Turning Fear into Faith has become a steady practice for me since I became pregnant with my son last January. I don’t mean a religious kind of faith, but rather a faith in myself….and the universe. Fear is a very powerful energy, but like any kind of energy, it can be harnessed, manipulated and transformed. If fed, fear festers and turns into anxiety.
I know that when the classic, “What if….” questions arise it is a sure sign that I am feeding fear and laying the groundwork for anxiety. Reframing these What ifs into positive questions is a powerful practice that, if pursued diligently, can have a significant impact in reducing anxiety. The fact is, the positive question/statement is usually more likely to be true than the negative!
What if I get into a car accident? vs What if I arrive safely at my destination?
What if….. I am safe, loved, seen, powerful, loving and heard?
Fear is powerful and, when necessary, can cause us to react in ways that are life-saving; like jumping out of the way of a moving car, but faith, faith is life changing. Faith and trust in oneself create a solid base from which we can dwell with joy and insight.
Cultivating these qualities is a practice that is supported by understanding where our needs and fears originate. Separating the real from the unreal, moving from dark to light can be achieved by exploring our internal storage system, better known as the subtle body, specifically, the Chakras.
Understanding the Chakras
I view the Chakras as psycho-spiritual processing centres that assimilate and store information. They hold the personal and emotional memories of our lifetimes. The root Chakra is called Muladhara, which translates to the ‘dwelling place of support’, and when unsettled switches on the fear response which alerts the nervous system that there is a danger. Whether this danger is actual or only perceived to be real, the breath quickens, there is a surge of blood flow to the muscles and the body prepares to fight, take flight or freeze.
Understanding the subtle body, as well as the physical body combined with summoning conscious thoughts that are based on faith and trust interrupts the fear feedback loop and resets the whole body-mind system.
Acknowledging what makes me feel safe gives me the tools that I need to stabilize myself when I feel unsafe. Understanding why these things make me feel unsafe helps me understand and compassionately witness my history and how I came to be the powerfully imperfect person that I am today. For example, thru my research and studies as a holistic psychotherapist, I have explored the parallels between western psychology and eastern philosophy over the last 10 years.
The stages of development
I have found that the human psyche’s stages of development overlap the development of the chakras quite profoundly. Our first stage of development takes place from birth to age six- seven. It is during this time in our lives that the Muladhara chakra is being formulated. The core needs that must be met at this time in our lives revolve around food, safety, security, nurturing. These are our basic needs and when one of them is unmet our foundation is disrupted and fear is the response that is engaged. I know that when I am hungry or overtired I can be pretty cranky and definitely not at my kindest, toward myself and others. I observed my reaction as we bought and moved into our home 4 years ago, even though we had a lovely home to move into it was still a very unsettling process. But being pregnant was the big one.
Fear for the baby’s health, fear for the potential stress on my marriage, fear about the changes to my livelihood… I could go on! I absolutely could not afford to let these waves of fear ruin my experience! So I worked hard to stay present, breathe, trust, I prayed, walked, sat by the ocean, communicated with my husband, nourished myself… And it worked, for the most part!
We experience these Muladhara earthquakes throughout our lifetime and the way that we respond to them will be influenced by how this chakra was developed. How safe, loved, secure, nourished and nurtured did we feel like a child? What strategies did we learn to get these needs met? Are we still using them today? Are there more appropriate and meaningful strategies that we could employ?
While the deep work that helps prevent the paralyzing effects of the fear cycle is found in the root chakra, each chakra represents specific needs and there are emotional and behavioural reactions when these needs are unmet. Most of the time these reactions limit our ability to live to our fullest potential and experience deep and lasting joy.
Start this work by paying attention, observing, witnessing, but not judging your reactions to Muladhara imbalances. Journal, discuss or meditate on your childhood experiences. Visualize moments when your needs are fully being met and the feeling that you experience. Manifest a safe, secure, nurturing and loving reality!
Join me at the Art of Living Retreat Center this April for The Psychology of the Chakras, where we will examine each of the chakras and their correlating stages and age of development, as well as the common behavioural characteristics and imbalances for each one. We will use dialogue, journaling prompts well as pranayama, meditation and mantra to rewrite our stories and dissolve the limiting beliefs that prevent us from living our lives to the fullest.
Coral Brown is a teacher of teachers, drawing on two decades of experience in yoga, philosophy, and holistic counselling to provide nurturing and open space for the processes of healing and transformation. She has trained in the Iyengar and Jivamukti methods and is a senior teacher of Prana Vinyasa Flow. Coral leads teacher training, retreats and workshops around the world and regularly contributes to Yoga Journal. You can learn more about her work at coralbrown.net.