Recently I wrote an article entitled “Fear is Your Friend,” in which I explained the ways that fear, though an unpleasant emotion, is actually trying to help us by alerting us to a possible threat or danger. In this article I want to further that discussion by using the technique called “deep mind reflection” that I developed in my most recent book Every Breath, New Chances: How to Age with Honor and Dignity. A deep mind reflection is simple method of turning inward to invoke our faculty of intuition. Intuition is the part of our mind that holds our wisest and most comprehensive response to a situation, especially a threatening one. Intuition is in a more ancient part of the brain than thinking, and operates with lightning speed mostly outside of conscious awareness. Deep Mind Reflections help us bring the insights of intuition into consciousness.
A deep mind reflection focuses on two things: a key word and a key image. The image is important because intuition mostly does not use words to communicate; as in a dream, intuition conveys its messages with images. So we begin by sitting quietly and letting all extraneous thoughts fade away, and focus on the key word fear. Fear, fear, you slowly repeat silently to yourself, allowing space between each repetition to breathe and to reflect. As you repeat the key word, open yourself to the first image or picture that pops into your mind. Don’t censor or reflect, just accept whatever comes. What comes to me is an image of myself in a hospital bed, critically ill. I have actually been in that situation a couple of times in my life; it was a traumatic experience that left me with a fear that it might happen again. It’s been twenty years since the last time, but I am older now, and Covid is in the air. I’m afraid of being sick and in pain.
Fear, fear. I continue repeating the key word with the key image in my mind, allowing my focus to soften until the key word changes. For me it changed to the word fire. Fire, fire. For you, if you try this yourself, it is likely to change differently. Fire: I don’t try to figure out why fear changed to fire, but I do remember that the last time I was in the hospital I had a fever of 104. My body was on fire, the nurses packed me in ice. The doctors didn’t know why I was so hot; they called it a “fever of unknown origin,” or FUO.
Now my image changes, I see the fire in our fireplace, but the fireplace screen is off, the fire is exposed and could spread. Dire! My word changes again. The situation is dire. Something bad is about to happen.
This is the trajectory of my intuition. Yours may be rather different. I have done these deep mind reflections a lot, so I am used to following their changes, as though in a dream. Dire, dire, dier! A dier is someone who could die, who is dying. I have been there, I have been in the hospital, unconscious, when the doctors thought I would not survive. My image returns to that, myself in bed, my wife and son next to me, the possibility of my dying.
Dear! My word changes once again, and with it the entire feeling of the journey. Life is so dear, not just for me, but for everyone. Everyone wants to live, everyone wants their loved ones to be safe. It is all so dear, and yet so much of the time in the course of daily life we are so careless.
This is where fear has taken me—from fire, to dire, to dear. We have fear because we love life, and love those who are close to us, and fear for their safety. It’s the same the world over, everyone is like this. It is the common bond that unites us in one humanity. Our fear and our love are bound together.
So I conclude in much the same place as in my last essay on fear. Fear is our friend. Fear is our common humanity. Fear can help us, if we can only see the positive in it, and not the negative.