There are periods of my life when I have grown paralyzed while facing the veiled path of the future that lies ahead. The plethora of choices available to me overwhelms: Which direction is the correct one to pursue right now? Can I follow it without completely neglecting my other desired paths? What if I make the wrong choice?
Other times, the choice is clear, but uncertainty confounds me. What if I’m not capable of accomplishing this goal? What if my approach is not savvy enough? What if I disappoint others? More importantly, what if I fail to live up to my own hopes and expectations of my potential?
Essentially, these types of uncertainties and doubts are manifestations of our deepest fears. In order to get unstuck and move beyond our fears, we must face them head on, acknowledge them without judgment, and then learn from them. It may surprise you to realize just how much wisdom and power we can draw from our fears, both emotionally and physically, especially with the practice of mantra with the Courageous Heart Mudra.
Looking Fear In The Face
We all have fears of various sizes, coming in varying forms. We may have little fears that essentially amount to background noise and are easy to override. Or we may have seemingly insurmountable fears that hinder us from taking steps forward in our lives. Our fears may be instinctual, based on the biological drive to survive unharmed—don’t get too close to the fire; don’t trust this person who has a record of hurting others. Sometimes our fears are not based in reality; they have never happened before and probably never will. What if no one claps for me when I put myself on stage in front of the crowd? What if I have forgotten how to write something that resonates with my readers?
Finally, we have fears that arise on the brink of shift or change, creating resistance. We know it’s time to move on from a relationship or job that’s no longer working for us, but we find a myriad of excuses why we can’t leave just yet. We know it’s time to write that novel that’s been begging to be released to the world or to create a new program that has the potential to help hundreds of people, but our fear of failure leaves us vulnerable to all types of distraction from finishing. Fear can cause massive creative blocks that make it feel impossible to start in the first place.
We must recognize that fear is a natural part of life, of this human experience. When we resist the urge to push away fear, we begin to understand that something greater than our limiting fears is calling us to step up to the plate. In yoga and meditation, we learn to bow in acknowledgement of that fear, but not to break to it. We choose not to be governed by that fear, but to instead to learn from it. With conscious awareness and the deliberate practice of drawing our attention inward and upward, we can explore who we really are at our core and get to the root of our fears. Finally, we recognize that fear is a call to embrace our Greater Self. We can open up our hearts and yoke ourselves to the ceaseless love and unflappable courage of the divine spirit that resides deep within our hearts.
Strengthen Self-Awareness With Abhaya Hrdaya Mudra
One way to help us strongly connect to this awareness of our own courage is through the practice of mudra. Mudras are physical gestures, or seals—most often using the hands and fingers—that have been used since antiquity to connect us to the subtle energy pathways of our chakras, to the vital organs and sensations of the physical body, and to our emotions. The mudra I find myself subconsciously doing most often is Gyan Mudra, the mudra of knowledge. By touching the tip of my index finger to the tip of my thumb, with the other fingers held straight, I tap into the spiritual and energetic power that yields knowledge, clarity, improved mood and memory, while also stimulating the pituitary and endocrine glands.
However, the mudra that has been calling to me the most lately is Abhaya Hrdaya Mudra, or fearless heart mudra. Holding this gesture during meditation or in yoga practice, like in warrior pose, helps to bring calmness and clarity to the agitated and scattered mind, as well as to dispel fear and provide the divine protection of reassurance and safety. Abhaya Hrdaya Mudra reinforces the message to have no fear and to trust in the strength and vitality of the heart. Any time you need to remember your essence and inner truth, your strength, power, and courage, you can make this mudra. Whenever fear takes root and causes you to want to pull away from the world and shut down even to yourself, you can call on the spirit of the Abhaya Hrdaya.
In her 2015 Living Yoga Conference talk on Cultivating a Fearless Heart, internationally renowned yoga teacher Sianna Sherman said, “Fearless heart mudra calls each of us home to our inner truth, to our inner fearlessness of being, to our own warriorship within that rises up in face of adversity and says, ‘I choose to love even more, I choose to grow even more’.”
How to Do Abhaya Hrdaya Mudra
To form the Abhaya Hrdaya Mudra:
- Turn both palms up and cross your right wrist in front of the left, with the back of the hands facing each other.
- Wrap the right pinkie finger around the left one, then interlace the middle fingers and index fingers.
- Bring the thumb and ring finger of each hand together to form a seal.
- Draw the base of the right thumb to the base of the sternum, to the root of your heart.
Close your eyes, depress your shoulders and sit tall, rooting yourself into the ground through the sit bones. Take long, deep breaths, and as you inhale, visualize a great beam of light and truth entering your body from the crown of your head, through the front of the spine and down into the pelvic floor. As your exhale, allow the energy to rise up from the pelvic floor, through the back of the spine, up through the crown of your head
Sherman recommends chanting the mantra of durga. This mantra is thought to guard us against our own internal negativity and the outside forces that we internalize in a negative manner. Durga is a mantra of strength, courage and protection:
Om Dum Durgayei Namaha
(Aauuummm Doom Door-gah-yay Nah-mah-har)
Mixing Mudras With Mantras
“This mantra helps us to overcome the greatest of difficulties because we become so clear and rooted inside the essence nature of the self,” Sherman said.
A mantra is a sacred incantation that is said (or sung) repeatedly, serving as a tool to transform the mind. Gary Krafstow said, “Using mantras links to or merges one with the mysterious forces represented in the mantras themselves, tapping into their power.”
A mantra opens the inner doors of perception. Using mantra is thought to help cultivate the highest potential of the self. Calling on our inner fearlessness with the Abhaya Hrdaya Mudra in conjunction with mantra, says Sherman, further helps bring us toward victory on our path to reaching our highest self, toward self-awareness, growth and love—no matter what fears and worries might arise.