Fear & The Nervous System
Fear is a powerful emotional sensation – one that starts in the mind with grand and scary imagery that quickly drops us into the future of what ifs – never allowing us to be present or fully in our bodies.
These days, there is a lot of this sensation getting passed around. Whether it is fear of economic downfall, the next virus that may impact us, the results of an election or generalized anxiety due to an uncertain world, fear seems to grip us and hold on tight conjuring up images of permanent annihilation.
In the Yoga shastras the fear of bodily death is one of the five Kleshas known as Abinivesha. The word Klesha means “affliction” denoting that we are afflicted with conditions that do not allow us to understand that we are already Infinite, Eternal and Whole no matter what and that we are certainly not the physical body but rather, the spirit soul.
In some ways Abinivesha is a natural instinct – our desire to survive on a biological level. It has an intimate relationship to our sympathetic nervous system and the activation of the “fight or flight” response that is built into our human constitution. What causes us to fall into a state of panic and resulting dis-ease is feeling the sensation of fear and believing it to be our reality instead of a temporary situation that will certainly pass. It can also get intensified by collective fear that can be seen all around us in our communities. It is not to say that if we were being chased by a tiger that this is not a real experience – it is. However, in our current western culture of social media and television most of us are not getting chased by a real tiger in the street but rather by the one on the screen with very little consciousness surrounding it.
When we are experiencing the media tiger daily this has a tremendous impact on our central nervous system. From an Ayurvedic standpoint we call this resulting toxicity ama. Ama begins in the mind and travels throughout the body causing havoc on our nerves, muscles, joints, organs and systems resulting in a state of dis-ease. The endpoint is typically in the gut and that causes inflammation and a distortion in our ability to think clearly giving us a helping of brain fog. This brain fog is not just a by-product of our nervous system being taxed day in and day out but is also the beginning point of the cycle – the disbelief that we are always going to be ok no matter what – Infinite, Eternal and Whole.
The great Ayurvedic Vaidyas and Yoga Rishis developed practices to circumvent this process and resulting dis-ease that are available to us today. Activate the parasympathetic nervous system and use its intelligence to override the sympathetic nervous system’s dominance in our lives was their teachings, practices and goal. We can learn from these practices today and activate them right now. The best way to start? Turn off the TV and use social media in a limited fashion that is only positive and supportive. Get outside in nature, meditate daily, breathe, practice yoga asana and yoga nidra and surround yourself with positive people. Remove the ama.
Isn’t that interesting?