Fear Belongs in the Backseat

Written by Andy Vantrease

Ahimsa is one of the five Yamas, or guiding principles, of yoga. Translating to “nonviolence,” Ahimsa promotes physical, mental and emotional compassion towards others and the self. This idea encompasses all relationships and interactions – reactions to events, judgments, criticisms, disagreements and even your opinions toward your own thoughts and actions. By practicing Ahimsa, you’re being guided by compassion and love, rather than by hatred, violence and fear.

Fear, my friends, is a force to be reckoned with. But, luckily, so is love.

As humans, we are wired to be wary of the unknown. It’s an innate survival instinct, to fear what we cannot see, touch or hear. For thousands of years, our fight or flight mechanisms have helped us distinguish between danger and safety, friend and foe. The unknown sometimes meant the threat of a power shift or death, and in many parts of the world, we are still fleeing life-threatening circumstances. In other parts, we are suffering through deplorable jobs but we fear we may not find another if we quit. We’re in toxic, abusive relationships but we fear we won’t meet someone better if we leave. We aren’t happy with our health but we are stuck in revolving habits for fear of failure. We see molded media stories and begin to fear entire populations.

Living in fear typically coincides with hundreds of “what ifs?” What if I don’t find another job? What if I don’t meet someone who will treat me better? Here’s an option: WHAT IF we associated the unknown with positive opportunities and possibilities, instead of inevitable negative outcome? What if you followed your passion to your dream career? What if you left the abusive relationship and found your life partner? What if you befriended someone and found out you share common interests and values?

When it comes down to it, humans are emotional creatures who crave community, love and acceptance. We all want what is best for our families and ourselves. We want to be supported and provide support for others. We want to feel needed in our relationships and our work. We want to be appreciated. When we look on the surface, we’re met with physical differences. When we look deeper, those differences fade very quickly.

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Big Magic, suggests having a conversation with your fear. In whatever words you see fit, put fear in the backseat. “Sure, Fear, you can be a passenger on this road trip we call life. Without you, I may not make it out of certain situations alive, and I’m grateful for that. With that said, you will not touch the wheel on this trip. You will not navigate, you will not hold the map, you will be in the backseat –and we do not tolerate backseat drivers! You will not keep me from my dreams and ambitions, and you will not turn me against my fellow man. We are driving into the unknown, hopeful and joyful, and there is nothing you can do to stop us.”