When we feel afraid, three obvious things happen in our body. Firstly our body tenses up (as does our heart), and we feel a sense of constriction in our entire being. Secondly, our breathing stops flowing – it virtually freezes – as our chest tightens up with the rest of our muscles. Thirdly, our heart starts beating more rapidly.
So, if we ensure that these physiological symptoms do not take a hold of our body (by evoking the exact opposite of them) it is impossible for fear to be present in our body. Of course, we could also ‘nip fear in the bud’ (in our mind) so that fear doesn’t even get close to entering our body. This becomes a possibility as we gain experience of leaving the realm of thought, through meditation, so that we are able see anxious thoughts coming and literally choose not to engage with them. This is of course the best option, and it becomes easier and easier as you gain more experience of how the thinking mind operates, and how it affects the way our body feels.
But for most people who do experience fear in their body, the practical solution is simple. You consciously do the opposite to your body of what fear does to it.
So, because fear makes the body tense up, you consciously relax the body. This alone will ensure that fear cannot take a hold in your body, because where there is relaxation there cannot be fear, as fear is tension. But it is very good to become aware of your breathing also, so that it flows, rather than freezes. When our breathing flows, any thoughts that are floating around our mind can pass on by, like clouds being blown across the sky. Finally, and this completes the trio of actions that helps us to be free from the grip of fear, we become aware of our heart beating. We just feel it beating faster, without trying to prevent it in any way. We can even enjoy this powerful sensation in our chest, and as we observe it, it will naturally calm down. Alternatively, we could choose to consciously calm it down by breathing much more slowly and deeply, but there is no harm in allowing it to beat faster, as long as we are aware of it.
Changing your breathing is the most direct and effective way to change what you are feeling in your body. If we couple this with consciously relaxing our muscles when we notice they are tense, anxiety and fear simply cannot remain in our body. Where relaxation is present, positive feelings simply increase. So relax often, even amongst all your day-to-day activities. Enjoy breathing, and feel the vitality and strength that comes from breathing more deeply and being more active. And finally, connect to your heart often, in a very practical way, simply by feeling it beating in your chest.
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