“The only way to ease our fear and be truly happy is to acknowledge our fear and look deeply at its source. Instead of trying to escape from our fear, we can invite it up to our awareness and look at it clearly and deeply.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Often the New Year starts out with a bold vision, clear action plans and energy focused toward all the possibilities in the open space ahead. In my experience, our start into 2022 has felt more like a gradual slow glide than an energetic launch into the new cycle. Astrological wisdom confirms that until Mercury comes out of retrograde on February 3rd we are still in the midst of a time to turn inwards, reflect on who we are becoming, what we want to manifest and what might be blocking us from acting on what we sense is ours to do.
This week is the perfect time to look more ‘clearly and deeply’ at the fears which may be preventing us from being truly happy in the midst of whatever life is offering us. There is enormous collective uncertainty in the world right now relative to the pandemic, economic instability, geopolitical intensities, climate crisis, social movements and more. And then there are the things in our own lives that might be a bit shaky and uncertain. It is definitely a lot to handle.
As women who are choosing to be on the edge of evolution shaping a new world through our consciousness and actions, we will have to more fully understand our fear and its source. If we try to avoid the discomfort in our bodies when fear arises we will find that our worlds grow smaller and smaller. Freedom and authentic self-expression are possible when we do the very thing that our conditioned mind does not want us to do…and that is turn toward the fears.
I was told a story once when I was in South Africa that has stuck with me. It was a teaching fable that the elders used to encourage their youth to go toward their fear.
When the lions are hunting across the plains they have a tactic that involves the oldest male lion with the loudest roar going into the long grass on one side of a trail. On the other side of the trail, the younger male lions quietly wait in the grass. When a herd of roaming Springbok antelope pass by, the old male lion lets out a mighty roar. Naturally, the Springbok run in the opposite direction where the waiting lions catch their prey.
The moral of the story…
How do we do that?
Watch the brief video below of a little Blue Penguin being returned to the ocean off the coast of New Zealand after a rescue operation, as a powerful way to anchor in your body what it feels like to turn toward your fear and transform it into the aliveness required for a whole new level of freedom.
Turning toward your fear is the invitation of these times. This is very different from trying to power through fear without acknowledging what you are feeling or overidentifying with the emotion and shutting down.
Things are not going to get easier and more certain anytime soon. We are being asked to grow the capacity to transform outdated fear responses and experience the freedom on the other side. I am not saying that there aren’t times to listen to the fear response when things are genuinely dangerous. But far too often our habitual response is based on something that is no longer true. The issue or situation is not actually life and death even though that is what the body and conditioned mind would like to tell us.
Our opportunity in these intense times is to bring the light of our conscious compassionate awareness to the exploration of fear.
Observe: Cultivate the capacity of the observer to notice when you are triggered into a fear state. What are the feelings and sensations in the body (tension, clenched stomach, sweaty palms, heart beating, fear, anxiety, anger?) What thoughts tend to accompany these feelings ( This isn’t safe; I can’t trust them; it wouldn’t work anyway; who do I think I am.) When you are triggered like this what is your conditioned behavioral response (Fight, Flight, Freeze, Fawn)?
Allow: Allow the feelings to be there without pushing them away or exaggerating them. Just be with the feeling wave and let it move through you.
Center: Let the mind be quiet (let all mental chatter go – worries from the past or stories about the future) and breathe into the feelings and sensations in the body until you find your way to an experience of grounded center. Go further toward the feeling.
Investigate: Ask yourself what outdated limiting beliefs might be underneath this activation that feels like life and death. What do you believe from the past to be true? Is it still true? You can also check whether any of the 5 limiting beliefs that we uncovered as consistently present in women resonate in you:
I am not enough
I have to do to be of value
I do not belong
I am not free to express myself fully
I don’t have enough knowledge, connection or influence
Reframe: Reframe the intense sensations in the body from fear to aliveness. Orient yourself toward a future possibility, a freedom that pulls you through the foamy waters and out into the open sea.
As preparation for real life situations that activate your fear response do something you fear – learn to move with, not against these powerful feelings. Start small and work through these five steps. Just like getting stronger muscles by working out at the gym, cultivating a Mysterial response to fear will take practice.
Play Sara Bareilles’ empowering song Be Brave the next time you are getting ready to run toward your fear!