if I get a red sports car, then that person is doomed.  Even if the person gets a red sports car, he will not be happy.

If a person says to the universe, I wish to feel joy today, and I am open to this coming from anywhere, I am open to surprises — this will come to pass.  It may be a very small thing, but it will come to pass.

That is what it means to let go of things happening in a certain way.

If someone says, I can only be happy in this life if I marry someone and have at least two children, a boy and a girl, and live in a nice house with nice things, then this person is doomed.  Even if he gets all of those things, he is doomed.

If someone says, I wish to experience joy in this life, and I am open to the unexpected — good energy will flow.

So that is why wise men say that attachment is the cause of suffering.  It is the attachment to projections of future outcomes, the desperate craving for things to happen in a certain way, that causes unnecessary suffering in life.

Be a good traveler on the road of life.  Travel light.  Be open to the unexpected.  Know that plans and itineraries will fall to pieces, anticipate detours and delays.  Don’t cringe from those experiences, for often that is where the juiciest part of the journey lies.

Let go, let go, let go.


Today we ask that you become more creative and flexible in the way you respond to stress.

Become more creative and flexible in the way you respond to stress.

Most humans are only capable of three responses to situations they find stressful, or threatening:

  1. Fight
  2. Flee
  3. Freeze

This is, of course, the well-known “fight or flight” response.  It is a very basic, primal response, no more advanced than what one finds in reptiles, fish, and invertebrates.  It is your dinosaur brain’s response to a threat.

When a perceived threat arises, you either fight, flee, or move into paralysis.

Many people have a habitual response to stress: they tend to be fighters, avoiders, or experience paralysis.

Of the three responses, “fight” usually feels like the most empowering.  Habitual fighters often appear to achieve success from the ego’s point of view, fighting and clawing their way to the top in a dog-eat-dog world.

But people who live in continual “fight” mode are miserable and exhausted.  Whatever success their fighting ways may bring them is fleeting, and they take little joy in it.  There is always a younger, faster, stronger fighter coming along to supplant them.  The old dog will get killed by the young dog.

It is impossible to enjoy life when you are stuck in fight/flight mode — no matter how rich or successful you may appear to be.  It is a joyless life.

It is also not a particularly intelligent way of living.  Animals in fight/flight mode are cut off from their higher brain function.  It is impossible to truly reason or think logically in that mode.  That is why otherwise intelligent people may do very foolish things while in the grip of an impulsive fight/flight response.

In order to respond with creativity and intelligence to situations, you must learn how to deactivate the fight/flight response at will.

Who do you trust more in a crisis?  Someone who appears to be calm and alert, or someone who behaves like a crazed animal?  There are far more effective responses to stressful situations than fight, flee, or freeze.

To access them, you must learn to calm yourself down before you take any impulsive action.  When you find yourself in fight/flee/freeze mode, the first thing to do is calm your body down.  Obviously if you are in the middle of a car accident or an earthquake, the adrenalized state may be useful.  But it is not useful in an office, a supermarket, or when you are on the phone trying to sort out a bill. 

Take slow, deep breaths.  Soothe your animal body.  Step outside.  Go for a walk.  Listen to calming music.  This will activate your higher brain function, so you can perceive you are not facing an actual survival threat because of that email or Facebook post or the thing your coworker said.

The most effective way to take action in this world is not by trying to force reality to do what you want through fighting and beating it into submission.  

The most effective form of creation in reality comes from cultivating a calm internal state and addressing matters on an energetic level, before you take any action in the external world.

This means that if you are experiencing conflict and drama around any issue, the thing to do is to find some time and space in which to get calm and meditate on the problem.  That doesn’t mean, think about it from an angry/threatened place and form your strategy/plan of attack.  It means, get very calm, breathe, hold the issue in your consciousness and then let go.

Just hold an intention to create healthier energy around this stressful situation.  Nothing more than that.  Ask to release any blocks or obstructions and increase good flow.

From this calm, quiet, open space, you will discover far more creative and intelligent approaches to dealing with problems than you would in the fight/flight mode.

