Coping with Fear

By His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
For The Bali Times

What is fear? What are its symptoms? An intense sensation of trembling in the body, shaky breath, a tendency to hold on to something, a feeling that the ground below your feet is loose. There is a feeling of contraction within; a void, a sense of non-belongingness gets created. All these, and an intense sensation in the entire body but more pronounced in the area between the navel and the heart, is what we call fear.

When does fear develop? Very young children do not have fear. But as they grow older, they develop fear. That is because fear is related directly to ego – as ego develops, fear also develops.

Fear can be experienced only in the waking or dreaming state, not in sleep. And when fear intensifies, you cannot even sleep. It can lead to insomnia. We tend to hook this sensation of fear, which is so intense, to a particular event or thing. This event or thing is the area where we perpetuate it. Suppose we think that the fear is because of heights; then we are linking this sensation with a particular situation. Getting rid of the situation does not eliminate the fear but merely postpones it. Only one thing can eliminate fear, and that is awareness. When you become aware of fear, just accept it; you will find fear flips over and becomes love.

Love, fear and hatred are not different energies but different manifestations of the same energy. That is why, irrespective of whether you feel love, hatred or fear, the sensation is in the same area, that is, between your navel and your heart. So I would say fear is love standing upside down. When there is love, there is no fear. And when there is fear, there is no love. They cannot coexist at the same time. You must have observed that a person who harbors intense love or hatred does not fear anything. Like a terrorist. Terrorists have an intense love (albeit a distorted form of love) for their cause. They also have intense hatred. So they have no fear. Children have total love so they have no fear or hatred.

Of course, love and fear, both take their turns in our being from time to time, because fear is essential for life. Fear, within limits, is essential (like salt in food). It comes up in the natural process of evolution. But we can turn fear around and make it unconditional love. This is possible. And, in fact, it is also necessary. If we don’t attend to fear, if we don’t transform it through awareness, it can ferment in the system and hamper our blossoming.

When you feel happy, you notice something expanding within you. And when you are unhappy, the same something shrinks. This consciousness which expands and contracts holds the secret of our freedom. You ordinarily have no control over when the mind will expand and when it will contract; when it will feel fear, feel love, feel hatred. Observing the emotions changing within us is meditation. And meditation, the process of observing, of being totally aware of the various emotions within us, helps us to gradually gain control. Slowly and steadily, it will be in your hands to feel the way you want to feel.

The author is an internationally revered spiritual leader from India and the founder of the Art of Living Foundation. You are welcome to send your comments and feedback on the article to

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