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Day 1 Fear
There is a reason why we begin with fear. So often we allow fear to run our lives. Think about it. Nothing—absolutely nothing—is wrong, but something sets you off, and you start being fearful of something that hasn’t happened and likely won’t. Seemingly out of the clear blue sky, you start worrying about the bills. You start obsessing about your job. Maybe your boss doesn’t really like you. Or maybe your coworker is sabotaging you. Your mind runs with this for a while. Possibly your fear takes the form of worry about your children. Johnny’s B minus on a math test might be setting him up for a life of underachievement. Sophie’s been dealing with some middle school girl problems, and you worry that her self-esteem will be permanently damaged. Then, of course, there’s always your health. You wake up in the morning with a headache, are sure it’s a tumor. Before you know it, you’ve become a sick, unemployed, poor parent, all in your mind. Whatever your particular fears are, they serve to constrict you and make your whole field of energy narrow.
Fear begets fear. Call to mind the image of a garden. What happens if we don’t weed a garden? If we don’t tend to it, our entire garden—all of those carefully cultivated rosebushes and peonies and daylilies—becomes overgrown. Roots become strangled, cut off from the source. Before you know it, all that beauty vanishes. Fear is an energy. It is an experience. But holding on to fear is unique to our human nature. Consider this: Every living being feels its fear and shakes it off. Cows, deer, fox, even bears—they all feel fear and move on. But we human beings don’t. We accumulate fear. We hoard and store it in our bodies. We go out of our way to prove to ourselves that the world is not a safe place. Of course, there is an evolutionary place for fear—after all, it allows us to survive—but we let it run amok. And then it keeps us locked into place. Perhaps we stay in unsatisfying jobs or in bad relationships out of fear that something greater is not on its way. All the time we’re doing that, we’re invalidating the universal principle of more. The grass continues to grow. Rivers continue to flow into the sea. Galaxies are born. Life seemingly has a way of continuing to evolve into more. Everything in nature validates this principle.
We need to find our courage, which, of course, is not the absence of fear but rather the willingness to feel the fear and move forward anyway. Fear isn’t going to kill us. It’s an energy that we can allow to move through us.
Tend to the garden of your unconscious mind. Imagine yourself in a house surrounded by an absolutely beautiful garden. The only problem is that the garden has been overtaken by fear. Fear—of financial loss, of being alone, of illness, you name it—has taken the form of weeds. Go out of the house and tend to that garden. Visualize yourself on your knees, putting on your gardening gloves, pulling out your fear by its roots. What do we have here? Abandonment? Betrayal? Rejection? Death? It’s all about the energy. This is a radical idea, I know—but your fears cannot hurt you. Pull out your first weed. The weeds are your vibrational density. Think of them as a mass of tangles. Dirty, all knotted up. What happens next? Here, your story doesn’t matter. The specifics of who, what, where, when, and why are beside the point. You’re pulling out the energy of fear. Just the energy—that’s all. When that mass of tangles is uprooted, suddenly there’s space. It won’t necessarily feel comfortable. But stop for a minute. What does it feel like? Maybe there’s a little more room now. Perhaps there’s the beginning of new opportunity. In time, we will know. In giving fear our attention, it loses its power over us. The weeds aren’t wrong or bad. They’re just taking up space.
Perhaps you read the “Morning” passage while sitting at your kitchen table, grabbing a quick breakfast, a cup of coffee. Or maybe you were already on the train. Or in your car, driving to work as you listened to these words on an audiobook. Wherever you found yourself, I now want you to train your heart and mind—your awareness—on the energy of fear as it appears throughout your day. Each time today that fear arises within you—and make no mistake, it will arise—make note of it. Fear is your ground zero.
Typically, we manage our daily fears in one of three ways:
We stand our ground and fight.
Or we freeze.
You might be anticipating the homework assignment that requires you to read two hundred pages by tomorrow. Or the results of a pathology report. Or the business project that requires you to leave your wife and babies and travel halfway around the world to secure a contract. The first day of a new job. A first date. Opening a bill, terrified that you don’t have the money to cover it. Life and life situations will call us out on our fear, every single time. And when this happens, the most primitive part of the brain takes over. The part of us that fights, flees, or freezes comes from our base animalistic response to the energy of fear. Everything in the natural world does this in the presence of fear. (Unless of course you’re a possum, in which case you play dead.) This happens whether or not there is a legitimate threat. Our muscles contract. Our breathing becomes shallow. Our palms dampen. Our pupils enlarge. Our blood leaves our extremities and pools in the center.
So what do you do? You learn to allow. You have a familiar place you retreat to as a result of your fear. Get to know the place. Perhaps it’s a set behavior, a pattern that you use to compensate for the presence of this uncomfortable energy. Maybe for you it’s denial. Or egoic compensation. Arrogance. Distraction. Withdrawal. Introversion. The fridge. The bar.
We all have our survival mechanisms. For me, I go to that puffed-up place: You’re not going to mess with me. I once again become that kid in London who had to develop bravado in order to survive. I can be in a business meeting, surrounded by people who know a lot more than I do about the subject at hand, but if I don’t like the way things are going, I tend to fall back on false strength. I feel as if I need to be larger than life. This is an old way of adapting, of trying to survive. I have to learn, again and again, to catch myself in that behavior and stop. Trust. Notice. And allow the fear to run through me like a river out to sea.
So just for today, notice the special place you go when you start to experience fear. Does your ego begin to assert itself? Or do you want to hide? Do you reach for something to distract you? Do you become oblivious and shut down? Or do you try to numb it out? Do you reach for a cigarette, or your phone, or check your email for the five hundredth time? Or perhaps you’ll choose not to engage. You’ll pull the rug over your head and hope the moment passes.
Notice. Keep an eye out. It may happen only once today or a hundred times. It doesn’t matter. There is immense power in the ability to catch yourself, to observe your own instinctive responses and behavior. And when you do notice, meet yourself with absolute love. The awareness signals the end of the fight. Not to say that your reptilian brain won’t snake its way in a new direction. After all, that’s what snakes do. But once you train your mind to notice what it’s doing, fear will lose its stranglehold.
Until now, the invisible force of fear has been your constant companion. It has informed every decision and directed every choice. It is the knot in your heart that keeps you from fully loving. It has appeared at pivotal moments to steer you away from who you know you really are. It is the voice in your head telling you no. It is the very sound of defeat. It steals your birthright from you. It robs you of life itself.
Fear has served you well.
It has been your good old friend.
Until this very moment.
As with a friend with whom you must part ways, it’s time to say thank you. It’s time to move on into a greater relationship, a greater receptivity, a greater expression. A greater truth. It’s time to embrace the fear—old friend—and say goodbye. To say, You have been with me for a long time. You have been the voice in my mind, to the point where I know no other. You have protected me and kept me safe. But you have served your purpose, and I must go. I choose to venture beyond your jurisdiction. I have the courage to walk into the unknown.