There will always be moments in life, when fear comes upon us. It can strike at any time and it will often strike without warning. One moment, it is possible to feel emboldened, ready to take on the world and yet in the next breath, cowardice strikes and with it, the urge to run away and hide from that which awaits. Fear comes in many guises and it is often impossible to recognise it before it has its arms tightly wrapped around you, as it clutches you in its stifling embrace. Make no mistake, fear can take the very breath from you. Fear can make it so hard to breath that you feel you are going to faint, and indeed, some people do. Fear can stop all rational thought, making it impossible to think clearly, to make the correct judgements, and to take the necessary actions. Fear feeds on itself. It takes only a single, seemingly insignificant moment to plant the seed of fear in the mind, but as soon as that seed is planted, it will immediately take hold. Shoots will spring forth, gripping ever more tightly, and the seed of fear, that small thing, has quickly grown into an out of control monster that cripples, that drains all strength and courage, and that prevents movement.
Fear lives in the head. Courage resides in the heart. The two are age old adversaries that have made battle since the first sentient beings took their first breaths on this planet. The courage of the heart has no equal, it can vanquish the fear of the mind, but only if it is released and allowed to reach its full potential. There is no amount of fear that courage cannot defeat. If fear feeds on fear, then on what does courage feed? It's my belief that courage has no need to feed, since courage is found in the heart. I think of courage as a bottomless well, an endless abyss from which a never ending source of courage can be drawn. Fear will always attempt to block the route to courage. Fear will try to stifle the heart. It will take its hands and attempt to strangle the very life out of it. Fear must stop courage at all costs for it knows that if courage takes hold, fear is utterly lost. This is the purpose of fear in life and this is the path on which fear walks. There is only one thing that fear itself fears. And that one thing is courage.
Passing through fear is a necessary step, if the journey of life and the spiritual evolution of the soul are to be continued. If the step is not taken and fear is not confronted and defeated, then the particular lesson that life is attempting to teach will not be learned. If the lesson is not learned, there will be a part of the journey that will never be experienced. This part of the journey will forever remain a mystery and the fear associated with this experience will stay forever in the mind. They will become inseparable. Each time the same situation is encountered, that same fear will rise and plague the mind. Paralysis will occur again and again, until such a time that the fear is finally overcome and vanquished.
The best way to illustrate this, is by providing an example of fear from my own life and to illustrate how, because I did not defeat my fear in the very beginning, that same fear has affected me time and again, and has been a continual bane in my life. It happened when I was eleven years old. Back then, I had a good group of friends that I spent time with after school and on weekends, I was focused and motivated at school, and I enjoyed my life very much. From everything that I can remember about this period of my life, nothing daunted me. But one Friday evening, everything changed. My friends and I attended a local disco for under fourteen year olds, held at the local sports centre. It was our first foray into the world of music, dancing and girls. At first, everything was great. We danced together as a group, we made silly jokes with one another and we made up silly dances to make each other laugh. We were excited and excitable. At some point, one of my friends noticed some of the girls from our school that shared the sames classes as us. We started to talk about dancing with them. One of them, who I'll call Natalie Jones, had been the object of my infatuation for a long time. She was at the time, the most beautiful girl I had ever seen - pretty, slim, long golden blonde hair that fell off her shoulders and hung down her back and she took ballet classes. At the age of eleven, if someone had asked me to define perfection, I would have replied without hesitation, "Natalie Jones". And now, there she stood, just across the room, on the other side of the dance floor. All I had to do, was to walk over and ask her for a dance. One of the most simple things in life and yet, for me, at that moment, an impossible mountain to climb. I could not do it. I could not find the words in my mind to talk with her. I didn't have a clue what I would say. Fear seized me and held me in its vice like grip. I had this one moment to shake it off, to reach down and seize my courage and to act, but I faltered and I was lost. Instead of my first foray into the heady delights of dancing with girls, I feigned a sickness, left and went home. I was defeated utterly by my fear.
And because of what happened at that disco, at the age of eleven, unable to confront and defeat my fear, that same thing has happened to me over and over again throughout my life. Even now, if I am at a bar or club and I see an attractive girl, I become paralysed by fear and unable to do anything about it. That same fear that caught me all those years ago, will not let go of me. It continues to hold me. There have been a few occasions when I have beaten it, but those few times I was heavily laden under the influence of alcohol or some other mind-altering substance. This is my Achilles' heel. This is the personal battle of my life. Something so simple for so many has become the most daunting thing that I can ever face. And all because I was unable to confront and defeat my fear when it first occurred, all of those years ago.
One person's fear cannot be compared with another. What is feared is personal. What is feared was conjured in the mind by a unique set of circumstances. Why do some people fear heights and others not? Why do some people jump out of airplanes and others quiver at the very thought? In my life I have scuba dived with tiger sharks, bull sharks, great white sharks and many others; I have thrown myself off of a bridge attached to a bungee cord; I have given a talk to a room of eight hundred people; I have lived alone overseas in a country where I knew no one and could not speak the language; I took myself to the other side of the world to attend university; I looked upon my mother as she lay in her hospital bed, so frail and so weak, and it was difficult to recognise the woman that she had once been, before the cancer took hold of her body; I quit my career, sold up everything and completely changed my life; and I reveal deeply personal thoughts in my writing, in the hope that it may inspire others. In all these things, I have felt fear and I have overcome that fear. But what are my own fears, compared to those of someone facing a life-threatening illness? They pale into insignificance. Our fears are our own. They are our own personal battles. Perhaps the greatest battles that we ever face in life. And as such, they are ours to overcome and they are ours to defeat.
