“In your willingness to investigate any emotion all the way through, you will find that you can actually open to whatever is here. You don’t have to change a thing. Whatever is appearing is fertile ground.”
Participant: Yesterday I was grateful for the conversation about being with the depths of one’s feelings. In my own journey the last couple years, I have started to be more aware of what I am feeling. In the past, I was a real drama queen internally, and now, stopping to inquire into my feelings has been quite amazing.
Gangaji: It’s quite a different experience, isn’t it? We think that when we are in the drama our feelings are deep, but there is a huge difference.
Yes, that’s what I’ve been finding out.
To really be in the depth of any feeling you first must leave the drama behind. That’s a relief, isn’t it?
Yes! Fear is still a feeling that is very strong for me and causes a lot of anxiety. I seem to have very old fears inside that have been with me for such a long time they feel like an automatic part of my existence. When I try to be with the fear, it doesn’t seem to change anything.
Are you trying to be with the fear so that it will go away?
Ahh … yes, I guess I am.
That is not being with fear. That is trying to manage fear, and now you have hope that you’ve found a new tool to manage it.
Yes, that’s true. There have been times when I’ve felt free of it, but then it doesn’t last long.
What if, in this moment, you simply let your fear be here? Is it possible to welcome fear without the hope that welcoming it will chang it, transform it, or drive it away?
Right now, it feels more like a fear of fear. It’s been such an inner demon, and there is a long-time habit of trying to keep it away.
Let’s say that it’s more than a habit. Let’s call it an addiction. But you’ve had the experience of getting clean, right? And now this is just a deeper way of recognizing how you indulge the addiction to escape feeling fearful. Please know that I am totally in support of escape when it’s appropriate. Fear is our survival emotion. It can be our friend. There are circumstances when it is quite intelligent to escape—to run, hide, be invisible, or dissociate—until it becomes a habit that sucks your life away.
Yes, that is exactly what it feels like.
Now you are recognizing that fear itself has become the master rather than a tool to serve you. You have tried to turn your back on this tyrant of a master, but still it keeps coming. It’s like a demon in a nightmare. You can choose to wake up in the nightmare by turning and actually facing what is chasing you. You can’t know what will happen when you do. You may even feel certain that you’ll be devoured by it, because that is what fear is always about, some form of attempting to escape death and rightly so.
Are you aware of the fear right now?
Where is it in your body?
In here … (points to her upper chest).
Are you aware of any judgment, story, or narrative that you attach to that feeling?
Oh yes. The inner narrative is saying to resist the fear, that I shouldn’t be feeling it.
That’s excellent. Now that you’re aware of the narrative, you can choose to put it aside, at least for a moment, however legitimate the story may be.
What if you don’t even name it fear, because that’s a kind of story too, isn’t it? Naming it may be useful at times, but it’s not needed for this moment. What if you don’t put a name on this feeling in your chest?
Well, now it feels like there’s a bit more space in there.
How much more?
Quite a bit… it’s… oh my gosh! (laughing in surprise).
Yes, that’s exactly right. There is more space. Now, turn your attention back to the fear, wherever it is now, and go after it. Chase it. Go to meet it without any agenda, without any judgment about it, just as you and I are meeting one another right now. Without resisting the feeling of fear, without trying to fix it, what do you find?
Well… there’s a certain joy in meeting it.
Yes, it’s a surprise, isn’t it? Because fear is often uncomfortable, we have made it the enemy, an enemy in opposition to joy. But in your willingness to meet the fear without that narrative or any story about the it, you have discovered that, in reality, fear is not separate from joy. When fully met, nothing is separate from joy.
Oh, I thank you so much! This has been a long time coming.
I very much appreciate your coming up here to speak with me, because this is an emotion that many humans struggle with, maybe even all animals. Fear is a big deal, because in its purest intention, it is your friend. But when there is a habit and a preoccupation with resisting it—trying to run from it, telling ourselves elaborate stories about it—then we become enslaved to a feeling of fear that really has nothing to do with the present moment.
Fear arises out of a joy for life and wanting to keep our joy for life. Fear is our natural ally, but when it somehow gets twisted, dramatized, indulged, ignored, denied, or fought with, then we miss the essence of it, the beauty of it. Each emotion has this same purity of essence at its core.
It is possible to open to any emotion without our usual commentary about what it means, why it should or shouldn’t be here, or that it is somehow blocking our joy. When met and investigated all the way to the core, any emotion is discovered to be of the same substance—joy itself—and that substance is who you are. You are made of joy, and it is made of you.
You can check this out for yourself, right now. We have such strong spiritual ideas that fear, anger, sadness, and resistance must first be gotten rid of, and then we will be happy. Then we will have love, enlightenment, lasting freedom. Are you willing to meet any emotion as it appears, to be curious enough as a human being to investigate what is fear, really? What is anger, sadness, despair? What are emotions if you don’t name them? What is the experience of any emotion in its purity, as pure vibration?
That is the beauty and the secret of direct inquiry. Everything returns you to love. Everything is of that substance. It is your own love of life, your own joy of life. If you didn’t love life, there would be no reason for fear or feelings of grief for what has been lost.
In your willingness to investigate any emotion, to respect it, attend to it, and drop the story about it, however legitimate or true that story may be, you will find that you can actually open to whatever is here. You don’t have to change a thing. Whatever is appearing is fertile ground.
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Gangaji is the author of The Diamond in Your Pocket, Freedom & Resolve: Finding Your True Home in the Universe, You Are That, and Hidden Treasure: Uncovering the Truth in Your Life Story.