Art, audio, essay

Getting to the Root of Fear: A Daily Practice

I just finished reading “Think Like a Monk: Train Your Mind for Peace and Purpose Every Day” by Jay Shetty, and I highly recommend it if you’re interested in meta-thinking, or how to think about thinking.

One of the purposes of traditional meditation is to train yourself to observe your thoughts so that you can practice detachment from them. In being able to see how your mind is working, and what you are telling yourself moment to moment, you will be able to experience the power of changing perspective if you’re caught in a negative thought loop–or to maintain perspective if you are able to stay above the fray of troubling thoughts.

The most powerful message from this book, for me, is the importance of getting to the root of fear.

Fear is a construct of the mind. Undoubtedly, fear is natural: It exists as a survival mechanism. But our minds can have difficulty separating the survival instinct from our modern neuroses.

Hence, the common condition of anxiety in our daily lives. We end up obsessing over things that, at the end of the day, are not essential to our wellbeing (instead, they’re often detrimental).

Shetty suggests getting to know your fear in order to address anxiety. If you are worried about something, ask yourself: What is the fear at the root of this worry?

I’ve been practicing this method, and I find it to be useful. To give just one example, we returned to the U.S. this summer after living in Fiji for four years, and we’re in the midst of a transition. We’ve just bought a new house, but our household goods likely won’t arrive until early next year.

This means we have to live minimally, and even though I tend toward minimalism, our bare-bones household is challenging my limits. I have been disappointed with not having my stuff around, and my initial reaction to the news that we wouldn’t get our stuff for about half a year was anxiety.

When I noticed I was anxious, I asked myself: Why am I anxious? What am I afraid of?

I was afraid of not having enough.

Once I had this realization, I was able to gain perspective and understand that I do have enough.

While I miss my stuff, and I look forward to its arrival, I know I can handle exploring the limits of my sense of minimalism. Yes, I miss my things, but this transition period will be a good opportunity to simplify and get a better idea of what’s really valuable in my household. It will be a good time to plan and prune for a new era of life.

So, the next time you feel anxious, try asking yourself: Why do I feel this way? What is the fear behind this anxiety?

When you recognize the fear, you can address it with understanding.

And the more you understand yourself, the better you will be able to live.

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