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More Mindfulness - Week 2

Uncategorized Jan 25, 2022

In Week 2 of the More Mindfulness series we examine the role mindfulness can play in helping to tame our fears. 

Fear is often caused by our thoughts - the ‘what if’s’. Whether rational or irrational, our bodies respond to these thoughts with physical sensations: our pulse quickens, perhaps our face flushes and we can feel it in our stomachs. These sensations in turn feed our anxious thoughts, and we get caught up in a cycle of negativity. Our brain’s primary responses to fear are short-term: fight, flight or freeze.

In his article “A Primer on Living in a Time of Fear”, Christopher Willard explains that “When the threat detection system in our brain is activated, and fear takes over, other areas of the brain aren’t as active, making it difficult for us to do our best thinking. Things like being able to see the big picture clearly, discern danger from reality, see nuance and complexity, plan long-term solutions, and problem solve become challenging.” So how do we ease out of fear mode? Willard explains that this is what mindfulness was made for. He tells us that  “Fear and anxiety often go hand-in-hand with dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. And the very nature of mindfulness is to notice when our thoughts drift ahead of or behind the present moment.” 

Willard confirms that with mindfulness, “we can observe our reactions without letting them consume us. While we’re all wired to think and feel, to fear and fret, we’re also wired to “attend” and “befriend,” as psychologists would say. We might also call these natural responses “mindfulness” and “compassion.” These responses are not just feel-good sentiments, but natural to all of us, and extremely useful in times of uncertainty and fear.

As with all emotion, the practice of meditation can stabilize us enough in the midst of fear to help us see more clearly—to distinguish a false threat from a real threat that needs to be acted upon. The type of fear meditation can have the most effect on is the fear (and fears) that we continually generate in our own minds, the product of our rich imagination and our desire to control everything, rather than be tossed around in the risky and stormy world.”

Our practice encourages us to “feel the energy of fear, don’t avoid the feeling. Sit with it.  As fearful thoughts of dread and worry continue to arise, approach them with friendliness. Don’t treat them as a threat. Be kind toward yourself for being afraid. See what happens when you hold your ground and let the fear rise in your mind. You may find confidence within.” 

For those of you who would like to delve deeper, here is this week's selection of further reading links and recommendations: 

Book: The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh Click here.

Guided Meditation: A Guided Practice for the Tired and Weary. Click here.

Article: A Primer on Living in a Time of Fear. Click here.

Article: Transform Your Fears Mindfully. Click here.

This Week’s Prose

Thoughts on Fear and Mindfulness by Yung Pueblo

“Fear is the craving for safety. A mind that is dominated by fear is a mind that is still in survival mode. Even when there is relative calmness in our external environment, a mind that lives in survival mode will have a defensive stance and will often explore imaginary scenarios of what could go wrong as a way to remain prepared. There is nothing wrong with being mindful of our safety, but too easily this can fall into an extreme where our anxiety is always on high alert. Living through fear keeps us far away from peace. One of the keys to shift from a survivalist mentality to a peaceful one that can help us thrive, is the intentional building of present moment awareness. Fear and anxiety are driven by our concern about what may happen in the future, patiently bringing ourselves back to the present moment will remove the energy that is building up in these imaginary future narratives that are not based in reality.”  

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