“What, me worry?” was the motto of Alfred E. Neuman, the fictitious mascot and cover boy of the American humor magazine Mad. Alfred’s smiling face, red hair, and scrawny freckled body made him an American icon.
Unlike Alfred, I worry about lots of things. I worry about politics, world war, hair loss, and weight gain—to name a few of my fears. I get anxious about whether I’m living my life right, if my dog still loves me after I yell at her, and if the pain in my chest is just old age or a heart condition.
Fear’s part of being human. But, if we feed our concerns, living in fear becomes a nasty habit. Anxiety lurks monster-like in our psyche, overshadowing us, blocking truth, and eroding our faith in God.
In The Map of Consciousness Explained, psychologist David Hawkins says that because we derive a peculiar satisfaction from entertaining fear and other negative emotions, we can become addicted to them.
These juiced-up negative emotions give us a deceptive sense of self, a cloak of righteousness, and a surge of powerful adrenaline. They can even fuel a victim-like approach to life.
Spiritual Practices to Overcome Fear
Our minds can think only one thought at a time. Unfortunately, we often slip into autopilot and nurture negative, fear-based thoughts instead of developing positive, life-giving attitudes. Connecting with God and developing a toolbox of spiritual practices can override our negative thought patterns and strengthen our resolve to live with inner peace and joy no matter what life throws at us.
Here’s why developing your personal toolbox of spiritual practice can help you overcome fear:
1. Shift in Perspective
Spiritual tools provide a clear lens through which to view fear. They encourage us to see challenges as opportunities for growth, learning, and transformation rather than as insurmountable obstacles. With our spiritual safety glasses on, we can ask God how a particular challenge invites us to grow.
2. Connection to Something Greater Than Ourselves
Our spiritual practices connect us with something greater than ourselves, whether we call that something God, the Divine, or our Higher Power. Spiritual practices deepen our relationship with the Creator, who offers a sense of support, purpose, and belonging that’s deeply comforting in times of fear. We realize we’re not alone. We can lean into the Divine for guidance and wisdom to navigate fearful situations.
3. Mindfulness and Presence
Spiritual practices like daily meditation help ground us in the present moment. This can help us remove our anxiety about the future or regret about the past, letting us face fear with greater clarity and composure.
4. Inner Strength and Resilience
Through spiritual practices, we cultivate inner qualities like strength, courage, and resilience. These virtues provide a strong foundation for facing fear with confidence and determination.
5. Overriding Our False Ego
Fear often arises from our attachment to the ego—the mind-made self—that part of us which tries to defend who we think we are or are supposed to be. This limited and often false sense of self blocks clarity about our True Self in God. By transcending the ego, we let go of the narratives and identities that fuel fear. We discover who we are in the eyes of our Creator and develop a greater sense of inner peace.
6. Acceptance and Surrender
Our spiritual practices such as meditation, prayer, and healthy mantras help us accept and let go of those things we can’t the control. This lets us release resistance and find peace in the present moment.
7. Guidance and Wisdom
Sitting in the quiet, listening for God’s voice of love and direction, reading scripture, or chanting sacred texts offers guidance and wisdom for navigating life’s challenges, including fear. These practices provide insights we can integrate into our daily lives. The words we hear, read, or say override our negative mindsets with positive thoughts and images.
8. Role Models
Discovering more about the lives and challenges our spiritual heroes such as Jesus, the saints, and other wise men and women endured provides examples of how they faced similar fears and overcame them. Their stories give us a sense of hope and possibility.
Taking time to stop and understand the underlying causes of fear enables us to address them with honesty and clarity. In doing so, we learn how to root out our fears by digging deep and discerning how our fear invites us to grow new seeds of hope, trust, and resilience.
Spiritual Tools for Your Emotional Sobriety Toolkit
Cameron Kirdzik, a spiritual life coach and founder of Awakenpedia, recently introduced me to a simple spiritual tool called S.O.B.E.R. that uses a mindfulness-based approach to physical and emotional wellness. I’ve been using it during the day when fear or the stress-monster rears its ugly head. Here’s an outline of the S.O.B.E.R. tool:
S.O.B.E.R. SPACE METHOD
When you are in a stressful or risky situation, or even at random times throughout the day, remember to stop, slow down, and shift your attention from the situation to the present moment. This is the first step in moving out of automatic pilot.
Observe the sensations happening in your body. Also observe thoughts, emotions, or urges you are experiencing. Notice as much as you can about your experience in a kind and curious way and aim to accept whatever arises. Try to welcome what you discover instead of resisting it. Realize these thoughts, emotions, and urges are like clouds that will inevitably pass by.
Now, narrow your attention and bring it to the sensations of your breath. Focus your attention on the breath and sSee if you can count five breaths in a row without breaking concentration. Stay with the breath for as long as you need.
Next, expand your awareness to include the rest of your body, your mind, and your environment. See if you can gently hold it all in open, nonresistant, nonjudgmental awareness.
In a more calm and centered state, respond mindfully from the seat of awareness so you can make the most intelligent and intentional decision.
As you continue to practice the S.O.B.E.R. Space Method, you will increasingly come to see that no matter what is happening in your Mind and Body, you will always have a choice in how you handle the situation.
Spiritual tools provide a framework for addressing fear in a holistic way encompassing the emotional, mental, and spiritual dimensions of our being. Because each of us is unique, it’s essential to explore and adopt tools that resonate with your personal spiritual journey.
Seek those tools that best resonate with you, integrate them into your daily life, and move beyond fear to cultivate inner peace.
No one can erase the pain families experience when they lose loved ones through senseless acts of violence. But rather than letting evil win, we can dig deep, discover our gifts, and respond with acts of great love.
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