Last summer, I boarded a small plane in London for a flight to Brussels and soon found myself encountering a dark and terrified part of my being.
The jet was little more than a narrow tube that, if I stretched my arms out in each direction, I might have been able to touch both walls. When I got on the plane, I had to bend low in order to make my way to my seat. After I sat down, I didn’t have to extend my arm very far to touch the ceiling.
For reasons that I never understood, we had to wait for what seemed like 40 minutes-to-an-hour before the flight attendant closed the jet door and prepared to leave the stand. Once the door was closed, we had to wait again before we were given permission to taxi to the runway.
It was mid-day and hot. The walls, already too close for comfort, seemed to be closing in on me. As I sat in that thick, stifling air, I started to feel claustrophobic and it wasn’t long before I felt panic rising within me.
This event occurred just a couple of months after I had been trapped in the Eurostar under the English Channel for about three hours. While we waited in the pitch-black Chunnel, we received no word from Eurostar officials as to what they were doing – if anything — to get us out.
The breakdown in the Chunnel was nerve-wracking, but it ended well and I got to London in time to make my flight home. Still, I could feel the seeds of an internal crisis take root inside of me, a crisis that would surface again must a couple of months later on the tarmac at London Heathrow.
Fear goes by many names, including stress, anxiety, panic, and even terror. Perhaps the only important difference between these states is the relative degree of fear in each of them. Stress, a kind of low-grade fear, is something everyone copes with on a regular basis, at least to some extent. Anxiety is, for some, a chronic, background state that is not necessarily identified with any specific set of circumstances. Phobias are intense fears that can arise under specific conditions, such as being trapped in tight spaces. Terror, as we all know, is an extreme form of fear in which one can, if not careful, lose control of oneself.
Inside that little tube of a Jet, I couldn’t bear the heat, closeness, and feelings of being trapped. I hadn’t slept the previous night on the flight from Boston to London. And I had no idea how long we would keep us waiting before take-off. Stories of people being trapped in airplanes on the tarmac for hours came rushing into my mind. My whole body started to become electrified with fear and I sensed that I might have a full fledged panic attack if I didn’t get myself under control.
Part of me wanted to tell the flight attendant that I wanted to get out of the plane. But people who lose control on airplanes are oftentimes handcuffed with plastic restraints, as I had seen on other flights in the past. My rational mind told me not to make matters worse than they already were. But using the rational faculty to cope with an irrational fear is about as effective as telling a herd of buffalo to stop their stampede because they are heading for a cliff. In the end, the fear, like the buffalo, just overrun you.
A moment of truth arose. As my fears were about to engulf me, I was suddenly taken over by another voice inside of me, one as irrational as my fear, but far more powerful.
For many years, I have been cultivating an inner voice that has become my buttress against all kinds of fears, doubts, and negative thinking. I refer to this voice as the Voice of Yes, or the Voice of Love, which is my protection against that part of me that insists that everything is going wrong, or will go wrong, sooner or later. I refer to the voice of fear as “the voice of no.” It arises from a splinter part of my being that is the source of all fear, self-criticism, and negative thinking, a part I call the Hungry Thief.
In this world of duality, in which light and dark, love and fear exist side by side, the Hungry Thief is universal. It is the critic within us, the part of each of us that insists that we are going to fail, even when we are succeeding brilliantly. The Hungry Thief uses memories of shame, humiliation, pain, and failure to promote self-sabotage and self-hatred. It encourages self-blame and blame of others. It seeks to keep us from knowing who we are, and what powers lie within us. Given the chance, the Hungry Thief will cause us to destroy ourselves and each other.
In that little jet, the Hungry Thief was holding sway on my consciousness, until the Voice of Yes suddenly arose within me.
“Don’t be afraid,” the Voice began. “Everything is under our control. You are in the hands of love and all is unfolding in perfection. We’re going to move this jet at precisely the right moment. Your flight is safe. You will get to Brussels at exactly the moment we intend. You are being held in the lap of love. Your every step is protected. Simply listen to us and we will lead you out of your confusion and fear.”
And for the next hour-and-a-half, I listened intently to that inner voice that soothed my fears and grounded me in some sense of safety. All of this occurred within me while the Hungry Thief attempted to gain full control of my consciousness and drive me into a whirlwind of terror and panic. For a time, the two sides of my being vied for dominance. But the Voice of Yes kept my fears in check and gradually I came under its control. As I did, my fears diminished and were allayed. The terrified little boy within me felt the presence of my soul, and the All that comes with it. This allowed me to fully commit to the moment. “I’m glad I’m here,” I found myself saying. “This is a choice. I am happy to make this choice. I am happy to fully commit to this moment of my life.”
In the course of that trip, I learned a great deal about myself, about panic and terror, and about how fear must be dealt with, especially when we are exhausted and vulnerable to fear’s capacity to escalate out of control.
