We are often taught that fear is for cowards. For so long I believed, when I felt that growing pit of anxiety in my gut, that I was incapable of being courageous. Fear was my greatest nemesis. I recognize that fear often stems from the unknown. A favorite quote of mine which happens to be from a Disney song has always been, “We don’t like what we don’t understand; in fact it scares us.” Fear can stop us dead in our tracks.
Don’t get me wrong, there are healthy amounts of fear. The prickle on the back of our necks when someone approaches in a menacing manner. The fear of physical or emotional harm that allows us to remain alert. Let’s also not forget our love affair with being scared. Horror films rake in millions of dollars each year. We will watch Saw 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10… (I know there aren’t this many but you get the idea). Freddie and Jason still haunt my nightmares and I’ve never even seen one of their movies. We have a love/hate relationship with fear.
Now, I ask you to contemplate this question. Can you sit with your fear? I don’t mean your fear that comes from the movies you watch or the books you read, I mean the fear that cripples you. The fear of public speaking. The fear of heights. The fear of being alone. The fear of losing your financial stability. The fear of failure. The fear of success. The fear of death. Step one is to pinpoint your fear. What are you most afraid of? Once you figure that out, stop and take a deep breath. What feelings are stirring inside of yourself? Do you have the urge to think of any topic other than your fear? Are you in flight or fight mode without even thinking about it? Use your meditation techniques to bring awareness to these feelings. Don’t shy away from them. Don’t allow judgement to overtake you.
Often what gives fear its power is the judgements we place on it. Your mind tells you that you are weak because you have this feeling. Emotions, like fear, are neither good nor bad; positive nor negative. Emotions just are. So take a moment to sit with the fear and anxiety you are beginning to feel. If it begins to overwhelm you stop and focus on your breathing. When you feel stronger begin to let your mind fall back into the awareness of your emotions again.
Now, it’s time to delve a little deeper. What is the root of your particular fear? Abandonment? Poor relationships? Absent father or mother? The loss of loved ones? Be honest with yourself. You cannot glean the lesson if you are not willing to be honest with yourself. This may take several meditation sittings. You may never completely lose your fear. But discovering the root causes of your fear and your ability to sit with it without judgement will take you a long way in dealing with the fear (or any emotions for that matter) that keeps your from growing mindfully and spiritually.
Fear can be debilitating. It can also be the key that unlocks your greatest potential. If you learn to embrace your fear and move beyond it you have the power to accomplish greatness. Make a daily or weekly appointment with your fear (or again any emotion you’d like to “conquer”) and truly take the time to sit with it. Get to know it, embrace it as an old friend. The fastest way to abolish fear is to get to know it intimately. Years ago my mother bought me a book that still sticks with me, “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.” I don’t actually remember much about the book itself but the title and what it means has never been lost on me. Embrace your fear and move beyond.