There is a lot of fear out there - especially right now. Trump has surprised many by winning the election. Masses of people are afraid of being deported, of being marginalized, of having their dreams taken. Others are excited about a different direction.
Spiritually there is also a growing awareness of future trouble. I was at a conference and two out of three speakers referenced that there would be a season of severe difficulties in the near future. This awareness of coming trouble in the world is not just in spiritual circles. Just as I was thinking about this topic, I watched a sitcom and that particular episode was all about preparing for disaster - the "preppers movement".
That’s perhaps the wide angle, but there are always the intimate personal fears people have. Some of the fears that have come up lately in our circles have been feeling afraid of being alone, having a meaningless life, losing their relationship, losing their health, being betrayed, being beaten, that they are crazy, that their child will forever be out of control, etc. I'm sure that a number of you are also afraid. Afraid of something in your life, anxious about the future, concerned about your job or your family or your health. The future is uncertain and many things can go wrong.
Anxiety is one of the main obstacles between a person and living out their destiny. It often takes courage to live spiritually connected and to move forward in a healthy way. Fear makes us shrink back. The most extreme fears prevent people from even leaving their house. Fear can make someone shrink back from the difficult tasks that make a healthy meaningful life. So how do we deal with this anxiety and use spirituality to help us move forward?
Follow the Leader
The first thing to know about fear is that we aren't meant to handle it on our own. In North America, our culture is one of independence. However, almost everybody I talk to looks outside of themselves for something that will help them with their fear. We look to our money, education, family, our social circle, our government, etc. All of these things help us to feel confident, assured, and powerful.
We look to institutions and people that appear powerful and confident to soothe ourselves. We look to these things in order to guide us in a path that we can feel good about, a path that is anxiety free. A recent example would be Trump. There are many people who are afraid of him, but there are many people who are being built up and feel confident because of putting their trust in him. Again, this is a natural thing for people to do. People find something greater than themselves that looks unafraid and strong in order to feel better and feel less anxious about the future.
This principle is clearly found in psychology. In a series of experiments children were asked to imitate clowns who did different behaviours. It was clear that they imitated the powerful, the successful and sometimes violent leaders. Modelling a important way that we learn. Although we have had powerful leaders in the past, more blatant power plays by leadership will likely make this principle more obvious as people begin to mirror these behaviours.
We all look outside of ourselves to find comfort, but it is dangerous not to be aware of this principle. If you don't realize that this is how we work, you will be less aware of the choice. If you know this is how the human spirit works, at least you can be more aware and make this choice more consciously.
In the Spirit realm these principles work the same way. We look outside of ourselves spiritually to find comfort because we aren't meant to handle anxiety on our own. People find gurus, teachers, institutions and gods who are bigger than them because this is like spiritual water. It gives comfort, life, vibrance to move into new spiritual realities and experiences. It relieves our anxieties to feel connected with something bigger and powerful.
The Bible talks about this principle. In one of Paul's letters to the Corinthians it says, "Our faces, then, are not covered. We all show the Lord’s glory, and we are being changed to be like him. This change in us brings ever greater glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." Paul is talking about how when we see the spirit (faces uncovered) we become like the Spirit. This makes us better and better. We become like the things that we are in awe of, the things we find comfort in and feel are powerful.
What Do You Follow
There are many people, institutions and spirits that we can look to to help us with our fears. It is up to us to choose. Not making a choice is not really an option. People who don't make a choice will often follow the things that those in their social group are following. They will be led by the crowd they are in.
If you're not aware of what you're following, it might be good to look at what you spend time doing. Do you spend time reading about celebrities? Do you spend time doing yoga? Do you watch politics? These things may bring comfort. You may read books and trust intelligence. You may be following a philosophy of independence - the idea that the human spirit will conquer. This way of living may seem like you are following nothing, but it is actually a fairly well defined belief system generally called humanism. This philosophy has its leaders and is supported by a large group of people, which often brings some comfort.
People will make their choice based on their upbringing, personality, and, perhaps most importantly, their own personal choice. What most people don't realize is that they are making a choice and that choice has consequences for the shape of their personality, behaviour and spiritual reality.
This principle of modelling after powerful figures is becoming even more obvious as Trump looks to take office. There are two reasons Trump will be a figure that will draw a great deal of people who will model their behaviour after his. The first is that he inspires anxiety. People become more likely to model when they are uncertain and afraid. The second reason is that he appears confident and unafraid. People model themselves after authority and find confidence in figures that appear to have power and appear to have confidence. This is a dynamic combination. Trump creates the anxiety that he then soothes with his confidence. He contains both elements in one persona.
As Trump gains authority and displays it in his inauguration and acts of authority in office, he will become more established and compelling. This will likely lead to a greater and greater movement of people becoming "Trumpish". This will sometimes happen in subtle ways and it will also likely occur in ways that are more obvious and unsophisticated. For example, people will behave in ways that they think Trump would approve of, when Trump may actually find their behaviour abhorrent. Although it is true that people model their behaviour after powerful figures, they don't always do this in an accurate or healthy manner. There are positives and negatives to any human model, but letting people be your primary model is often a bad idea because they aren't perfect.
Judge By Results
How should we decide what to model ourselves after? This is a lifelong journey. Sometimes people avoid the journey. They move forward in the direction they started in and let the momentum of life carry them forward. Depending on their initial direction this can have positive or negative results.
This journey is sacred, and it is one of the things in life that no one can do for you. We would offer three pieces of advice to help you along the way.
The first is to take the journey seriously. The first step is to realize that it is a journey that you are on and that it makes a big difference to how your life goes. Part of this is to become more spiritually aware of the people around you, the decisions you make, and the goals of your life.
The second piece of advice is to judge by evidence. Although we don't believe that everything in life conforms to the scientific method (repeatable and predictable), we do believe that you can judge spirits and people by the things their lives produce. A way of living or a person that may sound good may not actually produce good things. Communism may be a good example of this. It sounds good to create laws that make wages the same, but the product of this is terrible.
The third piece of advice is that the ways of the Spirit aren't always clear. The spiritual world often goes against the prevailing winds of our society. Living an authentic spiritual walk will likely mean going against the grain of human thought. This can also mean that the way that initially seems full of light may actually be false.
We look outside of ourselves for powerful connections that bring comfort and this can be dangerous if we are not aware of what we are choosing. We can live life consciously or we can just follow whatever is in front of us. Take on the challenge to look at your spiritual life and take the next step in a conscious way. It's possible you will make a mistake but you'll learn for the next time. Our hope is that your journey will be filled with truth and love and that your spiritual connection will produce good things for yourself and those around you.