“Fear is inevitable, I have to accept that, but I cannot allow it to paralyze me.”~― Isabel Allende
I know very few people who enjoy dealing with fear. As humans we are wired for seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. This is why fear is a big scary topic. Personally several years ago I balked at looking at fear, being aware of it and or even being in the same room as it. The thing about fears and being in avoidance of them is that until you face them, they will follow you around like your shadow does and the universe will continue to challenge you with them.
Five years ago, the universe decided that it was time to start the process of facing each of my fears at one at a time. Facing my fears was painful, scary and I was not sure if I would survive. But I am here to tell you that I made it out the other side and that I am grateful for the experience and that I stuck with the process. I feel stronger, more compassionate toward myself and others. The process has lead me to have a completely different perception of life. The thing that I learned was that it was scarier to avoid my fears than it was to face them. I learned that what fear actually meant was:
Face everything and rise. But it can also mean, Forget everything and run.
So the question is what will you choose today? If your interested in transforming your fears, here are the 5 ways which helped me to face everything and rise:
1) Be willing to make a list of and write about what your fears are.
Congrats on being willing to look at your fears and sit with them. Depending on how self aware you are, you may have no clue what you true fears are. So in order to get acquainted with them, do some writing about what you avoid, what makes you cringe and what drives you crazy. From this writing look for themes, and threads of avoidance, these are probably your fears. Even if you think the things are silly, write them down so that you can release and externalize them.
2) Be kind and make friends with them.
One of my favorite Buddhist Monks, Thich Naht Hahn talks about this concept in his book, Peace is Every Step. Thich Naht Hhan talks about treating fear and any feeling like a small child that needs love and attention. The idea is to acknowledge and attend to your fears by developing a loving relationship where you listen to them as a kind and loving observer. It is a practice of non attachment to your fears. Practice being curious about them instead of hooking into them.
3) Gather information about these fears.
After you have spent time listening to your fears with curiosity and non judgement, take out that journal again. Write about when you remember first having this fear? Is this fear yours or has it been passed down for generations in your family? How does this fear affect your life? Are you willing to let go of this fear? Examine the fear like a detective, investigate your relationship with your fears and how they help and harm you.
4) Breathe and meditate with them.
Developing a relationship and acceptance with your fears is necessary in order for you to move through and release them. An excellent way to work through fears is through a Toglen meditation exercise. This meditation can be done in as little as 2 minutes and as a formal practice. Toglen is used to connect with fear and suffering for ourselves and all those around us. It helps to relieve the fear and to release the tightness in our hearts by connecting to ourselves and others.
To practice Toglen, simply breathe in and breathe out, taking in fear and sending out spaciousness and relief. Picture fear as a smoke that you are breathing in and out of your lungs. Then to take it a step further, by breathing in all the fear that others are feeling right now and then breathe it out sending them peace and comfort. If you would like to take the practice, even deeper you can learn more on how to do this formal practice here.
5)Be honest with someone else about your fears.
Fear can keep us isolated and feeling alone. By open up to others whom we trust we stop feeling detached. Sharing our fears helps us to stop allowing fear to dictate our lives. By getting honest with another person, we release the secrets that we have been holding which keep us stuck. The act of being open about our fears dispels the power that these fears have held over our lives.
Remember staying stuck in fear stunts our ability to flourish in our lives. It keeps us in a rut and stunted. Have the courage to face, love and release your fears. All it takes is willingness and starts by taking one small step of change.
What has your experience with fear been? How have you overcome it? Let me know in the comments below. Or contact me here.
Have a beautiful day!
Image: Barely New Her Own Fear by Thomas Hawk