In Asia, the delicate, beautiful lotus is a sacred symbol of transcendence.
By Lakshmi Jagannathan
The flat round leaves, anchored with bulbous stems, float gently in the water like giant saucers. A black-and-white bird steps on a leaf delicately with one leg, walks on water and gently skitters on to another leaf. Scattered throughout the floating barge of green are ethereal blooms of water lily radiant in the morning light – pale yellow, pink or with a peach colored hue. In Asia, the lotus is a sacred symbol of transcendence – of purity rising from the muddy waters.
I am in a cottage on stilts on Lake Inle in Myanmar. The lotus-filled water stretches out for miles to hills in the distance. It could easily be the time of the King Anawrahta, who founded a kingdom by developing an irrigation system in a dry land and turning it into the…
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I have worked with thousands of people through the years and written for millions of others, many who have written to me for advice and the like. One of the things that I have found to be common in so many people is fear. Fear is something that cripples people and keeps them from pursuing and reaching their dreams. This does not have to be so! I truly believe that a person does not have to have fear in their life. I can honestly say that I do not have any fear in my life. Now, I am not perfect by any means but fear is not something I have because I have dealt with it.
Getting Over Fear and On with Your Life!
The main reason I do not have fear is because I have come to grips with the concepts surrounding fear. I have understood fear, primarily from two angles. The first angle is psychologically and the second angle is theologically. You see, I think that if we address the issues of life and the fears we experience from both a good understanding of psychology and theology, then I believe we can be free from fear.
Psychology is the study of the mind and that is where most of our fears take place. Theology is the understanding of God and the world we live in as it relates to God and what takes place in this world. I know from personal experience, that as we settle just a few basic issues, we can be free from fear. A few weeks ago I spoke to a group on fear and here are a few of the insights I gave them on how they can get over their fears and get on with their lives. Look and see how each one of these principles fits either psychology or theology.
Disciplining your thoughts. Fear is an action of the mind. Fear is a use, or better said, misuse, of the imagination. In reality, when you fear something, you are simply choosing to imagine a future happening. You are fearful that your spouse will divorce you (future), or that the snake will bite you (future – it hasn’t yet), or that you will lose your job (future – you still have it). So when we fear, we are simply letting our minds imagine a bad future. That is what fear is! Imagining a bad future. So what is the answer?
Well, there are two things you can do. One would be to imagine a good future. The other would be to stop thinking about the future and just take one day at a time. If you are a fearful person, either one of these would be preferable to living in the prison you currently live in. The principle remains true in that we have to discipline our minds and choose not to think about a bad future. We can do that. We can choose our thoughts. It just takes discipline.
Accepting the realities of life
Much of what people fear are the realities of life. Some may think this cold, but people die, people lose jobs, people choose to do crazy things in relationships etc. There is nothing you can do about that. Period. For example, I know many fearful mothers who won’t let their children play in the front yard because they are afraid the kids will get kidnapped. Now, what should they do? Do everything they can to make it safe and then let their kids play in the front yard! Some people are afraid they will go bankrupt or broke and worry endlessly about it. What should they do? Work hard, save, invest and live life. Could someone get kidnapped? Yes. Could you go bankrupt? Yes. These things happen and all you can do is work to make your life what it can be and accept that sometimes things happen, even tragic things. If they happen, you experience the pain and emotion then – there is no sense forcing yourself to experience it before it happens – IF it happens! This is a mental adjustment that we make that enables us to get over fear.
Give yourself good information
Much of what we fear is irrational and not based on good information. For example, someone afraid of snakes will scream when they see a gardener snake, even though the reality is that there is absolutely nothing that snake can do to them! Take the time to educate yourself about whatever it is you fear and see if that doesn’t help you gain the mental edge you need.
Taking control only of those things you can control
There are things you can control and things you can’t. Much of what we fear is out of our hands and we can’t control it. You can’t control if your spouse leaves you. You can control how you treat your spouse. You can’t control a downturn in the economy. You can control whether you save for a rainy day or not. You can’t control whether or not you will get a fatal disease. You can control whether you eat right and exercise. You can’t control how your kids will turn out. You can control how you raise them, what kind of example you set, and what you teach them. You can’t control how others will treat you. You can control how you will treat others. Control what you can control, and let go of the rest.
Trusting that God is in control, even when it doesn’t seem like it
Here is where theology comes in. There is an old theological term called “sovereignty,” that basically means, “God is in control of the universe.” I believe that. Basic to my understanding of God is that God is in control of the universe (God better be, because I’m certainly not – and wouldn’t want to be!). Now there is a fundamental difference between believing that God is in control and trusting that God is at the helm. There is a difference between believing that ultimately God is calling the shots and actually liking the shots that God calls. I think one of the overriding principles of life that we can embrace that will help us overcome fear is that we can relinquish control and trust that someone greater than us is fully aware of what is happening on this earth and in our lives. I for one leave a lot of my fears on this theological hook.
These are some basic points that I use to shape my heart and mind so that I don’t have to spend my life in fear. There are a few others as well, I am sure, and many you probably use yourself, but for now, this should be enough to chew on. Getting over fear is an issue of the mind and the spirit and, believe me, the battle over fear can be won!