Written by Matteo Mombelli
Fly or fight?
Fear is an emotion that we all experience. We feel it every time our mind categorizes something as dangerous. Everything that comes into our surroundings that our mind perceives as a danger triggers the body in fight, freeze, flight mode, sending various signals to prepare the body to protect itself, to run away from danger or fight. Some of the symptoms include increased heart rate, accelerated breathing, thickened blood (to prepare the body for injury), and sharper sight and hearing.
Our body evolved like this from when we were living among other animals and the perils of nature. Even though modern society created an artificial protection for ourselves from the natural world, our mind and body did not evolve at the same pace and still experiences fearful situations, triggering this mechanism.
This article aims to explain how the fear mechanics work, how to challenge them and become more aware of what can make us fearful. Later, we will talk through a few simple tricks to live a more mindful life.
Our mind works similar to a computer or a sponge. From the moment you are born until you die, it continually memorises all the information that it is subject to from the environment. Due to this feature, everything and everyone that surrounds you play a role in reinforcing or creating fears. News, video games, movies and people you come in contact with can influence your mind in creating more fears.
We can ultra-simplify and divide the fears into two categories: the fear of suffering from body sensations, survival instincts; and emotional suffering, which hurts our ego.
In the case of survival instincts, let’s assume that when you were young, you burned your hand in a campfire; your mind would store that information to provide a quicker defence response in the future. For sure, it is a beautiful mechanism to survive.
With emotions, your mind works alike. For example, if a person you trusted mistreats you or judges you, it will be difficult for you to get emotionally attached to someone else due to the fear of being hurt again. Your mind will trick you into avoiding open up and trust another person. Effectively creating barriers that prevent you from suffering, but that at the same time does not let you experience freedom.
We can learn how to cope with fear by first identifying what makes us fearful and what are the things that reinforce it. The most straightforward way to identify the fear is to step out of your comfort zone, do new things and notice what makes your heart pump faster or wants to make you run away. You simply challenge the fear by staying or doing what makes you feel that uncomfortable sensation. Basically it means choosing experience over convenience.
You can also talk with a friend, or a therapist. By talking through the fear and understanding which was the experience that created that barrier helps.
You should be aware of people that bring negativity in your life or drag you down instead of uplifting your mood. Let go of all the negativities in your life and try to bring in the positives. It will help you live more lighter.
Now, I invite you to imagine living in a world where the only things you hear and listen to are stories of suffering; your friends only talk about what is wrong in their lives. You are only subject to certain kind of negative experiences. Imagine and try to visualize how your life would be.
Imagine the opposite, the people surrounding you are loving and genuine people ready to support you, the news does not affect you, and you live your life in gratitude, trying to enjoy every moment as it could be your last. Imagine and try to visualize how your life would be.
In which of the two worlds would you rather live?
In May we celebrated Buddha Purnima, the birthday of Gautama Buddha. After more than 2500 years since his death, his name is still remembered, and many around the world use his teachings to find inner peace and reach higher levels of awareness. To be able to reach his stature, we need to start with baby steps. In this article, we’ll try to showcase a few simple techniques that you can implement in your daily life to help you navigate society, become more aware of yourself and live a healthier life.
First of all, let’s start by saying that everything can be turned into a meditation. Whenever you focus your attention, you are aware of your surroundings; your mind is free of thoughts and you are fully aware of the actions you are doing in the present moment. If you are doing so you are meditating. You could effectively turn your whole day and life into a meditation practice. Of course, nowadays, distractions from the mind and the outside makes it difficult for most people to live fully present at all times. Still, it is an achievable task, and to accomplish it, it must be practised repeatedly to master it.
An excellent example of this would be the scene in Karate Kid “Wax on, Wax off”, by repeating a task over and over, it becomes something embedded in your neural system. It becomes natural to you and effortless. From doing sport, cooking, learning a language, everything needs time and dedication and that you invest countless hours of your time in mastering it. In this case, we would not be looking to master a skill, but our own minds.
Now that you know that you can turn your whole life into meditation, the suggestion would be for you to focus on some tasks that you enjoy doing and turn them into your meditation practice. I would suggest finding three to five tasks that you do every day and start doing them mindfully, with full attention.
The beauty of being all unique beings is that we all have different likes and dislikes, so you can discover the things you can enjoy doing more effortlessly is an authentic self-discovery in itself.
Once you find that something, you can turn it into your meditation practice!
If you like to cook, take some time for yourself, with no technology, and do it mindfully by being in touch with your ingredients and focusing on the step by step process of cooking.
Find the perfect recipe, write your ingredients, go to the local market and find the freshest ingredients. Start cooking and get in touch with your ingredients, smell them, touch them and visualize and imagine the taste of what you wish you to create. Fully concentrate on the act and on how to put together at best all the ingredients.
You can then even try mindful eating, which has been correlated with weight loss and to prevent binge eating. Mindful eating is simply eating slowly, really tasting the food you are eating and how you eating it makes you feel. Best if you do it without distractions and in silence. Just enjoy what you eat and observe your body and sensations.
Are you a runner? Great, when you go and run, fully dive into the experience by focusing on your five senses, your breath and your body. When you feel something hurting, try to focus on the spot that hurts and continue breathing mindfully. Be aware of your posture, of your body and your breath. Apply that to any other sport.
If you like tolisten or to playmusic, you can use the same trick. Just focus your attention on the task and experience the greatness of reality as it comes, with all your senses alert.
Try and find 3 to 5 things a day you can practice mindfully, and slowly you’ll notice that you’ll get more and more aware, and you will start practising mindfulness in all the activities you undertake during the day.