As we delve into the second month of our #yearwithoutfear challenge, I find myself looking at the ways I cope with feeling bad. We all have a natural fear of feeling bad – whatever that might be – pain, heartache, stress, financial difficulties, illness. There are a few simple things you can do to help yourself when you find yourself constricting around fear – trying to wall up and keep out the bad feelings, situations, circumstances, whatever.
1. Admit that you’re afraid. When we cover up fear, we often do it in the context of being angry, over-indulging, involving ourselves in distraction or blaming others. When we take responsbility for being afraid and owning the reaction we are having to that, you can free up a WHOLE lot of space in your brain to deal with whatever you are actually afraid to face.
2. Step into the “Shaky Place”. How do you do this? Courageously step into what I call “the shaky place” – that moment of groundlessness, where you don’t know how to find your balance, everything is shifting and you have to reorient yourself to your new situation. It’s that moment when you go into your normal coping patterns that are holding you back. It’s taking that moment and choosing to do something else. Instead of getting angry, get curious. Instead of backing away, get playful. Instead of hiding or dampening feelings with food or other habits, GET MAD! Yes, I said get MAD. Anger is energy, fuel for the fire that will transform what you are afraid of into something you have overcome.
3. Find a positive coping mechanism. There are lots of good ways to deal with being afraid – some of the ones that were suggested in class last week were:
- Taking a walk
- Going to a yoga class
- Taking a deep breath
- Talking to a friend
- Making a plan to deal with the problem
- Mantra (Chanting)
- Any type of exercise
- Any type of activity that requires your full concentration (music, art, cooking, etc)
4. Take a load off. Learn how to relax. Yes, I said LEARN. It’s not something we can just do, we have to learn how to do it. Our relaxation coping mechanisms are the same as any muscle in the body – we need to carve out the pathways in our brains and nervous system to automatically respond with cool, calm consideration, even when lit by the fire of anger or fear. Start to learn to use these emotions as FUEL, not something to be shut down, put away or ignored. If you don’t learn how to do this, you become like a forest full of dead and dry wood, ready to burn to a crisp when something ignites your emotions.
5. COMPASSION. This is really the root, the key of what we’ve been talking about for the past month. The concept of bodhichitta, the vulnerability, is there to help us understand and transmute this energy into deep and profound understanding of the human condition. When you move through your shaky place, you see everyone around you trying to do the same. You start to see yourself in others – some people who are trying to do what you just did, and others who figured it out. You can understand what everyone is doing, and figure out how to move through it all.
How are you facing your own fears? I would love to hear how this first month of noticing this practice in your life has affected you or the people around you. Please feel free to post on my facebook page or email me!