In his book River of Compassion, Bede Griffiths suggests that it might be possible to become an instrument by which the endless cycle of fear is broken.

Griffiths writes,

when we have perfect fearlessness,
nothing is afraid of us.

Fearless people are the antidote to the tragic violence both small and great engendered by the constant fear in which we so many people live.

So, how do we become fearless people?

We cannot think our way out of fear. Fearlessness is not reached by rational processes. Being afraid often makes more sense than being fearless. Many things are frightening. People get terribly ill; people lose their jobs; marriages fail; children rebel. It does not matter how good we are; bad things happen to good people.

Fear is a deeply ingrained reaction that seeps up from some dark primordial inexplicable churning restlessness that resides in the depths of our being. It comes unbidden to most of us at times. It emerges on automatic often in response to real circumstances that are frightening but, at other times, for no evident reason that we can explain.

So how do we learn new ways of responding to the presence of fear?

We train ourselves in new responses by consciously and regularly choosing a new way of being.

I choose a new way of being by facing every day the primordial human fear. At the core of all human fear, lurks the anxiety of emptiness. Human beings fear there is nothing, or no one, out there. We fear we are alone in an uncaring, unpredictable, dark and dangerous universe. And we fear that this emptiness may have the power to completely annihilate us.

This fear is not resolved by being ignored. I must see my fear of emptiness, acknowledge its presence and learn to live alongside this fear.

My practice of silent prayer is the path I have found that enables me to live in some equanimity with the presence of fear. And so, every day for a set period, I choose to stop all activity, close my eyes; sit completely still and ignore the inevitable restlessness that routinely disturbs the surface of my life. In the tight knot of fear and the chaotic tumble of thinking, I just stay put and continue sitting. This “staying put” is everything. The physical stillness teaches my mind that it does not need to rush off after every juicy thought that comes by. The silence helps me to open to the possibility of a realm deeper and more enduring than all those voice that frighten the dark hours of the night.

It may feel boring, unsettling, even terrifying; but whatever arises, I continue to sit. Over and over, I return to that space, that space wherein lies all that I most fear, that space that feels at first empty, frightening, and dangerous. I am training myself in steadiness.

Over the years of sitting, gradually, slowly, almost imperceptibly the knots of tension begin to loosen. As I have returned to this space, a new awareness has begun to grow. I have come to know that, in that place I thought was empty, I am not alone. There is in this dark silence, a deep strength. I see light; I know the Presence of Love. I am not alone. I experience, in a place deeper than my fear, that there is something/Someone much bigger and more real than all I have ever feared. And I know that this force of Love holds; it does not let me down and therefore I need not be afraid.

Stillness begins to replace the frenetic agitation generated by the fearful stories I tell myself so often. These stories begin to loosen their grip. I begin to be able to see that they are merely illusions spun by my agitated brain and that the less attention I give them, the less power they possess.

I do not know any other way to get to this place than returning again and again to that silence, that stillness wherein the God who is present in the midst of all fear is discovered to dwell.

Through the Psalmist God instructs me,

Be still and know that I am God. (Psalms 46:10)

I journey beyond fear to stillness by practicing trust, by stopping my frantic flight from fear. I journey beyond fear to Love by opening again and again to the stillness and peace that are inherent in my true nature. I journey beyond fear to fearlessness by facing my fears and finding that at my centre dwells the fearless heart of God.