Are you afraid?

Here’s a no brainer – fear gets in the way. It can get in my way. Every day.

I can be afraid of the past, the present, or the future. Or all of these at once. I can be afraid that what happened before will happen again, or afraid that I’ll mess something up. I can be afraid that I’ll get it wrong, or afraid that I’ll miss something blatant that I should notice, and not know something that I should know. Years ago a therapist told me that I couldn’t know something before I knew it (in response to my incessant, “I should have known that!”). At times I’m still afraid that I am too slow and should have realized or gotten something already.

While we’re at it, I can have a fear of failure. And a fear of success. I can be afraid of letting people down and afraid of getting their hopes up too high.

And I don’t think I’m the only one who can be run by fear.

I’ve been meditating more, and loving it. I can be driven to meditate by my fear of what evil may befall me if I don’t get quiet, but I’m learning to laugh at the fear and meditate (or not) anyway. I am allowing myself to be driven to meditate because it feels great, and I feel better and more grounded (and less fearful) when I do. Perhaps through my meditation and sitting quietly I’m learning to acknowledge, welcome, and smile away many of my fears. Because most of them (if not usually all of them) are unfounded.

My biggest fear is most often that (irrational) guttural feeling that I’ve erred in some huge way. That I’ve messed everything up. That I’ll be punished for my wrong ways. I know this comes from my childhood – back then I was convinced that many of the things that happened, happened because I was somehow at fault or bad, and back then I was punished for things I didn’t do and declared sinful by the man I considered to be the Messiah.

But honestly, where this sense comes from doesn’t really matter. I also, even through the intensity of my feelings, now know that my biggest fear is in and of itself wrong. And I’ve learned to be compassionate through my process.

I’ve learned to let it RAIN – as shared by Tara Brach (and first coined about twenty years ago by Michele McDonald) – to:

Recognize what is going on and what I’m feeling
Allow and accept the feeling and experience, just as it is
Investigate and inquire with kindness
Non-identify with the experience, and allow natural awareness

The RAIN process allows me to let my fear, and any emotion, flow through me. To be a passage for the feelings, rather than a vessel that stores them. To take on the emotions I want to hold onto, and let go of the others, especially fear.

Many of my fears are old fears – understandable but no longer true or necessary. Many of my fears can hold me back – like my fear of contacting the local coffee shop, to see if I can hang my photography there. Many fears are ungrounded – like my daughter’s fear, when she was young, that airplanes would crash, or my fear that I’m messing up the world. Many, many more airplanes land safely than have any trouble. We just don’t hear about the good news. And my impact on the world is most likely negligible, and also positive.

I realize that some fear can be good. It can alert us to potentially harmful situations and people. But many fears are old, ungrounded, unnecessary, and limiting. I’m choosing to swap my fears for something else. Something more enjoyable and life affirming. My newest approach is to replace my fear with love, or sureness, or feelings of safety. To remember that I have a choice in how I stay with the fear…or not. And how I view life and love and those around me.

I have a choice not to be afraid.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!

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