It was the first day of January. Standing on top of the world, my breath froze in my chest. Looking over the edge I reminded myself to breathe, but the second that breath came, fear snatched it away. A gust of heavy, cold air came toward me in a hurry. I felt as if I was trying to subdue a tornado with my bare hands. Determined, I stood strong, planting myself with conviction. “I can do this,” I whispered.
Skiers below looked like tiny insects scurrying away to safety. I swallowed hard realizing how high I was above them. The voice of fear grew louder in my ear, drowning any bit of confidence that kept me standing. “What is wrong with you? You’re not ready for this! GO BACK!! You’re not good enough. This is a black diamond on a REAL mountain. Remember, you don’t do black diamonds?!” While I engaged my inner dialogue I overheard two young skiers as they passed, “You ready?” “Hell yeah!” And off they went. I watched them as they disappeared amongst the rest of the darting bugs. When I lifted my gaze it met the horizon. A perfect scene of white mountain caps and blue skies. All was clear. I inhaled, breathed out and as my skis moved forward I screamed, “Hell yeah!”
Going over the edge in a moment of trust, I flew.
As I made it safely down I thought, “What a way to kick off the new-year.”
Anything worth doing will have some fear attached to it. That’s naturally what happens when we’re at the edge of our comfort zone. When you’re afraid, it's time to pay attention. Welcoming fear is a powerful way of quieting the irrational chatter, bringing us closer to knowing why it showed up. Fear is not inherently bad; like all emotions it serves a real purpose. It can become controlling, suffocating and overpowering if we continually ignore or resist it (what we resist persists). Because of this, truth is often times silenced by fear. The shrieking screams of fear make it impossible to hear our inner teacher. When we get closer to our desire, our hesitation gets stronger and our doubts louder. Fear quickly grows as faith and trust shrink. This happens because we aren’t listening to its message. We end up turning around, continuing on the same path, and missing our opportunity – until a similar one comes around again.
What’s fear’s real purpose anyway?
Like everything in life, it shows up to serve our growth. “Trust” has always been a heavy word for me – which makes it especially challenging to surrender to the idea that EVERYTHING, even what appears to be the most devastating, will lead us on the path toward evolution. So when you’re afraid to take the new job, or say ‘yes’ to the marriage, or move to a new town, or make a big purchase, or become a parent, or confront a friend or employer, or forgive an enemy – Stop. Instead of avoiding, ignoring, justifying or blaming, lean into your discomfort and sit with it. Listen. Quiet the irrational chatter and allow your true voice to emerge. Welcome what’s at the root – is it abandonment? Failure? Starvation? Death? Loneliness? Attachment? When we recognize the birthplace of our fear, then we can understand its purpose, thank it for showing up and release its restricting grasp.
Mindfulness permits the first and critical step in this process, giving us the opportunity to notice the dialogue while it’s happening. To listen to the inner chatter and recognize it for what it is. It creates the space to observe – to make friends with the demons so we can allow our spirit to be heard. Unless we sit with our thoughts, our fears, our desires, we cannot distinguish one from the other. Everything becomes jumbled together as one, and a false identity is born.
When I looked over the horizon on the edge of that mountain I silently made friends with the scary voice. Realizing I was moving beyond my comfort zone I regained my confidence and progressed with caution and focus. Thanking fear for reminding me that I’m not yet an expert that can fly blindly down the steepness of a cliff, I moved deliberately and attentively. As the inner screams quieted I heard my truth and trusted that “yes I can do this.”
See For the Kids for related mindfulness activities to soothe anxious minds.