"Robert Sardello is one of the most creative thinkers I know. He writes from a combination of breathtaking originality and heartfelt compassion." Thomas Moore
Freeing the Soul From Fear
Fear comes at us from politics, war, work, relationships, strangers, movies, and television. It keeps us from behaving intelligently, since the mind's first reaction to fear is to ignore danger, hoping it will go away. When fear takes over, it drives us to extremes of manic happiness or fits of rage; it pushes us to destroy relationships instead of letting relationships help us defeat it. When fear wins the battle, viciousness sets in, and we have miserable lives in a miserable world. Most important, fear keeps us from the one thing that could stop its taking over: becoming present.
Robert Sardello, an exceptionally powerful writer who Larry Dossey deems "one of the few modern thinkers who genuinely senses how to deal with the barrenness of modern life," argues that the soul's greatest enemy is fear. It is only when we can look honestly at every fear—from insecurity at work to existential angst—that we may fulfill its potential for kindness, love, and compassion.
This book is at once an inspiring manual for dealing with fear and a call to arms to change our situation and thereby change the world. It is a rich combination of theory, anecdote, exercises for strengthening the soul, and the wisdom of a great student of the soul.
Questions for discussion
- Describe in detail a situation in your life when you experienced fear. Focus on the following questions. What was the setting? How did that moment of fear change your perception of the world? How did your experience of time change? What did your body feel like? How did you feel when the fear was resolved?
- Describe a situation in your life when you felt ongoing fear, a fear that you could not easily get rid of. How did you try to cope with it? How did it change you?
- In the group, tell what you were doing when you heard about the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. What was your response? How has this event affected you? What have you done to balance the fear inspired by these events?
- Sardello talks about how fear results in a constriction of the soul, a numbing of the senses, and tears at our relationships to other people in the world. Would you say that terrorism has succeeded in constricting the American soul? What should we be doing, as a country, to insure that our spirit remains open and free?
- Sardello identifies four senses that define our experience of the body – our sense of touch, our life sense, our sense of balance, and our sense of movement – and says these senses become dulled when we live in fear over a long period of time. Have you experienced fear that affected one or more of your senses? Were you able to do anything to restore your connection to the world, or your own physicality, to help overcome the fear? What steps does Sardello offer for overcoming the loss of these senses?
- The threat of bio-terrorism is more acute today than ever before. How has this fear affected you? What steps are you taking to deal with this threat? How might we collectively release this fear from our society?
- One of our most common fears today has to do with time, the feeling that the world is moving too fast and is out of our control. Sardello explains how this fear can actually change our perception of time, and offers exercises to help restore our sense of duration. Can you think of a fear that has a direct influence over your perception of time? What changes might you make in your own daily routine to overcome such fears?
- Sardello suggests that Technology has at best an ambiguous influence on our lives – it makes some aspects of our lives easier, while often creating problems too. Can you think of a technology that looks like progress but is actually bringing more fear into the world?
- Fear can easily enter into a relationship when one partner’s expectations about the other aren’t being met, or the relationship is forced to endure some strife. Describe your most significant fears concerning a love relationship. How do these fears erode your capacity to connect with the other person? What steps might you take to understand the other person’s inner life so that the fear can subside?
- Our relationship with money is a primal source of fear in our lives, and our tumultuous economy creates anxiety on a daily basis. Describe your own attitude toward money, and how it affects your life positively or negatively. What does Sardello suggest as a course for releasing money-related fears? Would such fears lessen if you found a more spiritual dimension to your work? How else might you restore a sense of balance toward the role of money in your life?
- Sardello identifies a subtle process of coping with fear, called doubling, in which we become more and more disconnected from our inner lives. Explore with the group if and how you sometimes feel the tendency toward doubling. Relate a specific experience when fear drove you to act from a part of yourself that you did not recognize, and what you did (or didn’t do) to overcome that fear.
- Based on the exercise sections in the book, create a meditative exercise using imagery that strengthens the soul and its capacity to meet suffering in a healthy way. Write down the exercise in detail, and explore with the group what happens after you perform the exercise together.