The four letter word that captures everyone....everywhere...fear. This month marks a special anniversary with a year long walk straight through my fears. So I thought, let's take a walk through this powerful four letter word together.
I remember it clear as day. The two weeks leading up to my resignation from my full time, tenured, government job. A position that was coveted by so many, and I had dreamed of for years. I was giving it up. For days, I'd find myself on and off, blinds pulled closed, palms sweating, on my favorite couch gripping my pillows. Clinging. I was clinging to an old self that was dying away to birth a new self that had been slowly emerging for years. Finally, I was going to take the most important step to allow myself to embody the courageous life I'd dreamed of for years. And yet there I was, standing on the edge that I had been preparing to jump from for years and yet I found myself wanting to run in the other direction.
Fear gripped my thoughts. I found myself swinging between moments of cheer leading confidence and moments of absolute doubt. Months earlier I had been in a car, for hours on end alone, driving along the vast American plains. Through mountains. Through deserts. With my silence. With my thoughts. With myself. And on that journey what I already knew to be very clear inside of me, became absolutely 100% clear like never before...it was time to leave. It was time to leave my government work and to step into the work I was born to do.
Fear loves to come dance with us in the moments we aren't watching. Glints of clarity, moments of awareness, crystal clear vision, brings us into our hearts to know our truest paths. Our truest wisdom. Our truest knowing. And then fear shows up when we least expect. And sometimes when we do expect it. In moments of fear, I find myself wondering where the crystal clear, blue and wide eyed, steadiness has gone. Where did that woman of strength take off to? What I've learned is that she shows up the second I take a step towards what I'm most afraid of.
As I sat on the couch one morning last February after several phone calls with friends getting reassurance that I wasn't crazy, and lots of walking circles (literally) around my apartment, I finally couldn't take it anymore. The clear part of myself dragged the absolutely panicked part of myself to my laptop, opened it up and started typing. In less than thirty minutes, there it was..my final resignation letter, typed, and ready for me to push the "send" button. I starred at the screen with two parts of myself in conversation. Fear hovering over my shoulder and telling me that this might be the biggest mistake I've ever made. And the truest part of myself sitting steady and saying I know this is scary, but you know what must be done. And then I pushed the send button and sighed the biggest sigh of relief I've felt in years.
Pushing send on that e-mail meant so much more than just a resignation from a job, or starting a new chapter. It marked a follow through on a commitment, a pact I made with myself in the desert of Arizona to return to DC after a three month solo road trip across the US to look straight into the fire of my fears....and to walk straight through them. No looking back. No matter what. It became a foundational practice and continues to invite me to stretch even further a year later. Oh and by the way...walking into the fire of my fears...requires constant practice. It's not like walking through the fire of my fears once cured my fear. It's a constant walking. An unfolding walking whereby new fears show up and old ones sometimes come back for a visit.
Walking into the fire of my fears is how I ended up in the jungle of online dating. My mind had told me that only crazy people...creepy people...were online. That people just bullshited each other and weren't real. So, I decided to be real and to see for myself if only crazy people were in fact online. I wrote the most honest profile I could. I told myself no one on earth would ever respond to my frankness. To my shaved head after living in a Buddhist monestary. And then I discovered I was wrong.
My fire of fears told me that I'd inevitably have to work three part-time jobs including going back into the world of retail which I desired never to return to again in order to support myself as a yoga, meditation, and mindfulness teacher and coach. And guess what...I was wrong. again
I made requests I normally would never make. I had conversations I feared the most. I wore my heart on my sleeve when people told me to cover it up. I went for my advanced yoga training when my mind told me my physical yoga practice wasn't advanced enough. Every time fear shows up, I see it as an invitation from the Universe to see what is true. To practice walking into my fear regardless of how scary it was. The result has been liberating.
Because I walked into the fire of my fears, I made new connections and friends. Because I walked into the fire of my fears, I released toxic connections that were draining me. Because I walked into the fire of my fears, I met parts of myself that were previously hidden. And because I continue to walk into the fire of my fears, I'm creating the life I want to live every, single, day.
I saw this brilliant quote earlier this week from Aristotle after a powerful conversation with one of my clients about courage:
"Courage is the first of human virtues because it makes all others possible." ~Aristotle
Walking through our fears...makes courage possible. When you make courage possible, you make everything else possible.
I listened to a brilliant podcast this weekend on fear by Invisiblia on NPR. Towards the end of the show they shared this amazing experiment that a man named Jason had done on his own accord after experiencing rejection. Following a painful break up, he found himself having a hard time connecting with others. Even fearing it. Because he was scared of that one word...rejection. So one day while sitting with himself he decided that perhaps if he practiced experiencing rejection, he could in fact...get over it. He started making requests of total strangers to experience rejection. When Jason got a "no" he'd simply say "thank you." And with each time, it got a little bit easier...a little bit easier. In the end, through his clear seeing, the fear of rejection no longer had such a tight grip on him and he went on to create "rejection therapy" a card game to support people to get over their fears of rejection.
Why did Jason's experiment with rejection work? Why have my experiments with my fears worked? Because the process didn't deny the fears. It actually saw them quite clearly, and then walked into them...anyways. When we see fears clearly and walk towards them, we take the wind out of their sails. We see the scary tiger is perhaps a small kitten. Or we pull out our tiger-like strength inside of us that we didn't know was possible. Fear is one my greatest teachers. Fear guides me back Home to myself when I am in fact at risk of walking away from myself and I stop putting it in the driver's seat of my life.
So brave souls, I'm here to invite us all to practice some courage, and to walk straight into our fears for this week's Joy Tip Wednesday. Big or small, any step to walk through your fears, is to be celebrated. So drop your need to face fear of any size or color other than the one that is calling out to you most. Here's how:
- Notice what fear is visiting the doorstep of your life right now. It can be in every day interactions like fear to ask for something you need from a partner, to a single incident like asking for a raise, or going to your first yoga class. Whatever it is, take note of the one that's calling out to you most this day.
- See your fear as an invitation from the Universe to dance and accept. See it as an opportunity to learn something. Perhaps your greatest fear story is a reality (they'll say no, I'll be laughed at, I'll be misunderstood) and you'll learn from it. And perhaps, just maybe...the story plays out differently than you expected.
- Take a step forward to walk toward your fear. Choose a step that is outside of your comfort zone. One that asks you to stretch a little.
- Take another step toward your fear. Stretch a little more. Get a little braver. Dig a little deeper for your great courage deep inside that I know every single one of you have.
- Do the dance of courage. Celebrate. Acknowledge yourself. Feel what it feels like to be courageous. I can say in times when walking into my fears and for example making a request resulted in a "no," I felt better anyways. Because it was no longer a "what if"...and became a "what is."
- As always...repeat. Keep going! Keep stretching! Keep exploring! And watch what unfolds. I know...you'll be surprised. You'll be impressed with what you're made of. What surprises the Universe has in store for you along the way.
Assess, see clearly, ask yourself...what fears are holding me back today....in this moment...from my most authentic, courageous, joyful life? How does one build that life? One step, one brick, one moment, at a time. So my invitation, is not to make earth shattering change, unless it's calling you, then high five to that! My invitation is to recognize that through exercising your muscle of courage in small ways...it gets...BIGGER. It gets...EASIER. And you become...BRAVER.
Go on brave heart! Because I know you can. Let's get on walkin.