Fear is something we all feel as a natural response to physical danger. But it can also be self-created, such as the fear of failure, of the dark, of being out of control, of being different, or of being lonely. We fear loving because we fear being rejected, fear being generous because we fear that we won’t have enough; we fear sharing our thoughts or feelings in case we appear wrong or stupid, and we cannot trust when self-doubt or insecurity dominate.

We can find self-generated fear in its acronym F.E.A.R: False Evidence Appearing Real. It appears real, even though it may have no real substance, arising when we feel threatened or undermined, which makes us cling to the known and familiar. Such fear creates paranoia, worry, nervous disorders, and apprehension.

Just for a moment, let your body take the stance of feeling fearful. What is your posture? Most people hunch their shoulders forward, fold their arms across their chests, or assume a similarly contracted position to shield the heart, fear having triggered the need to be on the defensive.

In this self-protective place, the heart goes out of reach and it’s impossible to feel love or even friendliness. While your arms are firmly folded across your heart try saying “I love you” with real meaning.

Before Ed did yoga and meditation he was fearful of challenging sports, such as skiing, scuba diving, even bungee jumping. “My body would get tense, contract, and refuse to move. Fear would arise unbidden, overcoming any rational logic. But after I learnt meditation I began to find a very different world opening to me, one where fear took a back seat. My body stopped tensing, I was able to breathe more deeply, and any fear diminished in importance.

“Then I went skydiving. It was exhilarating and enormously empowering to know that I could take fear by the hand and jump out of an airplane at 18,000 feet above sea level, letting everything go as I fell at 122 miles per hour. From that moment on nothing else seems overwhelming or impossible in comparison. I’m able to dive into the unknown.”

As long as we deny or ignore fear it will hold us captive, emotionally frozen, unable to move forward. Trying to run away from, ignore, or stop fear will simply create more tension. It is transformed only when we can turn around and face it, get to know it, release resistances and fixed ideas, and speak with our own voice.

Both mindfulness and meditation have an unraveling effect on the mind: unraveling tension, contraction, fear and anxiety. We get to recognize fear when it arises and can be with it, rather than reacting to it. If fear is rising, we use the breath to keep open, breathing consciously while naming fear as fear. Say it softly. Watch what happens to the body as fear tries to take hold. As long as we keep the body open and stay in a place of complete acceptance, it will be very hard for fear to establish itself.

Originally published at medium.com