Lying in bed, first thing in the morning, I can feel fear coursing through my body. I breathe. The article is due today.
I think back to the moment, two days ago, when I started it. Put a title on a document that is still sitting on my computer, empty. I slip into anxiety - what if I don’t get it done? Can I get out of it?
I take another breath, my heart rate rises, fear builds in my chest and I make a shift.
“No,” I say to the fear, “you are not anxiety, you are possibility. This pressure is not impending failure, it is the article that wants to be written, getting ready to be born.”
My fear surges again but now I welcome it, this is the harbinger of creativity, the urgent insistence of what wants to emerge.
Fear has a bad reputation in Western culture. When it is not downright evil, it is considered a barrier to be conquered, a hurdle on the golden path to success or a sign that warns us away from danger. In my experience it is not fear that holds me back but my resistance to its transformative energy.
If I want to experience the power of fear I need to approach it as an ally. I need to quiet my mind, to silence my judgments and hold back my preconceptions. I have to choose to trust the words that are lining up to be written, even though I don’t know what they are going to say.
The blinking cursor in the white space of my screen activates fear as I lean into what might be. Fear wants to dance, it wants to move fast and light, like my fingers across the keyboard. It wants to offer me insight and innovation, to give birth to something new. Fear connects me to the flow of life.
A couple of weeks ago my watch stopped. It needs a new battery but all the hardware shops are closed so I have been doing without it. It has become an experiment in the power of fear.
Yesterday I got up at 8.30am. I needed to have breakfast, shower, let the chickens out, contact a collaborator and do a sound check before I started delivering training at 9.30am. Instead of being stressed and feeling pressured about what I needed to do, I took it one step at a time. I held my ‘to do’ list lightly, knowing that it would be helpful to do it all but not expecting that I would.
Not only did I do all the things I needed to do, at exactly the time I needed to do them, I also took a call from a potential client ten minutes before the training started. There was just enough time to listen to what she had to say and answer her questions before I turned on my camera and started greeting the training participants.
Fear helps me have a spacious relationship to time. It feels effortless, in flow. What is actually happening is that I am sensitive to subtle levels of fear that determine my speed and shift me from one activity to the next without strain or effort. When I stop resisting fear and deal with the emotional backlog of fear in my system, low level fear becomes available for me to respond to and it is an excellent navigator.
Want to give it a try? Here are some experiments that can shift your relationship to fear:
- Blindfold yourself and explore your home, if you have access to a garden, even better. Notice what else you can sense when your sight is unavailable.
- Put your mind on hold and write or speak without knowing what you are going to say. This is even more fun with a friend, start with 5 minutes each, ask a question you can’t possibly know the answer to. Let the words come from your body instead of your mind.
- Set an intention to sit for a period of time — 30 seconds or 1 minute. Then start a timer but don’t check it until your fear tells you the time is up. No counting allowed!
What role does fear play in your life? When has it served you well?