You are humans.  You are not dinosaurs.  And while every one of you has an “Inner Dinosaur,” you are capable of far more fluid and beautiful responses than dinosaurs were.

You can address problems and dramas on an energetic level.  In your mythology, this is what wizards and Jedi Masters do.  These stories reflect a deep truth.  Every one of you is capable of a kind of wizardry.  This doesn’t mean you can magically control reality and gratify your ego.  But if you approach situations with an open heart and a desire to increase well-being for all, magic is possible.

Think about something in your life that causes you stress.  Something that makes you aggressive, something you want to run away from, something that makes you feel frozen and paralyzed.

Find ten minutes in your day to sit in quiet meditation around this issue with the simple intention of clearing the energy and bringing about healthy change.

Don’t try to figure out how to do this, or come up with a strategy.  Just be relaxed and open.  

Do this every day for a week, and you will perceive a subtle shift, even in your own thinking.

Such subtle shifts are far more powerful than “winning an argument” or “getting what you want.”

If you make a habit of approaching stressful situations on an energetic level, and moving away from acting out of fight/flight/freeze, gradually your life experience will improve.  It may not happen overnight, but it will happen.

“Fight or flight” did not really help the dinosaurs, in the end.  It is a very limited response.  You are capable of so much more.


Today we ask you to trust, and let go.

Trust, and let go.

What does this mean?

Most people walk through life with a very tight grip on everything.  People are very tight and tense about things.  

They are tight about their jobs.  They are tight in their relationships.  They are tight with money.  Everything is a source of tightness and tension.  People walk around with clenched jaws and knotted shoulders, and no one gets good sleep.

It is an unpleasant way to live.

People believe that they are supposed to be tight about everything.  They must hold on tightly to their jobs, or they will lose them.  They must hold on tightly to the people they care about, or they will lose them.  They must hold on tightly to their money, or they will lose it.  They must hold on tightly to their diets, or they will get fat.

But really none of this is true.

In truth, no matter how tightly you cling to anything in this life, it will eventually slip through your fingers.  Everyone gets old, if they live long enough.  Everyone dies.  Spend time with the elderly, and you will see the futility of trying to hold on tightly to things.

If you are destined to lose everything, no matter how tightly you hold on to it, why not try letting go right now?

Just let go, and see what happens.

Let go.  Let go.

Look at the places in your life where you feel tight, where you are holding on very tightly.

And just consider what it would feel like to let go in those places.

How can you loosen your grip?  How can you relax out of that tight, tense feeling?

Usually a voice will protest that you have to be tight around these things.  For example, many people believe that if they were not tight and tense about work, they would be lazy and unproductive.

This is actually a completely false belief.  Tension blocks the flow of good energy.  Think about a pipe that is closed and constricted.  Such a pipe allows much less flow than a pipe that is open and loose.

So tense, tight people are in truth far less productive than people who are relaxed and at ease.

When people believe that if they relax, they will be lazy, usually this is because their bodies and nervous systems are utterly exhausted by their tension-filled lifestyle and in desperate need of rest.  So yes, in that case, relaxation would produce a kind of torpor — one that is necessary for the restoration of health to an exhausted body.  After resting, such a person would actually find that they had much more energy to do things.

Most modern people are in absolutely no danger of “relaxing too much.”

It is the same with relationships.  People think they need to hold on tightly to partners.  Parents think they need a tight grip on children.  In truth, the more you cling to any person, they more they will inevitably be driven away.  

If a tight grip is required to maintain a relationship, this is not a healthy relationship.  It is better to relax and let go.

No one likes to feel controlled and manipulated.  No one wants to be around someone who is tense all the time.

Let go.  Let go.

It is true that sometimes things collapse when you release your tight grip.  If this is the case, it means that structure wasn’t sound.

It is like trying to hold together a dam with many holes in it.  You use all this energy desperately trying to plug the holes, and water keeps pouring through anyway.  Sometimes it is better to allow the old rickety dam to collapse so that you can expend your energy building a new, sturdy dam.

