#9 Facing Fears for Freedom
“Sweetie, I feel a lot of fear within you. What is it?” I was taken aback and even felt ashamed. Me? What? My summer on Nantucket neared its end. Jill and I were sitting in her living room eating homemade Pad Thai when she suddenly looked at me and asked this question. Hastily I said “I don’t know, I don’t feel scared.” Jill responded “That’s alright, you might not yet be conscious of it. Just continue practicing your morning meditation and invite this question into your mind: What am I most afraid of?
So I tried that for a few days but I couldn’t identify it. Fear is tricky, you know? It comes disguised and cunningly infiltrates the mind. Then, one evening Jill and I were meditating to one of the Oprah and Deepak Chopra 21-day guided meditation challenges. At some point, Deepak’s low voice asked from the sound of Jill’s phone “What is your biggest fear?”
I tried harder and honestly to see inside of myself and answer the question. And then, I realized it. I almost blurted it out loud. “It is that I will not find what I am looking for!” Jill smiled, already knowing. “Yes, good job introspecting. Now I want you to know that it is exactly this fear that will hold you back and keep you away from finding that which you are seeking if you continue to let it live unconsciously inside of you.”
This blew my mind. It was another big AHA moment. It made so much sense. Fear will limit and hold me back if I don’t face it. “But what can I do about it?”, I desperately asked. Jill said “You recognize the fear and you sit with it over and over again. And you accept the fear’s presence while keeping in mind that it is your higher self that has the power to make conscious choices. That when it comes down to it, it is up to you whether you make choices from a place of trust or from a place of fear.”
This sounded great in theory and the understanding of what my fear was seemed to have given me a handle on the sneaky and elusive thing that fear is. Yet I had no idea what Jill meant when she said I should try “sitting with my fear”. This inner work with things I cannot see or touch was new to me. But the thought of learning to work with fear intrigued me because I knew I wanted to live a brave life. So I tried my best with the instructions Jill gave me. “Like with all my clients, I cannot do the work for them. My job is to bring them on the runway and help set their systems in alignment, but they have to do the flying.”
Yes, I need to take responsibility for this. Every morning when I got comfy on a cushion and set up a 30-minute timer, I did the following: after listening to my breath for a while, I imagined opening a locked door inside of me and allowing fear to arise. Was I doing it right? I didn’t know. Meditation practice taught me that I can just sit in discomfort and sitting with my fear turned out to be like that, just more uncomfortable. As fear rose inside of me, I felt my gut clench, and my shoulders and neck contract. I tried to stay calm and breathe my way through it. “What are e-motions? They’re energy in motion. We need to actively allow them to move through us so that they don’t manifest inside of us and cause more trouble.” I heard Jill say in my head.
“Taking risks doesn’t mean throwing ourselves blindly into danger. But it means embracing our fears so that we aren’t imprisoned by them.”
― Edith Eger, The Choice
The new ideas and insights into the inner workings of my mind made me feel more inspired and more connected. Here are some of the life-changing things I learned from Jill during that first summer living with her on Nantucket:
- The Synergenic Way: As a human being, I am more complex than I thought; I have physical, mental, emotional and spiritual needs that need to be satisfied on a regular basis for my whole being to be stable and thrive.
- Neutral Observer Mode: Observing my mind’s hobby to judge everything, be it myself, circumstance or others. And then learning to refrain from judging by accepting and offering kindness.
- Dog-sitting on a sailboat: How to keep sweet old Chester, the dog belonging to Jill’s good and generous friends, from falling off the little sailboat during our weekend trips.
- Non-Violent Communication: A practical method that helps you to communicate more consciously and compassionately. A way of communicating that leads us to “give from the heart”.
- Island life: How to drive an old SUV through sand dunes and go to five art galleries in one night.
August came and my time on the island of Nantucket drew to an end. I could feel the nostalgia of the approaching fall and farewell. Jill’s pretty little house that was her home and private practice had become home for me as well. But it was time to move on and with every coming day my excitement and anxiety were growing. Observing my inner dynamics more closely, I was shocked by how often fear visited me. “It’s alright”, I reminded myself, experimenting with kind self-talk. “No need to suppress it. I can just be with it and breathe my way through it.”
Was I ready to go to a country I’d never set foot on to find a place to live and work? If the flight from the Azores to Boston was a leap of faith, the next step felt like stepping over a cliff into thin air. After the breakup with David, he had decided to go to Vancouver, and I was going to Montréal. One in West Canada and the other in East Canada. I was about to become a real solo traveler.
I set the intention to be open and courageous. I really needed to find what I am seeking or … the other way round. The only thing that I knew for certain was that I was not going to let fear get in my way.