Recently I was talking with a friend who is a counselor to many people. She mentioned that many of the folks she was working with seem to be extremely fearful, filled with anxiety for a variety of reasons, and thus mentally paralyzed and unable to move forward with their lives.
She asked if I had any advice to give to her, so that she might be better able to help these people.
First of all, we both agreed that fears and anxieties may seem justified in the world where we are living right now. It’s a scary place! Faltering economy, much unemployment, killer viruses, global warming, growing crime rates, people working too hard and for too many long hours, little or no health care available, over-stimulation / saturation through the media — the list goes on and on!
At the close of our conversation, I agreed to make a list of things which might help people live without so much fear in their lives. These suggestions are based on teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda and Swami Kriyananda, and on some of my own experiences, too.
1) Chanting or japa: Whenever I find myself gripped with fear, I start chanting a favorite chant or saying “AUM Guru,” either out loud or inwardly. I also frequently sing Swami Kriyananda’s beautiful song: “I Live Without Fear.”
Though green summer fade, and winter draw near, My Lord in your presence, I live without fear,
Through tempest, through snow, through turbulent tide, the touch of your hand is my strength and my guide,
I ask for no riches that death may destroy; I crave only Thee, your love and your joy,
The dancers will pass; the singing must end,
I welcome the darkness with You for my Friend.
2) List your blessings on a piece of paper and make a really LONG list. Dwell on these things constantly, leaving no mental space for brooding over the things you fear.
3) Put out more energy. Doesn’t matter if it is energy directed toward overcoming the thing feared or not. Just start doing something — anything, really. Take a walk. Take a run. Talk to someone positive who will lift you up. Stay busy, but make it the kind of “busy” which is divinely guided. Be actively calm and calmly active. Forget about yourself and serve others.
4) Yogananda said during the Great Depression of the 1930’s: “If I didn’t have a job and needed one, I would shake the world until it gave one to me!” What does shake the world” mean? Tons of prayer. Lots of effort in many directions. Affirmations such as: “In the center of life’s storms, I stand serene.” Positive attitudes. Non-attachment. Faith that it’s all going to be OK, even when it doesn’t seem that way.
5) Don’t be around other fearful or anxious people. We all know the positive ones, the ones who make life work well for themselves. Be with them. Ask their advice. Ask them to help you get your energy moving in the right directions.
6) Fear is really based in wanting things to be different from the way they are. An attitude of non-attachment is the key. Accept things as they are and then move forward from that position.
7) Think of the worst-case scenario for what you are afraid of. Go to the end of it in your mind and then accept it. What could possibly happen? You could die? So what — death comes to us all anyway. You could be dependent on others and lose your cherished independence? The truth is: we are all dependant on God alone. As Yogananda often said: “If God stops ticking in your heart, then all your appointments must be canceled immediately.”
8) Years ago, I experienced a series of anxiety attacks. The interesting thing about them was that I could never pinpoint exactly what was making me anxious. What was making my heart race and nameless fears paralyze me to the point of immobility or sleepless nights? I never did find a satisfactory answer, so I gave up trying to figure out what was going on and just focused on solutions. For me it was finding someone to talk to (didn’t matter at all what the topic of conversation was—it was just some human interaction which was needed) and also it helped to eat some protein like a handful of nuts or a soft-boiled egg. Your solutions may be different, but they are there to be found, with God’s help.
9) Never give in to discouragement or the feeling that you are “in this alone.” Reach out for help from God and Gurus first and then also from your spiritual teacher, friends, family, fellow devotees and disciples. Put yourself on Ananda’s healing prayer list, through Ananda.org’s Healing Prayers section.
10) Know that there are dozens of solutions waiting to be found. Pray with faith that you are going to be guided to the right one. For example, if you are unwell in some way and are not sure about the right thing to do to get well, pray to be guided to exactly the right type of treatment, one that you can afford, and one that with God’s grace will help you in the perfect way.
11) Get familiar in meditation with what it means to be “in your spine.” When fears attack, go back to that place of inner strength. From Secrets of Overcoming Harmful Emotions by Swami Kriyananda, on attaining fearlessness: “Seek peace at that calm center within, where nothing can touch you, neither fire, nor flood, nor loss of any kind.”
12) Finally, please read and re-read these wise words:
“What time I am afraid, I will trust in Thee.”
“Look fear in the face and it will cease to bother you!”
— Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramhansa Yogananda
“You must never lose courage. Divine Mother sent me to pilot you out of the clouds of your mind. Overcome all by constant inward calling on God…. I will ever lift you up, no matter how many times you fall. Keep unceasingly trying to conquer!”
—Excerpts from “A Letter to a Disciple” by Paramhansa Yogananda
Listen to “I Live Without Fear” song by Swami Kriyananda, performed by Ananda Choir:
Though green summer fade, and winter draw near,
My Lord, in Your presence
I live without fear.
Through tempest, through snows,
Through turbulent tide,
The touch of Your hand
Is my strength and my guide.
I ask for no riches that death can destroy.
I want only Thee, Your love, and Your joy.
The dancers will pass, the singing must end.
I welcome the darkness with You for my friend.