Published on April 6th, 2020 | by Jacob Sapon0
Spiritual Curriculum for This Time of Pandemic: Working With Fear
by Rabbi Shefa Gold
The general consensus and our deep conditioning tell us that it is our fear
that will keep us safe. … that if we know all the horrible things that
might happen, we’ll be better able to deal with them … that our fear will
keep us vigilant against danger… that expecting the worst will help us
guard against disaster.
What if this consensus is totally wrong? What if the truth is that all fear
is ultimately toxic, and that it prevents us from truly accessing the
deepest wisdom and the greatest love? Fear (that is sustained and not just
a momentary startle) raises the level of stress hormones, lowers immunity,
sends us to our reptile brain, shuts down our connection to the higher
brain functions like empathy, understanding, intuition and love. Fear
separates us and blinds us to the miracle of our interconnectivity. Fear
shuts down the heart, keeping it from receiving the blessings of this
precious moment. Fear is …
I like this acronym because it reminds me that fear is happening in the
mind. If I can create just a bit of distance and perspective about my
fearful thoughts, I can notice when they emerge, and release them with
compassion. In a moment of fearlessness, I can choose wisdom, assessing the
risk before me with clear-eyed deliberation, and act in alignment with the
force of the Great Love.
Yes, fear happens in the mind. I get startled and that sense of alarm
activates a cascade of fearful imaginings. “What will happen to this
fragile world, to my health, my finances, to all my loved ones?!” These
questions inevitably lead me towards anxiety and despair.
What the real and useful questions can be are, “How shall I live the gift
of my each and every moment? Will this moment be fueled by that fear? How
can I release the illusion of control, and surrender to the Divine Will
that dwells within me? Will my worries cloud the possibilities of joy,
right here, right now? How can I rise to the extraordinary challenge that
this moment holds, with all my faculties at the ready?”
I believe that anything we do from fear is tainted or somehow distorted and
might do as much harm as good. Doing that same action, sourced in love,
can by its very essence, transform the doer. If anything might keep me
safe, it will be my clear-headed, open-hearted presence… my ability to
respond wisely to the gifts and challenges of this moment.
What an amazing opportunity for practice! Every time we have the presence
of mind to release fear as it is arising, we strengthen that spiritual
“muscle,” and we build the capacity for unconditional joy, infusing every
moment with an inner buoyancy and steady calm, no matter the weight of
outer catastrophe or the disturbance of unexpected turbulence.
As I investigate each moment of fear or anxiety as it arises, I suspect
that all these thoughts have their root in the Fear of Death. That
root-fear holds me captive in its chains of limitation. When I am held
hostage by that Fear of Death, I can’t know the truth of my infinite Soul.
And it is in knowing, really knowing myself as a Soul, that I am liberated.
As a Soul I experience Life, and Death, as a great adventure. I am open to
learning from everything and everyone. I welcome joy and sorrow in equal
measure. As a Soul I dive into this amazing story of loss and redemption,
and yet I remember that forms and identities come and go. The small
d’katnut*) will be swept away while the large “I,”(*mochin d’gadlut*) will
know itself more deeply and thoroughly because of this journey.
When I know myself as a Soul, my root-fear of Death fades and recedes and
no longer fuels a life that is driven by fear. Those thoughts still happen,
but they no longer compel.
This time of pandemic holds an extraordinary opportunity for facing our
fears, turning towards love, awakening to the truth of our
interconnectivity and knowing ourselves as radiant Souls that shine God’s
light. This is the light that heals and makes whole a world that feels so