Fear at times seems ubiquitous, yet in others moments we are completely unaware of its presence. Fear for me was a very difficult feeling. In my early twenties it was always present but never made itself known. By my late twenties I had an idea of what it felt like and the ways it was affecting my life. My early thirties was a period of “seeing the fear and doing it anyways,” as Dr. Susan Jefferies put it. Today, I can engage fear knowing what it is: a feeling that brings to light that there is a blockage–something to unlearn–before I can achieve what I desire.
When we ignore fear we get lost in its darkness. There are many points in life where we are completely unaware that we are frightened, but it is in these moments we must invite ourselves to awaken to the depth of feeling that is passing through us. To awaken we must give ourselves permission to not only question how we feel but to also want to know the answer. Sometimes we are so unconsciously frightened we deny ourselves permission to know what is going on inside of us.
Like many when I was young I was very active and rarely felt the cold. But as my teenage years progressed and physical education became optional, I thought less and less about my body. I became very disconnected from what its movement and nutritional needs were. When I started university I basically ate what I craved and avoided exercise of all kinds. It wasn’t that I didn’t like physical activity, it was that I thought of myself as “too busy.” So it was natural for me to always feel cold…to feel like the tips of my fingers and toes were dipped in ice water. Any time I became aware of how cold I was I told myself, “you need to exercise!” But I rarely took action.
One sunny, winter day I was riding the train on my way to an art class in another part of town, when I suddenly became aware that I was so cold I was trembling. I was dressed in my full winter paraphernalia–I hadn’t even taken off my mittens or hood–and the train was warm. Just as the throught “you need to exercise more” was occuring I stopped. I had had this feeling many times before. Then it dawned on me; it was a feeling, not the sensation of being cold! Although fear was physically manifesting itself as if I was cold–shivers, ice cold hands and feet–it was a feeling.
The dawn of the realization of what fear felt like within me was a shifting point. It would open up the doorway to not only being able to be with the feeling as it runs its course, but to also welcome it so that I could understand where I was still stuck in my life. When I first became aware that I was afraid I tried to rationalize why I was feeling that way. But that did not change anything. Then, not knowing what to do, I asked the Universe (or Source or God or your term) for guidance. The thought “your doing something you’ve never done before” came up. This was confusing, because I had previously taken the bus to get to art class and I had taken this train to go visit a friend, but I had never taken the train to get to art class. How could that little shift make me feel so frightened that I was shivering uncontrollably? In that moment of questioning my inner self I felt the shivering intensify so I stopped. Instead, I accepted that I was frightened and the feeling passed.
When we are disconnected from the feelings that our bodies bring forth within us, which help us understand our experiences, the feeling intensifies until it has our attention. The darkness enshrouds us and we must come fully awake to ourselves to unrobe it. When we call a feeling by its name and accept it, it begins to shift.
In the months that followed the train event, each time I recognized that the feeling of fear was going through me I accepted I was afraid and the shivering or coldness would pass. As I became more in tune with how fear felt within, I began to see patterns of when fear chose to arise. For example, I learned I was afraid of doing new things; I was afraid of following my instincts, I kept questioning “why”; and I was frightened of communicating what I felt within. As I began to recognize patterns, I made a vow to move through as many of them as I could. Maybe if I went through enough new experiences, my fear of doing something I’d never done before would eventually stop.
As I practiced “feeling the fear and doing it anyways”, I noticed my reaction time to recognizing the fear, asking for guidance and accepting it narrowed down from minutes to seconds. One day I was walking through the lovely historical streets of Seoul, South Korea. A coworker and I had just finished shopping together and she left me to attend to other matters. I had two hours to fill before meeting a friend for dinner. In my few days stay in the city this was the first time I found myself alone. Although we had carefully used my map all morning while wondering the shopping districts I now folded it up and put it in my bag. For those two marvelous hours I let my feet guide me through tiny cobblestone streets filled with tiny decorative buildings. When it came time to catch the metro and meet my friend I stopped at an intersection, pulled out my map and started to look for where I was. It took me only a moment or two to realize that I had wondered for so long, through so many streets and that the map was so large, containing hundreds of street names, it was impossible for me to figure out where I was. Panic and fear engulfed me. Within a minute I had not only accepted the feeling but I also sent out a clear “scream” to the Universe saying “I need help!” I took a deep breath and looked at the intersection I was at; no one was within sight. I intuitively chose a direction and walked to the end of the cobblestone street. As I rounded the corner two youths with red caps embroidered with question marks on them smiled at me. I thanked the Universe for answering my call!
The more I practiced moving through fear the less fear became something to react to. In other words, I just calmly acknowledged it’s presence and accepted it. What fear has taught me is that it is a tool which brings awareness of discord inside–the thought and feeling that is not at peace with the current moment. In accepting the fear, the unrest–the uncomfortable feeling within–dissipates. To accept the fear you must first recognize that the feeling of fear is vibrating in your body; then, inquire internally as to what the fear means, which thought or stuck energy is creating the discomfort; and then state in your head or out loud that you accept that form of fear.
When we first begin to practice and we are so stuck that we cannot figure out what form of fear is moving within, stating “I am now willing to release the need for the pattern that creates this condition,” will initiate a vibrational shift to allow the realization to come about. The more stuck you are the more you will have to repeat this statement. There were many moments in my life in which the answer would not come. So instead, I would tell myself “Leah, you are doing a great job, maybe it’s not time for you to shift this pattern.” Then I would forget about it knowing that the situation would one day repeat itself and I would have another opportunity to unlearn the fear.
As you practice accepting your different forms of fear they shift–what once caused you to be afraid now feels normal. However, new experiences will come into your world that trigger other fears. Although my experiences that bring about the different fears have not diminished, my desire to have them stop appearing in my life no longer exists. I have come to recognize the value of fear: it is a tool to help me understand that in the moment that it arises somethings within me is in discord with what is happening, and that I need to release it to be at peace. Fear is a guidance mechanism that indicates what causes disharmony within, so in its acceptance and release, we can vibrate from a state of peace.