This was a query that came in from one of the readers, and I thought I would post the reply as blog post so that it can be insightful to other readers who might be dealing with certain “Phobias”.
Where does fear originate?
It’s important to realize a very simple truth that fear “originates” in the brain. Fear does not originate in the lungs, liver, heart or tonsils, but in the “brain” of a human body. The brain is just an organ in the human body just like the other organs, and it has various functions like memory, nerve co-ordination, temperature regulation, survival thinking (protect body against threats through fight/flight response), subconscious mechanical functions (which allows you drive a car subconsciously) etc
So one of the aspects of the brain is to sense danger or threat to survival. This aspect has a useful function in that it responds to physical threat to survival, but it also has a “dysfunctional” aspect when it makes up stories or projects fear into an imaginary situation. This aspect of the brain is responsible for all the phobias/fears that a human comes up with. Remember that the brain can interpret a situation as “threat”, without there being any real threat in the moment. For example, you may be lying in your bed comfortably and you can still be in fear if your brain is thinking about some future threat or making up fearful stories.
Psychological fear makes up 99% of your fear
What’s important is that we be free of psychological fears, so that we can live a life aligned with freedom and joy. It’s fine for the brain to have certain survival fear to protect the body against physical threats through fight/flight response, but it’s a huge problem to have the brain fearing situations where there are no immediately physical threats. We face physical threats very rarely these days, because we are not living in jungles, where a wild animal would jump on us unsuspectingly (of course there are rash drivers who seem to be doing that job now) – but you get the point that physical danger makes up only 1% of your day, but psychological fears could make up 99% of your day. Psychological fears are completely unnecessary and are counterproductive to your well-being.
You need to use the Aeroplane to travel, so it’s a necessity. It’s true that flights have crashed before, and hence the brain is afraid of such a situation re-occuring. So you have two options – you either stop flying or you let go of the fear of flying. Since flying is a necessity, the only option is to let go of the fear of flying and allow the experience to be
joyful. So the questions arises – how to let go of the fear of flying when it’s so apparently present in the brain. This is where it’s important to realize that you are not the brain, that the brain is an organ and you are the consciousness that can observe this organ’s movement without identifying with it. This is your freedom – you don’t have to identify with the brain. You have the choice to stay detached of the brain’s movement.
Detached awareness is start of freedom
As long as you realize that the brain is not who you are, but is just an organ performing certain functions, you will start becoming free of being a prisoner to the brain’s pull. The next time you sit in a flight, just stay aware of how your brain is reacting to the situation,
without getting “identified” with its voice. You will see that you are able to observe the brain, and its reactions, but you are also present as this “detached” awareness that is not taken in by the brain’s pull. As you sit as the detached awareness (I also call it relaxed awareness), you will see that the brain does not have the power to pull you in, and it
slowly wanes away in momentum. As the brain movement slows down, its noise will start ebbing away and it won’t have the power to overwhelm you (the way it does now).
Your present problem is that the brain has so much momentum that its “overwhelming” you with its fears. It’s your responsibility to reduce the momentum of your brain by “detaching” yourself from identifying with it. It’s your attention to the brain that fuels its momentum. As you stay in the state of “relaxed awareness” (no identification with the brain’s movement), you start depriving the brain of attention and this starts slowing down the momentum of its thinking. As the thoughts slow down, you start having access to “gaps” in your thinking and these gaps allow joy to flow in. The more gaps you have in your thinking, the more joyful you feel. These “gaps” also allow creative solutions to emerge, and a wisdom starts taking over your life.
There will come a time when the brain has no pull over you, and this state is also called “Sat Chit Ananda” (the bliss of being). The negative momentum in the brain is the only cause of “resistance” to life. If you want to be free from the influence of fear (of any form), you have to become free of the brain’s pull. The only way you can do this is by
staying detached as a space of awareness and allowing the momentum of the brain to slow down and ebb away. It takes sometime (a few months) before the momentum of negativity in the brain can fully slow down, till then you have to stay true to this simple practice of staying as a space of relaxed awareness every time the brain starts overwhelming you with its fears or negative thinking.