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Fear. The ultimate survival mechanism. The alarms go off in the body, cortisol and adrenaline rising. The warning thoughts plague the mind, the hair stands alert on end and heart begins to race, as blood pressure increases. Fear immediately snaps us into focus, into the present moment, a high strung alertness. But this state of presence and hyper vigilance is costly when overdone. Fear is essential to living, but when we let fear drive the car of our lives, it shrinks us. Life becomes a muted smaller place because we are guarding and harboring our fears. We then tiptoe around life cautiously and when we protect ourselves from pain we are often protecting ourselves from joy as well.
The interesting part of this modern age is that most of our fears won’t kill us or even hurt us, they are mostly psychological phenomena. Speaking in front of hundreds of people, seeing a spider in your bedroom, talking to your boss about a raise. All of it is perfectly safe, but our body and mind reacts as if it were a tangible threat, the primal feeling of a hunter seeing a tiger in the jungle. Though all these modern day fears are not as threatening as a ferocious tiger, they are still valid. However, there are a multitude of possibilities beyond our imagination, and to live in fear is to limit them.
Life is risk. Life is uncertainty. As much as we try to predict the future, or control our environments, life is undeniably mysterious. We get what we want but not in the way we wanted it, we carve our lives carefully only for it to be taken off track, we get into partnership for the promise of commitment to end up alone. We can not plan for most of life’s happenings or really see it coming with our logical minds. There are no promises or guarantees. The floor can always be ripped out from under us. Maybe there is no floor.
What scares us most is change, but it is also what excites us most, the hope of the future, what we could be, what life could metamorphosize into. Change is constant, a fundamental part of existence and we can either ride the waves of change or get crushed by its enormous weight. It is ever present, and cannot be denied. Many life changes happen to us in the form of mistakes or suffering, the world wants to show us what we need to work on. But when you are consciously working on yourself, change begins to feel more like a pat on the back and less like a slap in the face.
One way we can change for the better and on our own accord is by expanding consciousness. This was not taught to us in school and often not even by parents. Nobody teaches us how to be balanced or happy. In the west, we are fed the illusion of freedom, but never how to free ourselves from our own minds. We are eaten up by thoughts of the past, and become riddled with depression. We are anxiety prone with constant thoughts of the future. We neglect the present moment like it is not the only thing we truly have.
Many people turn to the spiritual world, after they have involved themselves heavily in the material plane. They got the dream house, they have a high status in their career, they got into partnership and had children, but somehow it is still not enough. Then there is a call to something higher, something beyond the mind and beyond the physical world. The first reaction is fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the hidden layers of self. Fear of the spiritual path.
Embarking on the first plant medicine journey is scary. Most people have not dove into the realm of spirituality, and they are not only confronting themselves but very often their ancestors, their subconscious mind, and the vastness of their conditioning. They are challenged by all the emotions that have been suppressed. They are fearful because they do not know for sure what the medicine will show them. They are fearful because they are hiding from themselves.
All of these things are rightfully terrifying, but in order to overcome them they must be examined. In our everyday lives, we busy ourselves so that we do not have to look at the things that hurt us or scare us. We distract ourselves with food, with sex, with entertainment. We numb ourselves with pleasure. But there is no meaning in these futile endeavors. Pleasure does not hold the same flavor as meaning.
Though plant medicine ceremonies are not typically done for pleasure, they provide a deeper sense of purpose, they tell us what the content of life is truly about. They put focus onto the crucial and significant parts of existence. Most people yearn for this meaning, yet are paradoxically scared of it. It would mean truly confronting themselves.
The only way to push past fear or anger or sadness or grief is to simply look at it. Size it up and down and ask it what it really is. Feel it viscerally. What is the feeling in the body as fear arises, and where is the fear located? Is it a stiffness in the abdomen or a lump in the throat? Sit with the fear. Watch it arise in the body without attaching any thoughts to it. Examine it with curiosity instead of judgment. If it exists it cannot be wrong. It is here and it is okay.
Once the fear is simply felt in the body through physical sensations, now you can contemplate it. What was the trigger of the fear? What was the external stimuli that gave the strong inner response? When I said yes to doing my first 5 MeO DMT ceremony, my immediate response was fear. The trigger was my full committed yes to the experience which made me realize how much I was going to be challenged emotionally. The root of my fear was having a suppressed memory from childhood arise. I was scared I would not be able to deal with my own personal pain.
Just looking at the fear and noticing it helped to partly dissolve it. When kind loving awareness is put onto any feeling, the feeling does not hold as much power. Just the act of sitting with it and looking at it, instead of shoving it away, allows it to decrease in size. If I was to shove the fear aside and pretend it did not exist it would just resurface unconsciously later on.
There are many methods for working with fear. One method is to write it all out. Go into the worst case scenario of what could happen. Not “I am scared my boyfriend will leave me”, but the deepest root of it, “I am scared that nobody after him will love me and I will die alone.” Go as far as you can into the root of the fear. This will do one of the following things, either it will let you see how truly unlikely the outcome of your fear is, or you will see how it is genuinely not as big of a deal as you thought it to be. Also when we embark head first into our fears, we can see that there are ways to combat them.
Writing the fears out, takes them from the fog of the mind and down onto paper. It is a form of catharsis and release. Write down your fears before entering a plant medicine ceremony. Look at them with neutrality. You are not your fears. Though for a moment they may be a part of you, you are much bigger than them.
From all the ceremonies I have witnessed and been part of, I have seen that in the beginning people are in a state of nervousness or fear until the medicine takes them. Once they surrender to the medicine there is no fear because there is no ego. The ego attaches to its fears and desires. The ego has a strong sense of self that is identified with both its fears and desires.
In an egoless state there is no fear of losing control or fear of looking crazy or even the fear of dying. There is just the eternal present moment, the timeless space that plant medicine drops us into. As Ram Dass once said, “When you are fully present in the moment, there is no anticipatory fear, no anxiety, because you are just here and now, not in the future. When we are resting in our souls, death is just closing a chapter in a book.”
Many people have an ego death during ceremonies that helps them cope with the greatest fear in living, physically dying. Plant medicine shows us the energetics of it, and how energy cannot be created nor destroyed, it simply changes form. When we die, we merely change from one form to another. There is nowhere to go, just dropping the body. Though we cannot know this for sure, the feeling is so strong. The feeling of eternal wakefulness. There is less fear in general when we are less attached to the body mind complex as it is temporary.
When we are able to sit with fear and confront it and call it by its name, we are slowly freeing ourselves from its grasp. Fear will always be there, it is perfectly natural, but we can consciously involve ourselves in overcoming it or unconsciously be controlled by its fervor. To let go of fear, is to accept life as it is.
Fight or flight mode constantly is not a way to live. Shallow rapid breathing is not the healing breath of life. High levels of stress and anxiety do not allow the heart to expand. To trust life, is to leave fear. We admit that we do not know what will happen and we accept what life gives us. This is the path of spirit.
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