That is why it is good to let go, even if at first it seems to create a bigger mess.  The mess was already there, it was already happening despite all your tense efforts to hold it in.  Once the mess it out in the open, you can actually do something about it.  You won’t be wasting all that energy trying to hold it in.

Let go.  Let go.  Trust that the world will not fall apart if you do.

Imagine the deep relief you would feel if you let go.  Whatever you are tight about is a burden.

So just observe the areas of tightness in your life.  Don’t judge yourself about it.  Just observe the things you feel tense and tight about.

Now imagine what it might feel like if you let go.  You don’t have to figure out how to let go, or what would specifically be involved.  Just imagine relaxing, and letting go.

Notice any resistance that arises, the voice that protests “But I can’t let go!”

Don’t push or force it.  There is no immediate action to take.

Just make a practice of observing tightness.  Where do you feel tight?  What makes you feel tight?

As you observe, ask the question: “How can I let go?”

Don’t try to answer the question or reason it through with your thinking mind.  Just open yourself to the idea that it might be possible to let go.  Feel a sense of trust around it.  Be open to seeing what happens.

From an outside perspective, most people look like they are clinging tightly to ropes, without realizing that the ground is not all that far below them.  They grasp and cling to the rope, hurting their bodies, fighting, struggling, and exhausting themselves.  But if they just let go, the ground would catch them.  Yes, they might fall and bruise themselves at first.  But far better to do that, than to cling in pain and misery to that horrible rope.

Let go.  Let go.  You will be okay.  


Today we ask that you not take things so seriously.

Don’t take things so seriously.

If people didn’t take things so seriously, this would be a much more peaceful world.

All tyrants and dictators are people who take themselves very seriously.  In truth, they might be quite foolish — dressing up in costumes, putting big pictures and statues of themselves everywhere.  But they take themselves very seriously, to the point of murdering those who do not take them seriously.  That is how desperate they are to be taken seriously.

All wars are started by people who take things very seriously, who demand to be taken seriously.  Terrorists are people who take themselves very seriously.

If you have the ability to laugh and find humor in your situation, you probably aren’t going to go kill people.

What is the opposite of taking things too seriously?

Making light of things.

That is a beautiful phrase, isn’t it.  To “make light” of something.

Who wouldn’t want to make light of things?

Only someone who takes things too seriously.

The truly wise people in this world smile and laugh very easily.  Even in the midst of trouble and turmoil, they can smile and laugh.  They are very quick to laugh at themselves, to see the absurdity of their own situation and thoughts.  All true sages are like this.

So dictators are people who take themselves very seriously.  And sages are people who make light of things, and easily laugh.

This points the way to a truth of human existence.

The easiest, most direct way out of any situation that you are suffering over is not to “fix the problem.”

The most direct way out of suffering is to make light of the situation.  To find humor in it.

Imagine someone traveling with a baby on an airplane.  The baby soils his diapers, and the diapers leak all over the person’s clothes.  There is nothing that can be done until the plane flight is over.  The person will just have to sit in his soiled clothes, for everyone to see.

There are two ways to respond to this situation:

The person might fall into a terrible, angry mood.  The flight is ruined; it is a nightmare.  He will be unpleasant to the people around him, and even behave resentfully toward the innocent baby.

That is someone who takes himself too seriously.

Another person would easily laugh at the situation, enjoying it as a comedy.  He loves the baby and even manages to have a good time on the plane flight.  

That is someone who knows how to make light of things.

This applies to everything that happens, to all dramas that humans experience.

In every moment, you can take yourself too seriously, or you can make light.

Usually a voice will argue and say that some things are very serious and should be taken seriously.

This is not meant to minimize traumatic events, or to suppress emotions like sadness or grief.  Obviously there are times when it necessary to cry long before you can laugh.

It is most useful to apply this awareness to mundane situations: getting stuck in traffic, encountering a grumpy person, dealing with a child throwing a tantrum, dealing with a mix-up over a bill, and so on.

As you feel the negative emotions boil up, ask yourself: how can I make light of this?

If you can laugh, the suffering and drama will be over.