Fear Is The Ultimate Challenge To The Soul
Fear is experienced physically, emotionally, and psychologically, but in the end, fear is a spiritual challenge. Fear is the greatest impediment to the manifestation of the soul in your life and in the world at large.
Your soul is the divine part of you. There is no fear in the soul, which means that your deepest and truest nature is completely free of this devastating state of being. Your soul offers you unconditional love, self-knowledge, limitless creativity, and awesome power. The more the soul manifests through you, the more the Divine enters our world and transforms it.
Most of us, unfortunately, are not able to open and experience this state of being – at least not yet. That does not mean that it’s not there waiting to be experienced. We simply have to learn to cultivate a relationship with our souls, especially if we are to deal more effectively with fear, and thus become who we truly are.
Here are seven steps to help you overcome fears of all kinds. Some of these are intended to help you in the immediate situation. Others should be cultivated on a daily basis in order to give you the strength and power to overcome fear the next time it arises.
1. Know that your mind can be directed and controlled.
Think of your mind as an amazing pet that wants to take orders from its master. For most of us, that master is the voice of no and its hidden source, the Hungry Thief. Under the voice of no, the mind naturally drifts toward fear, darkness, and hell.
What so many of us fail to realize is that the mind is much more malleable and open to direction than we think. Though it tends to drift in one direction, it can be redirected by the higher faculties, meaning it can be controlled by your soul and its principal ally, your heart. Your soul wants to transform your mind into an instrument of love and creativity. It also wants your mind to develop the capacity to ceaselessly embrace new forms of being.
The first step in controlling fear is to realize that its fear-based beliefs and scenarios are false. It is simply the mind doing what the mind does. These beliefs and images conjured are illusions, mere shadows on a wall. The mind will turn those shadows into fiery fear, if allowed to. But they can be dissolved instantly by the presence of your soul.
Breathe and, for a few moments, stay focused on your breath. Release long exhalations. This will cause your body to contract and ground you more firmly in your hara, or vital center. It’s unlikely that breathing alone will overcome the fear, but it will prepare you for the next series of steps.
2. Meet the challenge.
Fear makes us feel powerless and small. It makes us want to hide in some safe little place inside ourselves and our homes. The irony is that the more you hide, the stronger fear becomes. As you shrink from life, your soul is blocked from coming into your consciousness and guiding you. Thus, the Hungry Thief has won.
If you find yourself in a frightening situation, especially one over which you have no control, do not flee from it. Don’t run away. Don’t step back. Don’t fight the fear, or the situation. Instead, prepare to meet the challenge of the moment by stating to yourself that you are exactly where you belong, that the Source has led you to this very place in life and wants to help you through this challenge.
In the Gospel According to Thomas, Jesus tells us disciples, “He who is close to the fire, let him know that he is close to me.”
3. Direct your mind with the Voice of Yes.
Your soul wants to be the master of your mind. But the only way that can happen is if you allow the Voice of Love to direct your mind and make full use of its ability to give your soul a voice and to allow your soul to instill within you images of peace, beauty, and love.
Just as the voice of no must originate from a specific aspect of our being, so, too, does the Voice of Love have its own origin. That origin is your soul. You must cultivate a relationship with your soul by allowing it to speak to you through your mind. What I mean is this: You must learn to allow your soul to use your voice to speak words of love, comfort, and guidance to you.
With practice, this becomes second nature. And in time, the Voice of Yes will become habitual and even gain a power that is all its own, just as the voice of no is currently automatic and seemingly out of your control.
You can create this new habit by practicing this form of communication with your own inner Voice of Love every day. We can practice this at any time of the day, but it is especially powerful if we cultivate this habit by incorporating it in some form of spiritual practice (described below). It is especially important to engage the Voice of Yes whenever you face any kind of challenge or fear, no matter how powerful or trivial it may be. At that moment, immediately turn to this inner voice and allow it to assure you with love and tenderness.
Here are two versions of this inner voice, each designed to help in different situations. They are only intended to help you get a feeling for the way the Voice of Yes communicates with you. The more you engage this inner voice, the more it will present itself in its own unique way within you.
Open to this type of communication when you are facing an important challenge and do not feel up to the task at hand.
You do not face this challenge alone. We are with you – we are at your side, at your back, and in front of you. We have surrounded you with love and protection. We are happy with you and how courageously you have faced your life.
Know that we are completely in control of the outcome of this situation. You do not have to worry about success or failure. That is our job, not yours. Your job is to remain open to our guidance and to give yourself, with an open heart, to every given moment of your life. Give your love to all and all that you are doing. Don’t worry about making mistakes. There are no mistakes. Do the best you can. And let us determine how things turn out.
What you regard as a problem, we regard as an opportunity to enter your world and transform it through you. We can only do that if you give us permission. You give us that permission by remaining open to us and to giving your love as you move through this experience. Have no fear. We have already granted you the success you seek.
Open to this form of communication when someone you love is facing challenges, a health issue, or some form of struggle.
As great as your love is for