“Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.” -Marie Curie
“What are you most afraid of?” When I ask this question, I am always amazed by the replies I receive. Generally, people are afraid of being hurt, of being alone and, mostly, of lack of any type. Yet, none of the things many are afraid of are ever really dangerous or permanent, but only largely misunderstood.
It is very easy to be led by collective hysteria and conditioning, though we rarely acknowledge such an influence on our individual minds. Fear of lack is a great example, and it is often exacerbated by the constant outpour of negative media—unless we can measure up to impossible standards of love, wealth and success, we feel we will not be able to keep up with the race and we will soon wither and die, forgotten and left behind by the rest of humanity.
There is however, a different level of fear created by the ego, whose task is to keep us disconnected from our center of power. The main job of our ego—since it is intimately connected with our body and thus with existence in this dimension—is to keep our focus on the preservation of the body itself; long considered the temple of our soul, our body IS the vehicle to remain on earth as long as we can, so that our spirit can assimilate what it came to learn; in these terms, it’s easy to understand why one part of ourselves is determined to make sure we continue to physically thrive.
Strangely enough two of the most popular phobias are ophidiophobia and arachnophobia, the first one being a paralyzing fear of snakes and the latter a fear of spiders. To understand these fears better, let’s take a look at the creatures involved.
Snakes can be venomous, we all agree to that, but they are also very shy animals who rarely attack unless they are provoked. Snakes can also be garden friends, for they greatly reduce the population of rats and other pests that could really pose a much more ominous threat to our health and lifestyle. Since the advent of Christianity, snakes have suffered a really bad reputation, and they have been unfairly associated to a demonic essence. Interestingly, before patriarchal religions took over, snakes were worshipped because of their power of renewal (shedding of the skin) and continuity of all things. In esoteric images, a snake biting its own tail represents the world, also known as the cosmic egg, and it embraces the concept of infinity defined by a continuous circle. The snake is also associated to Kundalini energy, a type of energy usually dormant and “coiled” in our sacral area near the tailbone (don’t you find it interesting that the area itself has a name which recalls the word “sacred”?) The gradual awakening of Kundalini energy is the ultimate goal of Kundalini Yoga, an ancient eastern practice; through Kundalini Yoga, the seven energy centers, also known as chakras, are opened, thus allowing the life energy to flow upward along the spine.
Spiders are also creatures most of us would like to see wiped from the face of the earth, but even they are not particularly harmful; never mind the fact that they are small and probably more terrified of us than we are of them. Spiders are unpredictable, powerful, and necessary to keep other pests down to an acceptable level. Like snakes, spiders have also received the wrong end of the stick—they are stuck being a symbol of all things creepy, of Halloween, of witches and demons, of darkness and danger. But, spiders are also a symbol of creativity. They build amazing natural designs which are a mystery and miracle of their own. To us, a web appears as a net of silky threads, but when bathed in light it appears as a flower to insects.
When I was younger, I was terrified of spiders. I still am not a huge fan of them, but in time I have learned to appreciate not only their role in nature, but also their beauty. Oddly, my fear of them began to decrease when I tapped into my own center of power. As I grew stronger within myself, and more creative, the fear subsided. I don’t think I would own a spider as a pet—that’s for another lifetime—but I can now sit beside one without jumping out of my skin.
So here it is: some of the things we are most afraid of are those connected to our own inner power, for as long as we are afraid to tap in the deeper recesses of ourselves we can continue to serve our ego and fulfill the illusion that we are our bodies.
Everything has a nature of duality, and inside each of us exist opposing forces constantly at battle with one another. They don’t need to be. Once we accept that both are unknowingly serving the same purpose, rising above our fears will be easier than we ever anticipated. Finding beauty in that which we’ve always deemed scary or ugly can be an interesting challenge, but it will be one that will deliver us to a greater awareness as we journey to discover the ultimate truth.