Fear Is An Illusion ~ Intuition Is Your Strength
Editor's note: Shivali Bhammer is one of the workshop presenters at Seeking Connections 2018, SDI's annual conference. She will present "Mindfulness: An Exploration of Karma & Devotional Yoga in the Yogic Tradition." She approaches spiritual companionship from the Hindu tradition. This is her first post on the SDI blog. We welcome her perspective.)
A young girl recently wrote to me with a dilemma. Her father insisted that she should marry someone from her community, rather than the Sri Lankan she was in love with (she was Indian).
This is a common scenario, and let’s not be hasty in thinking this is an ‘Eastern’ issue and throw it in with ‘child marriages’ and other things that ‘only’ happen over there. This is a far deeper matter of contention which affects most if not all of humanity, it is called conditioning.
Throughout my life I have lived by various maxims, one should go to a certain type of school and gain a certain kind of education, one should marry a certain kind of person who is of a certain kind of age, works in a certain kind of job and lives a certain kind of life. One should have a certain kind of career which gives a certain kind of income which leads to a certain kind of status and results in a certain kind of security. If one does all these things diligently and conscientiously then one should lead a good life, and one should be happy. Apart from this sounding ridiculous and absurd simply upon reading it, it is deeply limiting and forces four walls around every decision you decide to make as an individual. In fact, the one thing you should do is eliminate the word ‘should’ from your psyche.
The first problem is that we believe ourselves to be limited and thus impose limitations upon ourselves. The idea is that I am a product of my parents, my family and friends; through observation of their lives I too should live mine in a similar manner because I am just like them. However, we are not like one another, if we were, then we would all derive happiness from the same thing and in the same measured amount, but the truth is we don’t. I am not simply a product of those around me and I am not limited to that which I have perceived, I am part of universal consciousness. Although we are tied to an extent by karma, we are essentially driven by a combination of our will and the will of the divine. (Should you not believe in the divine then you can call it universal law!). Our will is always greater than the sum of our impressions, because will is essentially creativity to be, and creativity by its very definition cannot be capped.
Our conditioning from surroundings causes us to fear that which is not familiar to us. If we have not been exposed to it then we believe it is not for us. Fear is potent. It underlines much of our social conditioning - ‘if I do something different I will fail,’ ‘if I marry this person society will judge me,’ ‘if I live my life on a farm instead of a skyscraper Manhattan building I will be deemed unsuccessful.’ Not only do we fear our own quirky and exploratory desires, we fear the reaction others will have, because it does not match with our conditioning.
There are two ways to solve this, one is to have a deep understanding that your fear is an illusion and your intuition is your strength. Often, we feel deep within us something is right, but we layer that feeling of ‘rightness’ with ‘wrongness’ simply because we are scared that we might be making a mistake, especially if our thoughts are different to the consensus. Strength of conviction is the sexiest asset one can have, because it punctures that fear and does not allow it to sway your originative spirit.
The second change required is to realize that others’ reactions are temporary and a reflection of their own self-imposed conditioning, it has nothing to do with you. I often hear people say, ‘Do you really care what this person thinks?’ it is easy to dismiss the views of strangers, however the more meaningful the relationship, the more you are tied to that person’s perspective and view.
Why is this? Because the level of influence and conditioning you have is directly and positively correlated with those you are exposed to and those who you allow to infiltrate your mind. However, when you break it down, you realize that each person has had small sparks or moments in their life where they have done something, or achieved something, or attained something, that no one else has, and this is their personal feat over conditioning. We should be able to do this within every moment, we should be able to ask ourselves ‘but does this work for me?’, ‘does this define me?’, ‘is this who I choose to be?’ then we are allowing ourselves to be free.
This does not mean that conditioning is necessarily bad, ‘light’ conditioning is always needed in life so that you have a loose framework in which you are guided and not merely bumbling about. I am not suggesting a vagabond lifestyle. I am suggesting that we attempt to look deeper into ourselves and we choose to express our life in a painting which consists of the colors of our own essence. The Lord Himself takes on various forms, personifications, avatars and roles, He is that ingenious force and yet we attempt to trap ourselves and others into a conformist state of living. Break it, and re-condition the self constantly as you evolve and grow, I feel this is the only way for us to truly become that which is.
Shivali Bhammer was born in London, having studied Economics & Philosophy, she embarked on a career in Investment Banking at Goldman Sachs but quickly left to pursue her artistic passions. She was signed to Sony Music BMG and has released two devotional albums, The Bhajan Project and Urban Temple. Shivali was nominated for two global Indian Music Awards at the age of 23. Shivali also holds a diploma in Acting, Kathak (classical Indian dance) and Ballet. As a writer she has published for newspapers such as The Financial Times, The Orange County Register, Science & Spirituality, India Link and The Hindu on topics of philosophy and faith. She also has an active blog. http://shivali.co.uk/blog/ Shivali is also an award-winning playwright and founder of A Conscious Stream Productions. An active public speaker globally on Hinduism (including Vedanta, Karma Yoga, Jyana Yoga and Bhakti Yoga), she provides Hindu insights for the BBC Radio, and teaches Vedanta locally in New York.