Obviously if you break a limb, laughing about it will not make the physical pain stop.  But laughing will reduce your suffering over it, which can in turn measurably decrease pain and increase the speed of healing.

If someone who takes things very seriously breaks a limb, he will make a big drama over it.  He will blame himself or others.  He will be miserable and focus on his pain.

Whereas someone who finds humor in the situation will just get on with his life and heal more quickly.

Making light of things is a habit.  It is something you can train yourself to do, even if you are by nature a serious person.

Just ask yourself: “Can I find something funny about this situation?”  If you make a habit of this, it will become easier, and ultimately instinctive.

If you observe the characters in comedies, they usually take themselves very seriously.  They do not understand that they are characters in a comedy.  If they did, there wouldn’t be much to laugh at.  It is because they take themselves very seriously that they are funny.  The audience can see this, but they cannot.

It is the same in “real life.”  Often people who take themselves very seriously are quite silly, if you have the capacity to see them with the correct perspective.  People who huff and puff and grumble and complain and shout their serious opinions at everyone — they are often the silliest people, though they hate being made fun of.

So just pay attention when you feel very serious and self-righteous about something.  When you are arguing with someone and really need to be right.

If you have lost your sense of humor, then on some level you are a fool, just like the characters in the comedies you laugh at.

Sometimes the best way out of suffering is to do something silly, like stand on one leg or make a silly noise.  It is impossible to laugh and be miserable at the same time.  As soon as you can perceive the absurdity of your situation, you are free.

In your culture, often “serious things” are seen as “important,” whereas light-hearted things are seen as trivial.  But really this is very backward.  Making people laugh, shining a light on the absurdity of existence, helping people not to take everything too seriously — this is deeply meaningful work.  It is not trivial.

So if you are feeling stuck and unhappy, look to ways to make light of things.  And if you are too depressed to do that, watch something or read something that makes you laugh and brings a smile to your face.

Make light of things.  Don’t take yourself too seriously.

wicked witch

Today we ask that you develop a healthy response to fear.

Develop a healthy response to fear.

Fear in of itself is not inherently problematic.  In animals, for example, a “startle response” is useful.  Animals are sensitive to predators and danger.  It is useful, in life, to be sensitive to predators and danger.

In humans, however, fear is something else entirely.

Unlike animals, humans have the capacity to imagine things that do not exist.  This is, of course, a great gift.  Humans are capable of dreaming things into material existence.  Imagining something, and creating it.  This is a marvelous power.  But in most humans, this power is misused.

Most humans use their capacity for imagination negatively.  They imagine bad things, frightening things.  Bad things that might happen in the future.  Bad things that have happened to other people, that they hear about in the news — all the bad things that happen in the world, played out on the mental stage.  Or else the imagination is spent reliving things that happened in the past. What people did to you, that they shouldn’t have done.  What you did, that you shouldn’t have done.

And so men dream up frightful things in their minds.  Animals cannot do this.  But men imagine frightening things, and feel very real physical fear in their bodies.  And this is not healthy.

While it useful to be sensitive to predators and threats that are real, it is not useful at all to feel terror around threats that are imaginary.

Fear requires a great deal of energy.  In nature, when an animal goes into “fight or flight,” an enormous amount of physical energy is used.  Afterwards, the animal must rest and recover, sleeping deeply to replenish his resources.

But to be afraid all the time — as so many humans are — this creates an intolerable strain on the body.  To always be afraid, to always be playing frightening scenarios in the mind, or reading frightening things online, or watching frightening news, or frightening TV shows and movies — this is like an animal who dwells in the state of “fight or flight” all the time.  Such an animal would rapidly become exhausted and show signs of mental disturbance.

That is exactly the state many humans experience: exhaustion, mental disturbance.  What is “anxiety” if not chronic fear?

So what is to be done about this?

Awareness is always the first step.  Check in with your body, and assess how much fear you are carrying right now.  Notice tension in the shoulders, tightness in the chest, throat, and stomach.  Notice the quality of your thoughts, how much fear is in your mental background chatter.  Do this without judgment.  Just observe the situation.

