Thich Nhat Hanh says the way to lessen our fear is to wrap it tightly in compassionate arms and squeeze. But before we can embrace our fear, we have to meet it. Yes - consciously call our fear up from the depths of hiding, to say hello.
Fear often comes with companions; anxiety, resistance, excuses. That’s ok. We can accept them too.
Last night after dinner, I sat in my room and practiced making friends with my fear. I chose a comfortable space, in the middle of a well-worn red and green rug, to sit cross-legged.
Once still, my shoulders relaxing down my back, breathing steadied, I spoke to my fear. First casually: "hey fear, what’s up, come on out." Nothing. Then I addressed it more aptly - like a child - a small, frustrated, angry child that has been chastised, dismissed and forgotten.
“Dear fear, come on out. It’s OK…I’m not afraid of you. In fact, I love you.” Slowly but surely a dank hollow from my gut began to rise to my chest and with it, mild panic. My heart rate ticked up and my breathing shortened - my mind screamed “retreat!”
With thoughtful, deep belly breaths, I summoned love, as much of it as I could muster and bathed my fear in its warm glow. I rocked my fear back and forth, attending to its wails and protestations.
And then I named it. Thay talks of the fear of death, the fear of letting go. This fear was of failure. A sighing laugh escaped when I realized. “Hello familiar fear. Let’s sit together here in peace for a moment.”
My heart rate lessened, and my breathing gained depth but an aching remained. Close to heartache, though living a little lower, near my sternum. I realized then that my fear knows much sorrow and I understood why nursing it like a wounded child is necessary.
After a few moments, my mind further quieted and I dropped in to empathy. This was easier. Not because the fear- or any of the sensation- dissipated, but because I wasn’t just saying “I love you” anymore, I felt it.
“Every time fear is embraced with mindfulness, the energy of fear decreases before going back down to the depths of our consciousness as a seed… Fearlessness is not only possible, it is the ultimate joy.” - Thich Nhat Hanh
To learn more about the exercise I tried, and working through fear in general, check out FEAR by Thich Nhat Hanh.
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Photo Credit: Oscar E