I continue to deepen my understanding and practice of fear and uncertainty. It’s a fascinating and highly useful skill to expand our capacity to feel fear yet still take action. Fearlessness, that awkward word that doesn’t mean not having fear, but means taking action despite fear.
I see now that fear is an indicator that I am not in alignment with what I want, *because* I am not doing it, not because the thing is not the right thing to do. This is a reverse view of how we often think of fear. Did you get it? So often we view fear as a blocker to doing something that we want, and it brings up lots of questions that we may ponder for days, years, or even decades, as to whether we should do the thing, are we worthy of doing the thing, what if we fail at doing the thing, what if we succeed etc. That’s certainly often how I viewed it. But, what if fear is actually a message that we should actually be doing that thing right now. Because we are feeling fear while thinking of doing the thing, by definition we are currently right this second not doing the thing. We are not in motion, and what if the fear is our inner being telling ourselves to go do it! When we do, very often the fear recedes, which provides evidence that it was the right thing to do.
I remember in the final few days before leaving my home, selling all my furniture, and leaving San Francisco, the depth of discomfort I was feeling. There was much to do and I was managing all the different projects underway to complete this. In the last few days I was in the city, staying at a friend’s apartment, and I was feeling very strong fear; it was mighty uncomfortable. As I felt into the feelings this brought up in the body, I thought long and hard about why I was feeling this way, when I was in the process of following my heart. It made me question everything. I came up with several possible reasons as to why I was feeling this way, and eventually I decided to pick the most useful interpretation to me at the time, which was that for as much preparation as I was doing, I was not actually living & traveling outdoors right then. I was actually sitting on a sofa in the middle of a highly urban environment. This whole journey into leaving my job, transitioning to be self-employed, selling everything I own, and heading out into the world to travel is driven by my deep recognition that I need to be outside. Being outside charges my energy systems and makes it so that I can deeply feel the joy and magic of life. So those few days in the city, in the concrete, inside, were days that I was not outside, and those were days I felt this strong fear. I decided to go with this interpretation for that uncomfortable period – that it was because I was not actually outside that I was feeling this way rather than the entire idea was wrong and that I should change my direction, and then see later what happened.
It’s like when my cat miaows for food. I hear him miaowing, and go and start getting the food. When I am walking to the kitchen, getting the food out, preparing it, he doesn’t stop miaowing! From his perspective he is not actually eating the food yet so he continues delivering the message that he needs the food, at ever increasing volumes. It turns out that my body and emotions do the same thing.
Several days later, when I finished selling my furniture, and I got in my car and headed north, out of the city, into the unknown of the future but now outside, oh my gosh what joy I felt. My entire body tingled, and waves of positive emotion flooded my senses. Boy was I glad that I had interpreted the fear that it was my heart miaowing instead of telling me that everything I was doing was wrong!
Thinking about things, preparing, is not the same as doing them. The best antidotes to too much thinking I’ve found are 1) Meditation, which helps release the identification with thinking and reduce or eliminate the worrying & rumination, 2) Journaling. Writing with pen and paper helps sift and clarify, slow down the thoughts and make them more tangible, and morph them into potential actions. And then 3) Taking direct physical action to create something. This is a vital part of the cycle, that must be done to complete it and let our energy flow. All too often we block our energy by not doing this part.
But the lesson from those days of discomfort and fear is that not all actions are created equal. Preparing and organizing is good to a certain extent, and of course necessary and useful, and can certainly be enjoyable. But the actual direct action that moves us is the kind that satisfies the body and heart. The mind can be soothed by finding the perfect app for something, by making lists and organizing, if you have that type of mind as I do. But more and more I learn that this does not satisfy the body, and it does not satisfy our emotional system, our heart in fact. The heart and body are appeased, not just appeased but will jump for joy, when we actually hike as opposed to plan a hike. When I am actually outdoors rather than thinking about it.
When we do something physical in the world, when we create something tangible, when our heart shows us what to do, our mind creates it, and our body makes it, that my friends is when the goosebumps raise, the skin tingles, and the song of the joy of life sings everywhere we look.