Fear

When I was younger, I was afraid of being afraid. As I ripened with time, awareness, and the willingness to learn, I discovered Fear as a Master Teacher.

Fear gets my attention, invites me to look within and become aware of what I am thinking and feeling, and Fear can lead me Home.

Fear shows me that I am being called to turn within and sit in stillness. In stillness I find mySelf, my Oneness with All That Is. In stillness there is peace. In stillness there is unspoken joy. In stillness I remember my Source and I rest in the Divine Presence within me.

Letting Fear come as a Teacher is not the same as being afraid or living in fear, being motivated by fear. Master Fear turns me within to that safe place where I know who I Am and Whose I Am. Once there, Master Fear leaves me to rest in the arms of Love.

Then I am guided and comforted by Love Itself. Then I live from love and compassion for myself and others. Then I know peace, clarity, and wisdom.

Namaste.

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What Were You Taught To Fear?

I find snakes and lizards of all kinds and sizes fascinating and, for the most part, beautiful. My daughter-in-law is afraid of snakes. There is a reptile house at our local zoo and I have wanted to take my granddaughter in to see everything. Her sweet mother doesn’t even want to walk by it. Yesterday was my opportunity because my son and I took Hannah to the zoo by ourselves. I was very excited and my daughter-in-law was relieved that she didn’t have to be with us at the reptile house!

Hannah ran from window to window and it took some effort to get her to slow down so I could be sure she was actually seeing the snakes and lizards. She just turned two a few months ago so she had no idea what to look for. One of the small snakes was the color of lime sherbet; it almost looked like it would glow in the dark. She was fascinated. I think her favorites were the large lizards. At one window she said, “Gama your lizard (the one on my fence) is small and this lizard is very big!” What a joy to introduce this sweet being to creatures many people avoid because they are so frightened.

That experience was the highlight of my day. It was a special day at the zoo: field trips from at least 4 different schools. The reptile house was filled with shining faces and small hands pressed against glass to see white, yellow, green, brown, and black snakes. Squeals of excitement rang out as wide eyes came upon Gilda monsters. No fear; only openness to things they had only seen pictures or drawings of before that moment. I am grateful that these children have been given the opportunity to appreciate another living being rather than fear it because someone else does. I am grateful to my daughter-in-law for consciously choosing not to pass her fear on to her daughter.

I am grateful to my parents who taught me to respect that some snakes are poisonous and for taking the time to be sure I knew the difference. When I was little, we were stationed in New Mexico so the knowledge was important. I am grateful to the parents of a classmate in 4th grade whose parents let him have a pet snake. He brought it to school and we all were allowed to hold it, pet it, learn from it and him. I always smile because he carried it in a pillowcase that he could hang from his head and still ride his bike to school!

Life has taught me to fear some things and even some people. I continue to heal those parts of myself that hold unreasonable fear. Fear can be my friend and teacher at times because it alerts to me potential danger so that I can make wise choices. It has taken some practice to learn when to welcome Teacher Fear and when to release and heal fear that hampers my life flow and my ability to embrace life fully. Perhaps another day I will delve more into that process. Today it is enough to recognize that many of our fears are based on how we have been taught to perceive what we are experiencing rather than the truth of who we are and what is happening.

Aum shanti.

Afraid of Being Afraid

The divorce became final just six weeks short of my 25th wedding anniversary.  The actual process began with separation about five months before. The journey was intense and filled with disappointment, grief, and fear. I was disappointed in life and in our mutual inability to figure out how to move forward together. I grieved for my children who, as young adults, were losing their family and all the traditions we had built throughout their lives. I grieved for the dreams of what our senior years would have held for us. I feared my own future and my ability to build a life for myself, by myself.

My first response to that fear was to jump into another relationship. It felt so good to be wanted at that point that I was not able to step back and evaluate the experience for what it was. As a result, I took that which was meant to be transitionary and tried to force it into something permanent. Almost four years later, I extricated myself from that relationship and followed my heart and my dreams as I returned to Nevada, to tall mountains and wide open spaces, to family and new opportunities. Most of all, I went to be with my father following my mother’s death. My heart longed to be with him in his initial years of grief and I had no desire to make that journey alone either. We were good for each other and our own relationship was nurtured and deepened in the process.

