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Strategies for Overcoming Fear

by Paramhansa Yogananda
Fall 2013 No Comment

The instinct of self-preservation is the fundamental reason for fear. The soul that is identified with the body is aware of the body’s fragility and, consequently, experiences the fear of sickness, death, poverty, and old age. Most people harbor fears of this type because of the experiences of past lives. A mental indulgence in fear creates a subconscious fear habit. When something upsetting occurs, the subconscious fear habit asserts itself, magnifying the object of one’s fears.

Fear aggravates all of your miseries. Not only does it have a deleterious effect on the heart, nervous system, and brain, it is destructive to mental initiative, courage, judgment, and common sense. Fear throws a veil over your intuition and robs you of your confidence to master your difficulties. Worst of all, it inhibits the almighty power of the soul.

Having been made in the image of God, you have all the powers and potentialities of God.  It is wrong for you to think that your trials are greater than your divinity. Your spiritual self is calling every day. If you will make a determined effort, you can free yourself from all fears of past incarnations and gain the unchangeable consciousness of everlasting freedom. No longer will you walk nervously in fear and uncertainty on the path of life.

1. Quiet the heart and relax the body.
When fear comes and you feel overwhelmed, inhale and exhale several times, deeply and slowly. This helps to quiet the heart.

To relax the body, inhale, hold the breath and gently tense the entire body. Hold the tension counting 1 to 20 with deep attention upon the entire body. Then exhale and release the tension.. This simple exercise will relax and draw into the body a flood of life force and vitality. Repeat these two exercises whenever you feel weak or nervous.

2. Harness the power of your will.
A person must be strong-willed to drive away the mind-paralyzing fears that would sack and destroy his inner peace. If you have the tendency to be fearful, use fear as a stimulus to muster all the power of your will. Then harness the power of your will to the cogwheels of caution and good judgment. Continuously revolve these to produce practical ideas for how to meet your specific difficulty or challenge.

At the same time, never lose touch with your intuitive faith in God. Always remember: God will never let you down, if you firmly hold His hand. Try especially to attune yourself to His will for you in your current situation. This practice will strengthen your will power and also make you more receptive to the slenderest ray of light showing the way out of your current predicament. If you resolve firmly to “try and try again,” God Himself and His angels will come to your aid.

3. Hold aloft the banner of courage.
In the face of difficulties, never allow your courage to become paralyzed. Uproot fear from within by forceful concentration on courage. Find an affirmation for courage and repeat it throughout the day and whenever fear threatens to enter your heart. At any given moment you have all the courage necessary to overcome any seeming difficulty. Meditate on courage, and in due time you will be freed from the bondage of fear.

If unexpected problems suddenly threaten to overwhelm you, always retreat to the divine safety within. Meditate, hold aloft the banner of courage, and keep on struggling determinedly until you win through to victory. Given sufficient time and courage on your part, you will succeed in all your life’s undertakings, both material and spiritual.

4. The mind must manifest calmness.
The cure for fear is to remain ever calm, giving little weight to the trials that beset you while striving always to do your best. The mind must manifest calmness. Calmness is more dynamic and powerful than peace. Calmness gives the devotee power to overcome all the obstacles in his life. Even in human affairs, the person who can remain calm under all circumstances is invincible.

Calmness will give you a sense of correct proportion and inspire you to behave with unfailing good sense, without concern for the possible reactions of others. When you act in this way, you will find there is a law of God that will protect you.

5. Go on “worry fasts.”
Worry thoughts are a habit. They act like a poisonous drug on the mind. Learn to remove the causes of your worries without permitting them to worry you. Where the worries and trials of everyday life are concerned, the mind must be like water, which does not retain any impression of the waves that play on its surface.

Shake off your worries by going on “worry fasts.” Go on short worry fasts three times a day to begin with. Take an hour in the morning, an hour at noon, and three hours in the evening. Absolutely refuse to allow a single worry thought to enter your mind during these periods. Then extend the period to a whole day; a week, and then a month. Soon you will have broken the insidious hold of worry thoughts, and you will be free of them forever.

Once you are free of worry thoughts, you must provide good mental food for the convalescing mind. First you must have laughter and joy. Associate with joyous persons, for joy and laughter are contagious. There are some people the joy of whose laughter nothing can still. Seek them out, and feast with them on this most vitalizing food of joy. Steadfastly continue your laughter diet, and at the end of a month or two you will see a change –– your mind will be filled with sunshine.

6. Temporarily divert your mind.
Fear is nourished by thinking constantly of dire possibilities, until these take root in the subconscious. These fear seeds germinate and fill the mind with fear plants bearing poisonous, fear fruits.

If you are unable to dislodge the haunting fear of ill health or failure, divert your mind by turning your attention to interesting, absorbing books, or even to harmless amusements. After the mind forgets its haunting fear, encourage it to discover and root out the causes of failure and ill health in the soil of your daily life.

7. “What comes of itself, let it come.”
Attachments keep you ever fearful. The more a person’s body-consciousness expands – to include such things as a sense of possessions, a concern for one’s reputation, a sense of personal power or importance – the greater the likelihood of feeling fear.

Fearlessness, on the other hand, comes from releasing those attachments: the desire for personal importance; the desire for power or control over anything or anyone; the desire to be well thought of and respected; attachment to possessions; attachment to bodily health and well-being; and, finally, identification of one’s self with the body.

Fearlessness comes with perfect non-attachment. It is a natural attitude for those who feel they have nothing to protect. Learn to accept with an unruffled mind whatever comes. I often say, “What comes of itself, let it come.” This is just as true for the bad things in life as for the good.

When I was young I practiced watching myself as from the outside: eating, bathing, walking, carrying out my responsibilities, and so on. This practice felt a bit strange at first, but in the end, it gave me a wonderful sense of freedom and non-attachment.

8. Meditation erases all fears.
Remember, if you still fear something, that karma has not yet been worked out. To dissipate it, don’t try to avoid the tests you have to face. Karma is best worked out by meeting pleasantly every test that comes, and by accepting courageously any hardships your tests impose.

An important factor in overcoming karma is meditation. Every time you meditate, your karma decreases, for at that time your energy is focused in the brain and burns up the old brain cells. After every deep meditation, you will find yourself becoming freer inside. Meditate deeply and you will erase all fears and gain the unshakeable consciousness of soul freedom.

9. God’s protecting rays
The popular Christian saying expresses an important and eternal truth: “If you raise one hand to God, He will lower two hands to uplift you.” God Himself it is who inspires you to reach toward Him with ever-increasing love. The fast and sure way to develop fearlessness is to love God. By loving Him, one feels ever protected by a force far greater than any power of one’s own.

Don’t let delusion-inspired thoughts whip up needless fears and worries, like waves upon your mental lake. Know that you are safe behind the battlements of God’s eternal safety. His protecting rays can dispel the menacing clouds of doomsday, calm the waves of trials, and keep you safe – whether you are in a castle or on the open battlefield of life where bullets of trials are incessantly flying.

From books, articles, and lessons.

Related reading: How to Have Courage, Calmness, and Confidence
The Wisdom of Paramhansa Yogananda, Volume 5

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