A spiritual solution for Fear


The five cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo, who have throughout their career lampooned political figures and all extremities, whether political or religious, have paid a heavy price for defending the right to laugh about anything.

« I prefer to die than to live like a rat », said Charb, the newspaper’s director, who was called out by name and executed as were his colleagues. « The Prophet has been revenged » were among the last words pronounced by the killers.

But the horror was not over, as the next day a Jewish super market in Paris, « Super Cacher » was stormed by a lone and heavily armed gunman, leaving several dead and even more hostage. As I and most everyone else in France stayed glued to their screens throughout the ensuing hours, the dominant emotions were grief, outrage and fear – fear of what was going to happen, fear of what could happen, fear of what this meant.

And then something strange and incredible happened. In pessimistic, cynical France – a people often portrayed as having permanent ill-humored and superior frowns on their collective faces – where complaining is a national pastime and where the population takes to the street to protest on a regular basis – there was a wave of collective empathy. This empathy went outward and upward – it went into all the corners of French society. It sought out understanding and inclusion rather than judgement and exclusion. I am not being naïve. It is well-known that the non-integration of many of France’s 6.5 million muslims is a serious problem and will continue to be so.

Most of us are not aware, because we have become so accustomed to condemning, judging, evaluating, identifying, choosing. Choice prevents awareness because choice is always made as a result of conflict.
– Krishnamurti

On January 11th, the largest peaceful gathering occurred in France since the liberation of Paris in 1944. Silently, peacefully and with dignity, Parisians and people throughout France, walked under the banner « Je suis Charlie ». Added to this was « Je suis Flic (police), Je suis Juif, Je suis Musulman. » Muslim and Jewish people walked arm in arm. Members of the police force were applauded, thanked and even embraced – now that is something that most of us have NEVER seen in France !

But what was most impressive was the feeling of over-riding empathy – the palpable feeling of a collective wave of empathy –Perhaps this communion as a group was the only way to combat the fear. And in this spontaneous seeking for comfort – to give it and to receive it – a new consciousness emerged.

This is not just a realisation that « something has to be done differently. » I believe that we witnessed and experienced a collective consciousness leap in the evolutionary sense of the word. Yes, France has a problem with racism. Its maghrebin population was brought over as an economic imperative in the 1950’s – these populations became French and were parked in massive suburbs. Integration was considered something that was up to them. The French Republic’s contribution to integration was to ensure that any external sign of religious affiliation was illegal in public schools and the public service. This is because one of the underlying values of the French Republic is laicity.

It is well known that Fear offers good mileage as a political platform. Fostering fear and defending the need for national and personal security has unfortunately been one way that politicians seek and find consensus – a good old war has saved more than one government in the polls.

But it is not in France that you will see a President being sworn in with a hand on a bible. Never will a French President be quoted as saying, as George Bush « God told me to end the tyranny in Iraq . » It just won’t happen.

France is a nation that fears for it’s future, for it’s diminished status in the world, for it’s economy –the so-called « French Suicide » reflects the gloom of the prevalent mood and the extent of a lack of confidence in the future that many feel in France today.

Fear is an automatic response – it happens before you have had time to think about it – It occurs in a cognitive structure that fast tracks to the amygdala which has proven it’s evolutionary purpose as it kept our ancestors alive. Chronic fear breeds hate and the illusion of righteousness.

Letting go of fear is an essential piece of the art of mindful awareness.

The receptivity of presence permits us to unleash the shackles that automatically enslave us. The fear, so often unspoken, is that without that structure we’ll lose our minds, go insane, fall prey to attackers, and die.
– David Siegel

3.5 million people in the streets of France, of all ages, of all social-economic backgrounds, of all faiths, and of all political orientation walked without fear. Deliberately, they chose to be fearless. This was an uncommon and a unique occurrance, the experience of which many people will remember. And not only in France, all over the world, people came together. Not to protest – not « against » something but « for » something – they supported the idea that we will not walk in fear.

Once you have decided to not walk the path of fear, once the choice has been made that you will not let fear enclose you in it’s grip – then you create the conditions of compassion and understanding.

Although these conditions in France may be fleeting, I know that millions of people having a collective experience of empathy will leave its mark. More so, it may even be the indication of a collective shift in consciousness – what happens when the cognitive experience of fear is replaced with compassion.

What emerges in this case is a wave of empathy, of connexion, of good will, where in a heart’s beat, the other becomes oneself. It is when this understanding is no longer a concept but a felt experience that a shift in consciousness occurs.

Many commented on the silence and the calmness of the people in the streets. At this level of consciousness, understanding is promoted, discernment is a given, good will is the rule.

Reality demands your whole being : you must come to it in your body, mind and heart as a total human being.

Fear has the effect of changing the body through a chemical process. It also changes the external world as well.

When fear becomes empathy, anything is possible.

Wayne Dyer calls this a « spiritual solution » :

When we return love for hate we express the peace that is within us, available. We choose this peace. Our response has a calm and loving quality. This calmness is a vital aspect of the consciousness that makes it possible to tap into spiritual solutions. 

I see the marchers as having arrived at a collective spiritual solution to the personal dilemma of fear.

Claiming « je suis Charlie » is also saying I am nobody as I am you.

This « you » becomes « myself » as we stand together against that which would seek to divide by hate and exclude by tyranny.

A spiritual solution is anything that brings the energy of love and peace to a situation.

It is a kind of expression of confidence and is brought into reality where doubt and fear previously reigned. Fear can only be dissolved by cooperation, harmony and peace. When our identity, even for an afternoon, becomes expressed in « je suis Charlie » we have created a cognitive passage to a new way of being fueled by the energy of compassion, even for a moment. And we know full well, that the future is created out of moments like these.

About The Author

Elaine Rudnicki

Elaine is a Certified Hypnotherapist and Rapid Transformational Therapist, a Yoga Therapist C-IAYT, Certified Life Coach, creator of AWAKE Coaching®, a Yoga and Meditation Teacher and MBSR Instructor.