Fear of Ebola is rampant. It is a living nightmare for countless people in West Africa, as well as those who are affected by it elsewhere. Many of us now fear planes, schools, hospitals, cruise ships and even getting sick. I worry about my spouse who does a lot of international business travel. Ebola is one of many fears about our world right now. How do we trust in our courage and compassion and live assured, confident lives? Unless you wish to be paralyzed by the fear, here are five steps for living beyond the fear of Ebola.
Why is living beyond the fear important? Fear is a real and valid response, but fearfulness is a pernicious way to be human, walling you off from the one life you have to live. Your fear permits the virus to attack you figuratively -- if you allow it to. These five tools will allow you to live beyond fear.
Name it. Name the fear out loud and anything that makes you feel uncomfortable for even thinking it. Select a trusted non-judgmental person to whom you can express your fear and who will not be aggrieved or offended by what you name. In this way you make a choice to deny fear the freedom to inhabit and subvert your life.
Understand it. Fears can be irrational, and they can just as easily illuminate an unresolved concern or unexamined fear. Understanding what your fear represents lessens your anxiety: perhaps of contracting the virus or dying prematurely; a fear of the unknown "exotic" West Africa; a fear of Africans as disease carriers; a fear for the lives of medical professionals and responders and those you love working in those professions. You may not like what your fear represents, but owning and responding to it is part of living beyond the fear.
Detach from it. Aside from being informed about what you can control there is very little you can do about this virus on the macro level. You can practice detachment by entrusting fear to the care of the Universe with intentions for those who have the virus, for responders and those working on solutions. Detachment does not mean you are callous; rather, it is response of compassion allowing you to put your positive energy where it can be used to make a difference.
Slay it. Use the Internet and non-hyper media to learn about viruses such as Ebola -- how they are spread and contaminated, the quickly changing responses of health professionals, researchers, aid agencies and governments. If you can, support a relief agency that works with Ebola patients and their families. To slay the fear also choose to focus on positive news stories and developments. The monster of fear has an insatiable appetite to be fed; make choices to not feed this one.
Trust. Beyond your fear a reservoir of wisdom resides in you. It is that constellation of experiences that have made you unique, together with the practices you have learned and used to be self-aware and mindful about your own life and others. In your wisdom reservoir are the tools to ground you in the midst of fears to still be expectant, hopeful and compassionate.
You can use these tools to live beyond fear of Ebola but they can be applied equally to the fears about ISIS and terrorism, bullying, or the racism that Ferguson magnifies.
Your choice is to allow the fear and anxiety about Ebola to keep you spinning away from life, or to choose to live beyond the real and imagined fears of it and live the one life that is yours to live. What will you choose?