In the Shadow of Fear

It is true that when we have nothing to lose, we have nothing to fear. But how many of us really do have nothing to lose? Or even aspire to have nothing to lose? Think about it for a moment, and consider all the things you can lose: health, love, loved ones, friendships, an income, mementos, photos. A lot can be put on a list like this, especially when we start to pay attention to all the little things that add weight to our fear of loss. The more attached we are to these things, the greater the loss would be, and therefore, the greater the fear perhaps.

The fear of loss is, unfortunately, not the only fear that vie for our attention. There is also the fear of the unknown, of not having enough, not being enough, not being worthy of love. The more we think about it, the more we will be able to add to our “list of fears”. Some fears are little, others are big; some we understand and can explain, others we can’t; some are personal, others more universal. Some fears fill us with dread, immobility and anxiety, while others are soft stirrings of discomfort and hesitation.

As I am finding my feet in a foreign country and culture, I am trying to isolate fears as they arise, so as to understand them better, and to use them to transform the way I live my life. What I am discovering is that my fears have less to do with loss, and more with uncertainty and the unknown. Dealing with government officials, language barriers and the sequence of confusing steps to obtain a residence visa often issues an invitation to fear for a visit. The best solution for me to keep this visit brief is to take a deep breath and look into my husband’s reassuring eyes. Not only does it give me renewed courage, but it also confirms that I am safe and loved, even as I am venturing into the unknown.

And as I explore my physical surroundings, I discover that fear of the unknown is actually a little footpath into the world of discovery and adventure. It often makes me more observant and aware of my surroundings. I pay attention to the often overlooked aspects of my physical environment and notice the layer of life that lies beyond obvious. And so I hear the fear in the blundering footsteps of a fisherman as he suddenly bursts out of the shadows, dashing towards the boat that is impatiently awaiting his arrival; I notice the flit of curiosity in a quickly lowered gaze to avoid eye-contact; I smell the mysteries of life on the night breeze that wafts through the night souk….

So often we view fear in the negative, but we forget that it often keeps us safe; not just from physical dangers, but also the possibility of harmful choices. It is when we understand and embrace our fears that they lose the crippling power they yield over us. It doesn’t mean that we are free of them, but that we can use them for growth, understanding and transformation.

It is in the shadow of fear that courage (dhairya) grows. Courage implies action, strength, endurance, patience, perseverance, constancy, firmness and a good dose of boldness. When we start to understand the depth and dimension of our spiritual nature, we can accept that we are more than our bodies and minds. It is then that we can start to face our fear of death, and accept the grace and beauty of life.


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