I sometimes have deep experiences in meditation, but then I become afraid. My heart yearns to meet the Divine, but I am afraid of such an experience. How can I conquer this fear, particularly the fear of going into the unknown and experiencing God?
A deep meditation is like traveling to a foreign land. In one sense, we are not leaving home, but going home. Still, we have grown up in a foreign land, so to speak, and even though we are divine in our essence, we have been living in exile. So this native land of ours seems a strange at first.
We shouldn’t be surprised if we feel nervous. After we become experienced travelers, we find that people everywhere are pretty much the same. What is there to be nervous about, if only our superficial customs and language seem strange?
Early in my spiritual life, I asked Swami Kriyananda about an experience I had had in meditation. It was nothing world-shaking, but it was unfamiliar.
(Paramhansa Yogananda in India, 1935.)
Swamiji said, “Don’t be afraid. You’ll get used to it.”
Until that moment, I hadn’t realized that I was nervous. I felt that I should love the experiences of meditation. But there was a gap between how I thought I should feel, and what I did feel.
I replied defensively, “I’m not afraid!”
But my voice betrayed my feelings. It was tense, rushed, and high-pitched. Why was I afraid? Because the experience was unfamiliar.
So this is my answer to your fears in meditation: Don’t be afraid. You’ll get used to it.
In the meantime, don’t compound the problem by worrying about your fears. You are not “bad” for being afraid. Fear of the unknown is natural. So don’t make a big complex of your fear!
Why bother? Obsessing mentally won’t solve your problem. It will only make you more self-concerned. No point making things worse than they are.
Here is the best solution I know:
When we enter meditation, our guide is the Guru who is all love, compassion, and power. We are in good hands! The answer to every fear is love, and the Guru’s nature is fathomless love. When you find yourself feeling anxious, call on him!
Imagine yourself walking hand in hand with the Guru, not only in meditation but in your everyday life. Feel the security of a child when the father takes his little hand in his large, strong hand. As with the earthly father, so with the Heavenly Father. In the presence of such love, what is there to fear? His love for you, and your love for Him, will cast out all fear.
You might want to try a visualization in meditation before any fears set in.
Make your meditation a communion with the Guru. The inner world may be foreign, but it is the Guru’s home. You have a “local guide” who knows the territory and speaks the dialect!
If fear threatens to overwhelm you, take refuge in the master’s consciousness. Run to him and throw yourself on his lap like a child. Visualize his arms around you. Feel his love.
I first went to India in 1986 on a pilgrimage. We visited many places made holy by Paramhansa Yogananda’s life, including his childhood home at 4 Garpar Road, Calcutta. At the time, Yogananda’s nephew, Harekrishna Ghosh, still lived there. We returned to the house a dozen times over the next twenty years, gradually meeting more members of the Master’s family.
Harekrishna had a younger sister named Sheffli. They had met Master when he returned to India from America in 1935. Harekrishna was fifteen, so he could clearly remember being with Yogananda. But Sheffli was just three and didn’t remember the visit. But she had heard stories of her meetings with Master, told by her older relatives.
Apparently, she was completely enamored of the Guru. Whenever he was in the room, she would run to his side and cling to his leg or climb on his lap. Master returned her affection and kept her close whenever possible.
One day, they decided to go to a movie, but Sheffli was considered too young to go along. However, Master lifted Sheffli to his chest, buttoned his coat around her, and in that way he carried her into the movie theater and held her next to his heart the entire time.
When I heard the stories of Sheffli and Master, my first thought was, “What a waste! – to have met Yogananda just once and be too small to remember it!”
But as I reflected, I realized the deep blessing of meeting him as a tiny child. Because she was so young, Sheffli was completely open and confident in her love. It didn’t occur to her that she might not be welcome, or that her extravagant feelings for him were anything but perfectly appropriate.
Since then, I have often visualized myself as a child, throwing myself against Master’s leg, clinging to him, climbing on his lap, and resting against his heart with his buttoned coat around me. What bliss!
We are our Guru’s chelas – his disciples, but also his children. And as such we have a right and duty to surrender to his protective love.
With a Self-realized master to take care of us, what harm can possibly come? His perfect love for us, and our perfected love for him – cast out all fear.