Spiritual teachers have told us that life is unfolding in the now and that only the present moment exists. Scientists such as Albert Einstein have confirmed it. We think time is linear, but that’s because we don’t perceive the now. Our minds are constantly shifting from the past (memories) to the future (expectations).
Both of these states of mind are breeding grounds for fear, especially the future. Thoughts of what could happen or what might be, take us down a tricky trail. But these imagined scenarios rarely happen as we think they will — and placing credence in them lets fear take over. What we need to do is bring our attention back to the present moment, and cause fear to subside.
Practice these three strategies to shift into the present and detach from your fears:
Bear Witness to Your Own Thoughts
We are always choosing what thoughts to energize. When random thoughts come in, we either attach to them and take them in one direction or another, or we stay detached from them and choose to let them go. Even when we sleep, there is a higher part of us making decisions. When we start bearing witness to our own thoughts, they lose their potency.
Witnessing our thoughts is a recommended spiritual practice, one commonly referred to as mindfulness. Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh said that “Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay.”
Pay attention to your thoughts. Notice how one thought leads to another and another, until they’ve built a whole chain. You’ll notice that these thoughts are always about something in the past or something you think may happen in the future.
Give Up Your Focus on Time
“The Zone” is that state of mind athletes often talk about in which, in the midst of everything, time seems to stop. We have all experienced that state in which we lose track of time. But most people don’t trust the experience. They don’t see those occasional glimpses into the now as real since they happen so rarely. Or, they believe the only way to experience them is to do something extraordinary, like climb a mountain or run a marathon. The sensation of being purely in the present can be frightening, as well — as it’s so out of our normal range of experiences.
But this is the state where you are your truest self, and in which fear cannot survive. Try to access this state frequently and allow yourself to visit as much as possible. Release yourself from the barriers to this state by centering yourself in the now. Try this exercise: Very slowly look at what is around you. Look at the contours of your hand, and so forth. Be present to how you turn your head when you do these things. Witness yourself taking these actions. What part of you is witnessing this?
Center Yourself in Your Heart
Centering in the now also places us in the heart, which is the seat of our consciousness: the electromagnetic field that comes from the heart is 60 times larger than the one that comes from the brain. Carl Jung, the founder of analytical psychology, said, Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakens.
Gratitude is the key for getting centered in the heart and the now. Operating from a heart space opens us to greater compassion for ourselves and others and dissipates that sense of fear — as well as blame and judgment. Our most common default is blame, so we have to pay attention to our thoughts and consciously move to a heart awareness. Ask yourself what you want to put into the world, and if this is how you would want to be treated.
Centering in the heart and the now helps us see our problems in a different light. The more we practice this, simply through our growing awareness of it happening, the more it will happen. We are simple reinforcing what is already there versus reinforcing something false. We are focusing on what’s real.
When we center in the heart and the now, and stop reacting unconsciously from fear, we can make incredibly healing choices. We can choose love over fear, compassion over judgment, forgiveness over hatred, and grace over condemnation. All of our decisions will be exponentially more effective and right for us and everyone involved.
As you sit here reading, focusing only on these words, everything is in perfect order. It’s only when you allow your thoughts to stray to the future — as in, “How am I going to find a better job?” or the past, as in “I wish I hadn’t said what I said last night” that fears arise and problems surface. The truth is, you can create an endless number of problems. But if you stay in the now, you are fine.
So be grateful for the simple things, such as the fact that you’re alive, you’re breathing, and you can read these words. Your choice is making room for the joy of the present. In that space, in the now, there’s no room for fear.
Lawrence Doochin is an author, entrepreneur, and devoted husband and father. A survivor of harrowing childhood sexual abuse, he traveled a long journey of emotional and spiritual healing and developed an in-depth understanding of how our beliefs create our reality. In the business world, he has worked for or been associated with enterprises from small startups to multinational corporations. He is the cofounder of HUSO sound therapy, which delivers powerful healing benefits to individual and professionals worldwide. In everything Lawrence does, he strives to serve a higher good. His new book is A Book on Fear: Feeling Safe in a Challenging World. Learn more at lawrencedoochin.com.