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  • Writer's pictureHannah Marsh

Safe Path through Fear

Have you had this experience?

Image by Adrien Tutin

There's something you want to do. Begin a painting. Send a poem for publication. Reach out to a friend you haven't seen for years. Ask a colleague for help. You know you want to do this thing. As we did last month, you might set an intention, reminding yourself that this is important and valuable to you. Surely, it will serve you well. But then, the next step - doing what you want to do - doesn't happen. Each time you get close to it, something stops you.

In our classes, we've explored a number of ways to shift perspective when feeling stuck: focusing on the process, rather than a desired outcome; taking a playful, exploratory stance, "what would happen if I tried this?"; inviting kindness and patience towards ourselves; taking things one moment at a time. But I know for myself, this isn't always enough. What happens when we try all these things, yet still feel stuck?

When you find these places of strong resistance - when something keeps stopping you from doing what you want to do - I think it's important to listen. What's really here? Among other things, we'll likely find an old and powerful emotion: fear.

Fear can be deeply engrained, patterned into us from an early age. When it matches our circumstances, keeping us from present harm, it's incredibly helpful. When it doesn't, you might find it's a fossil from another time of life. This fear has protected us in the past, helping us to survive our childhoods, our growing up. It's kept us away from what has hurt us before, and what could hurt us again. All the small and large traumas of our lives - all the times we lost a sense of trust and safety - can contribute to where fear shows up for us now.

So how do we work with fear? Just the word "fear" might provoke a reaction. Before we can face our fears - be present to them, get to know them, gently move through them - we need a sense of safety.

You might start to consider: what offers you a sense of safety? What comes to mind for me: bringing a hand over the heart, wrapping myself in a blanket, being with a trusted friend, holding a cherished object, drinking tea, walking in nature, telling myself calming words like "It's okay" and "I'm safe." These are things that help quiet my fears and calm my nervous system. Slowly, little by little, they seem to soften those stuck places where fear resides. What I couldn't bring myself to do before starts to feel safer, within reach.

In our March Mindfulness & Creativity drop-in, we'll invite a kind attention to how fear or stuckness shows up for us in our mindfulness practices, and we'll explore ways of offering ourselves a sense of safety. If you'd like to bring a heartening or cherished object (i.e. a small stone, a photograph, a potted plant) to have with you, I highly encourage it! Together, we'll begin to build a safe path forward.


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