Question from a Student:
"So many people deal with fear and anxiety. Can you talk about how to deal with fear?"
Many people are reacting to life from a chronic fight or flight response. We respond to small frustrations as if we are facing a saber toothed tiger. It is vital to add some practices into our daily routines to allow our nervous systems to settle down into a neutral or relaxed state.
The first step is to take a deep breath. When you breathe in, allow your belly to expand. When you breathe out, contract your belly. Breathe in and out through the nose. Start to lengthen your outbreath. When you breathe in, count, 1, 2. When you breathe out, count, 1, 2, 3, 4. Continue and watch for lightheadedness if you are not used to deep breathing.
When we lengthen the outbreath, we can deactivate the fight or flight response of the nervous system. This gives our bodies a chance to calm down.
The next step is to focus your attention on the breath. This gives the mind something to do. Buddhist meditation encourages focus on the breath, both the outbreath and the gap between the inbreath and the outbreath. Even a few moments of focus on the breath can help us begin to let go of fear producing thoughts and loosen the grip of fear.
Thich Nhat Hahn, a Vietnamese monk and Buddhist teacher loves to teach walking meditation in combination with a focus on the breath. Thich Nhat Hahn combines many simple poems with the rhythm of each breath and step. Here is a sweet one from Answers from the Heart:
I have arrived. I am home, in the here, in the now, I am solid. I am free. In the ultimate I dwell.