On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being complete relaxation, 10 being intense terror, where are you right now?  What number jumps to mind?

If the level is 5 or higher, just make a note.  Pay attention.  Track it at different points in your day.  How afraid are you?  How much fear are you carrying in your body?

If the number is consistently 5 or higher, some work is to be done.

Anyone in a state of chronic fear would benefit greatly from a “retreat” or some kind.  Time spent in nature, time away from electronic devices, quiet time that will allow the body’s adrenal system to relax.  Many stressed out humans, brought to a peaceful place, will simply sleep.  This is what their bodies need — just like animals sleep after a fright.

For many, a retreat is not practical.  But there are still steps that can be taken.  Limit time spent on electronic devices.  Limit exposure to frightening things in the media.  Limit exposure to stress-inducing TV and films, as much as you may enjoy them.  It is fine to enjoy a good drama, but if you are carrying around a high physical fear load, staying up late watching violent TV or playing video games is like pouring gasoline on a fire.  If you value your health, stop.  At least take a week off.  A week is not so much time.

Once the body unwinds a little, then you can begin the process of gently questioning and examining your fears.

This is like when a child is afraid of monsters under his bed, and a loving adult shines a flashlight and shows him that there is nothing there.

Write down a list of the things you fear.  If just writing them down brings up too much physical fear, cease the exercise.  Relax.  Go for a walk, do yoga, meditate.  Wait until you are calmer before trying again.

If you feel basically calm, then you can sit with your fears, and begin to question them.

Are your fears realistic?  How likely is it that these dreaded scenarios will actually occur?  You can assign numbers here, too — 1 being “Highly Unlikely,” 10 being “Definitely Will Happen.”

This is useful information.  It is useful to discover how probable or improbable your fears are.  When you know a fear is unlikely to happen, you can remind yourself of this when it arises.

Of course, some fears are realistic.  If you fear death — it is true that you will die someday, and this cannot be avoided.  Perhaps you fear the break-up of a relationship, and there are very real signs that this is happening.

Fears of this kind are good to face and acknowledge, rather than suppress.  Yes, you will die.  Sit with this awareness.  Yes, this dysfunctional relationship may need to end, or at least change.  Sit with this.  Instead of running from it or being in denial, sit with it.

Imagine watching these things happen not as yourself, the suffering character in a life drama, but rather as an impartial observer, a witness.  As if your life were a TV show, and you could sit back and watch it from the safety of a couch.  What might you see from this perspective, that the “character” cannot see?

If you watch characters in TV shows, you will see often that their fears tend to be self-fulfilling, because they are unconscious about them.  The controlling parent who tries to emotionally manipulate his child to ensure his love — of course the child comes to hate the parent.  The villainous character who tries to make himself safe by destroying his enemies — of course in the end he creates an enemy he cannot destroy, who destroys him.  These things are very predictable.

That is how it is with fear.  Suppressed fears have a way of showing up.  Fears that are kept in the dark turn into big scary monsters.  But fears that are brought out into the light of awareness tend to dissolve, like the Wicked Witch in “The Wizard of Oz” when water is poured on her.

In other words, the negative side of the human imagination creates terrors and monsters.  But humans also contain within their minds the power to master and dissolve their fears, by using the imagination positively.

It is completely possible for ordinary humans to overcome severe phobias and traumas by harnessing the positive aspects of the imagination.  No animal can do this.  But humans can.

And one way to do this is by imagining that you are stepping outside of your fearful situation, looking at it as an observer.  What would this observer tell you about the things you fear?

Imagine what your present day self might tell your child self or your adolescent self about the fears and hang-ups you had years ago.

Imagine what a calmer, wiser future version of yourself might tell you about your current fears and hang-ups.

That is the essence of developing a healthy response to fear.  You no longer simply react like a scared animal, fighting or running away.  As a human, you have the power to sit with your fears, to observe them, to shine the light of awareness on them.

When you do, you will discover what your imagination really is for.  You will dream good and beautiful things into existence, instead of being paralyzed by mental monsters.  Reclaim the gift of your imagination — and with it, your power.


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