In the course of those years between the divorce and my return to my beloved West, I was confronted by fear time and again. I was practicing yoga and meditation daily and spent hours walking the countryside with my sweet Springer Spaniel, Basquo. During one meditation I had a vision of a dark figure wearing a cowl with the hood falling forward over its face. Fear came up and I whispered “Who are you?” The figure slowly removed the hood and I saw an ancient face, deeply lined with eyes that lovingly sought my very Soul. Tears welled in my eyes as I felt a depth of love and compassion that flooded every level of my awareness and being. The figure spoke:

I Am Fear and I come as a Master Teacher. My child, you cannot release fear until you release your fear of being afraid. Yes, the energy of fear is intense but it can save your life, elicit courage, and clear your mind. Always when fear begins to rise, resist it not. Rather, stop, soften your body and breathe deeply and slowly. Remember me and say this:  Welcome Master Teacher Fear. What have you come to show me today? Then return to your quiet breath and let the answer come to your heart, to your True Self.

I began this practice that very moment and it is a part of me now. Master Fear has shown me many times that there is no need to be afraid of being afraid. When fear arises, my awareness heightens and I am open to my Truth in that moment. Now fear turns me within to True Self, to the Source of All That I Am. As I am shown what is needed, my body calms down and peace returns.

The core of what I have learned from this practice is that fear arises when I am interpreting an experience apart from True Self. If I am conscious in the moment, abiding in the innate Oneness that I Am, the only fear that arises is that which tells me to take some kind of action to protect myself from physical or emotional harm, e.g. driving defensively when a nearby car skids out of control. The fear that comes up causes the adrenaline/cortisol rush that I need to have rapid reflexes and an astoundingly clear mind. Thank you my friend fear!! In other situations, True Self leads me into the Wisdom Mind for guidance in gathering information, making wise choices, and living from a place of love and compassion.

The process has taken years and it is worth every moment and every ounce of practice that I expended because it has brought me to where I live today. May your journey be clearer and unfold more quickly than mine did. May your heart and mind be open to the Master Teacher we call Fear. May your journey lead you deeply into the peace of your Soul.

Namaste.

First Thought

The importance of mindfulness and being aware of the present moment are no longer new to most of us. Being aware of our own level of awareness is an ongoing practice. Mindfulness is easier in a yoga class because the teacher calls us to our breath and to what we are doing and experiencing in our bodies.In meditation, we are invited to focus on the flow of our breath and to notice our thoughts. How do we take what we are learning and practicing in a class off the mat?

I first noticed my own awareness levels when my first yoga teacher’s voice began to live in my head. I would hear her guiding me to feel my breath or notice my thoughts when my mood shifted. Everyday things became lessons in mindfulness.

It took awhile but, at some point, I began to notice my first thought of the day. Rather than jumping up as I awoke, I would turn onto my back, place my hands on my belly and take a few slow breaths. I would notice my thoughts. Some mornings, my first thought was soft, peaceful and quietly expectant of the new day. Other mornings, my first thought was anxious, worried, or fearful. What happened during the night? For years I ended my day with thoughts of gratitude and fell asleep peacefully. Why would I wake up in knots at times? Then I became aware that those first thoughts were affecting my entire day. I needed a reset, a shift in how my days began. I was ending the day well; now I would begin the day well.

One of my teachers reminded me that intention is a powerful form of thought energy. It guides the flow and sets the tone for my experience. It is about consciously flowing with life rather than reacting or trying to control it. He suggested I become aware of my over-riding intention each day. Well, that was easy because I wasn’t forming one! And thus began my conscious morning practice.

As I realize I am waking up, I quietly begin to feel my breath and notice where my mind is going. What thoughts are forming as this day begins? My favorite times are when I am aware that my only thought is that I am noticing my thoughts. Ah yes, a clean slate for a new day, a new beginning. If my thoughts are already circling, finding worry or anxiety, I acknowledge that and begin to count my breaths until I am more present with my feelings. I feel my hands softly resting on my belly and remind myself it is a new day and I can figure it all out later. As my body and emotions soften with my breath, I begin to ask myself “How do I want this day to feel as it unfolds?” Then I use my imagination (I image in) to see myself moving peacefully and joyfully through this new day. Details don’t matter; appointments don’t matter; problem solving doesn’t matter. All that matters in my imagination is my day unfolding from that inner stillness that is my True Self. Life will fill in the details later.

It takes longer to type this than it does to experience it. My little morning practice usually lasts as long as it takes me to do ten slow breaths and then “see” myself moving through my day in peace. I don’t look at a clock but it probably happens in about two or three minutes. Once complete, I open my eyes and slowly get out of bed. My first thought, consciously formed, has set the tone for a whole new day and all that it will bring into my experience.

What was your first thought today? Has it affected how your day is unfolding? Do your intentions guide you into flowing with life as it unfolds or do they lead you to think controlling yourself, other people and circumstances will make you happy? Is it time for a reset? Wouldn’t it be fun if your first thought each day resulted in love, laughter, and the ability to let life be easy?!

Then, after breakfast you could just go out and play!