The worst kind of fear is fear of the unknown. If the object of our fear cannot be visualised, then how are we able to fight it? We do not know what it is that we are fighting against, so we cannot choose the most suitable weapon and if we cannot see our enemy, then we do not know when or where to strike at it. The most frightening horror movies are always those where the protagonist remains unseen, allowing the audience to build an image for themselves, to build the fear of the unknown. Fear of the unknown is a primary reason that so many people do not discover their one true path in life. Even if a person knows and understands what gives them passion in life, it is fear that prevents them from reaching out and taking it. It is the not knowing what lies beyond today, it is the moving away from all that you know, from all that is comfortable and that gives security, that creates a fear so deep, that it seems that it cannot be overcome. But it can. Fear can always be defeated, even the unknown can be defeated. The sword of courage is yours to wield.
Fear has a friend and an ally. That friend is called doubt. The two walk hand in hand. Fear creates doubt. Doubt leads to fear. Fear leads to doubt. Doubt creates fear. The two are inseparable, creating a never ending cycle that constantly feeds upon itself. There is only one way to break that cycle: by eliminating the fear and taking a step forward along the path. By passing through the fear, the doubt is immediately dispelled. One cannot live without the other. Strike one and the other will fall. When you strike, strike hard and deliver a fatal blow. If not, the foes will quickly rise again, only this time, they will be stronger and better prepared.
In many ways, doubt is worse than fear, since doubt creeps up insipidly and unnoticed. It begins to grow slowly, imperceptibly, gradually altering the way in which you view or think of a situation. When doubt has grown large enough, it reaches out to its friend, fear. It is at this point, that they begin to lead you away from the path, to prevent you from taking the next step. Fear and doubt will work hard to prevent your spiritual evolution. Often, they will make you think that what you dream of, the what lies in your heart, that what gives you passion and purpose in life, is foolish. They will convince you that it is better to stay where you are, to not risk all that you have gained on the throw of the dice called love. It is they who will tell you that you are not deserving of such a life, that only the special, the chosen few, the lucky, are worthy of such gifts from the universe. They are wrong. There are no words that can be written that can prove this. No amount of reading words on a page can create that belief within the soul. The words can inspire, they can excite, they can embolden, but the only way to know for sure is to find the courage from within and to defeat those demons we call fear and doubt.
When the unknown fear is faced, what lies beyond is a void of infinite darkness. There is no way to see through or around it. It is like trying to see to the other side of the universe, like trying to see around a mountain. It is impossible. But it is not necessary to see through the darkness. That which is unknown is the treasure waiting to be discovered. Where would the excitement and surprise of life be, if every answer was known, if it was possible to see every outcome and eventuality? The darkness is actually a friend. The darkness needs to be embraced. If all of the answers were already known, if the direction, route and destination of the path were visible, what then? Life would become extremely boring and the very thing that gives life its meaning would be lost. I do not want to read the script of my life, I want to write that script! I am the author, I am the lead actor and I am the director. This is the play of my life and it will be the play that I want it to be! Courage will shine a light through the darkness. Courage will show the way. No amount of darkness can stand before the light of courage. Just as the sun rises to dispel the dark of the night, so to does courage dispel the darkness of the unknown. With each step taken along the path, the darkness is broken, with each step, the light begins to grow, because with each step, it is you who transforms that darkness into the light. That power lies inside each and every one of us.
What I find interesting is that when an infant is first born, it knows no sense of fear, because there is no sense of fear. There is nothing that can stop it, nothing that can hold it back. Everything is unknown and into that unknown the infant ventures without hesitation. When an infant first tries to walk, it inevitably falls. It understands that falling is a necessary part of the learning process. It knows no fear and so it gets up and it tries again, and again, until it one day it has learned to walk. Then, at some point, it develops its conscious self and in that moment, it also develops its sense of fear. So, fear is a learned behaviour and as such, it needs to be unlearned if we are to truly become all that of which we are capable. And of what you are capable, there is no limit.
Never let fear hold you back from becoming your true self. Never let doubt cloud your mind. Never look into the darkness and fail to see the light that shines there as a beacon to guide you on your journey. You have the courage. Do not doubt that. If you know where to look, you can find it. And when you find the courage, take a breath, take another step, and walk on. Glory and love await those that walk their one true path.
There is one last thing I want to write on the subject of fear. My grandfather served as a captain in the army during World War II and was involved in the landings at Normandy. I recently managed to obtain copies of the memoirs he had written on various aspects of his life. One of these memoirs dealt with his time in the army and of that fateful day of June 6th, 1944, the day that is now known simply as, D-Day. He wrote about his experience on that fateful day and he described the terror that all of the men in his landing craft felt, as they crossed the English Channel and headed towards the coast of France. It is completely impossible to imagine the courage it took to exit that landing craft and to move up the beach during that day in June. All the men faced a fear so daunting, it beggars belief. All of the men that day faced a journey into the unknown. At the moment when they needed to act, at the moment when it was needed the most, they found the courage to take just one more step. That day, there were thousands of people who faced their fears, who faced their doubts, who faced the unknown and who stared into the dark abyss. That day, courage gained a new meaning. That day, fears were overcome. And for that, no amount of gratitude will ever be enough. Thank you Pop. If you are able to read this, then please know that you inspired me and that even if I did not know you as well as I would have liked, I loved you no less.