I'll probably choose to experience fear, time and time again, because it’s my capacity to get up close and comfortable with it that makes the difference.
So I would like to expand on the whole fear thing a little, as I did just skim over it in the last post with the above sentence. But even if the above was just a flippant referral, its wording does sum up my take on things. To be more specific, there is one important element which does the summing-up, and it's the use of the word 'experience'.
The way I see it, the choice to fully experience fear is a space-holding exercise and it starts out with a simple acknowledgement. By choosing to be curious about fear rather than simply getting-past-it-as-quickly-as-possible, we get a chance to 'see' it. We allow it to 'see' us. We realise that through the process of not resisting it, it passes. What we resist, persists, and what we befriend, we transcend. As paradoxical as it sounds, we simply cannot overcome an emotion which we do not first accept. And ultimately, what better way is there to practise acceptance than through a curious exploration of the full experience?
Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.
See if you can say ‘Hello fear, I see you. I acknowledge you exist. You are welcome (Ok that might be pushing it). I accept your presence (more reasonable?). I am now going to go ahead with this little plan of mine that I feel deeply might be the right thing for me to do. Rumi called it ‘the voice inside that doesn’t use words’, and once you hold that space for your fear - which is all that it really wants of you, by the way – it will probably scurry away and give you its blessing.
Many wise people claim that our 'greatest life' lies on the other side of fear. Some even go so far as to say that 'everything we want' lies on the other side of fear. The language is vague and our expectations can hit the roof. I mean, do we simply allow our imaginations and cravings to run riot? Does my greatest life involve me living in a castle in the south of France? (Yes please.) Or on a beach in Bora Bora? (That too.) Maybe I am so famous from this blogging lark that I can become a digital nomad and reside wherever the hell I like! (Yup, I shall do 3 months in the château, 3 months in the Pacific and 6 months sailing wherever takes my fancy!)
With such claims in our midst as the ultimate promise, perhaps we might start by looking at the experience of fear as a way to access greater self-knowledge and greater growth? What if we simply endeavoured to see fear as something uncomfortable whose role is to teach us how to deal with discomfort? And what if we came to realise that the most immediately visible and visibly positive change was simply more depth? What if the reward for 'seeing' your fear head-on was a wee bit of insight?
It's funny actually, there really is a timing to things sometimes that we can't quite fathom. I am writing this post in Thailand where I've been teaching Bikram yoga in Kata Beach for a few weeks. In May of last year it just so happened that I was enjoying a holiday in Thailand as my last stop on my travels. I had spent the best part of three years away after initially feeling-the-fear-and-doing-it-anyway, and I guess I was in a particularly reflective space. I wrote the following as a status update on Facebook, and in some ways I think it illustrates the point I am trying to make here;
"Three things never come back: the spent arrow, the spoken word, and the lost opportunity"
I've loved this quote ever since I first heard it, and although I've been disappointed, quite frankly, with the distinct lack of arrows to play with in all the countries I've been in, I have had ample time to consider the impact of words I both speak and write.
Very early this morning (bloody jetlag!) I found myself thinking about opportunities, and wondering just how many can end up slipping through our fingers because we don't trust our intuition, are overcome by fear, bogged down by the how and the details, or distracted by the advice of others.
And yet, it seems to me that most opportunities only present themselves once, and that they are there to be seized. They require the input of our energy and the focus of our direction to reach their fulfilment. Where yoga asks for stillness of breath, and vipassana encourages equanimous observation; opportunities implore us to wake up, beseech us to listen and respond, summon us to act.
My feeling is this; when one of these opportunities shows its head, and there's even a little whisper of a yes in our heart, then our job is not to worry about the how; we simply have to trust and leap.
This opportunity is part of our journey. It is presenting itself along our path for a reason. To paraphrase Eckhart Tolle (he's in Dublin next month by the way!), life will give us whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of our consciousness. We know this is the experience we need because it is the one we are having.
Too often in life we regret; we reminisce about the times we didn't 'show up' for ourselves, we get nostalgic about the unvisited places, the words left unsaid, the opportunities lost - even if for the briefest of glimpses we allowed them to set our hearts on fire before the sedation of sense set in.
It's always the undone stuff.
The lost moments.
I reckon hindsight is nothing but delayed insight, and we simply need to tap into it and trust it when the opportunity presents, allowing that hopeful heart whisper to gain volume and strength.
At least once in our lives we need to disregard the 'sensible' advice of those who probably didn't listen to the voice of their own wise guy inside.
At least once in our lives we need to surrender to the path that mightn't look so clear but has the most resonant call.
At least once we need to confine the 'how?' to the 'not my concern' category.
At least once we need to honour the wisdom that finds its voice in ours.
I'd better leave it there now, because I have a final plane to catch, and this one is particularly special, for I - after a total of two years, five months, one week and a day - am finally, going, HOME.
Eternally grateful for opportunities seized, optimistic about those to come, with the weight of the word neatly noted, and all arrows reserved purely for the heart space.
The biggest thing that is apparent to me on rereading is that fear, for me, is simply an experience that is part of my growth. And I really have no interest in living a life which doesn't include space for both. To tie it all up I guess that's the essence of what I meant when I said that I would 'choose to experience fear time and time again'.
And you know, just maybe, that's what this 'greatest life' really is at the end of the day. It's the sum of the experiences which give you the courage to follow the right path for you. It's the life where at its end you have way fewer regrets than great stories. And most of all, it's the life in which Jonny Ox's words resonated, and you refuse to let the tamed ones tell you how to live.