It is amazing to me how some people seem so fearless in the face of adversity. When I read stories from the great masters, saints, and mystics, I say to myself, “I want to be like that. I want to live my life from a place of great love, not fear!” Joan of Arc is commonly quoted as saying, “I am not afraid . . . I was born to do this.” I recently learned that this is a shortened version of her original statement, which included the words, “I have God.” Joan of Arc’s faith in her mission, and specifically in God, allowed her to accomplish amazing feats of bravery during her short life.
When we have faith in ourselves, in our own mission—whether it is a calling from God, a higher power, Spirit, a message from our own intuition, or whatever we wish to call it—we approach our lives with greater strength, confidence, and courage. Of course, we absolutely have important lessons to be learned from our fear, and we do not want to bury it or brush it away. We want to look at it, access it, and then transform it into courage and action. I believe that being brave, truly brave, in life comes only with a regular practice of inner reflection.
The word “fear” is defined as “an unpleasant emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.” Buddhist nun Pema Chödrön tells us, “Fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth.” When we have a regular spiritual routine in place, such as The Practice, we begin a process of accessing our Truth and acknowledging our personal fears and the other blocks in our lives. We start to get curious about what is going on and ask ourselves:
What dangers do I perceive in my life?
What scares me and what comforts me?
Without calling what we see right or wrong, we simply look at our thoughts and our lives as objectively as we can. The problem for most of us is that we often have little tolerance for uncomfortable feelings—that familiar feeling in the stomach that says, “I don’t want this to be happening.” We try to escape it in some way, rather than remaining present and touching the rawness of the experience. To learn from the experience, we must remain present to it by giving it our Focused Attention in the very moment we are having the feeling. I have learned, with practice, to stay with the feeling and really feel it.
Try this the next time you are feeling afraid (but not in any immediate danger):
1. Go to your body and connect with whatever physical sensation you are experiencing. It always feels bad—a tightening in the throat, in the heart, or in the solar plexus. Stay with that feeling and say to yourself, “Millions of people all over the world have this kind of discomfort—this feeling of not wanting things to be this way. This is my link with humanity.” Connect with the idea that this moment is a shared experience all over the world. When I do this, I no longer feel alone, and I am able to sit with the feeling, and really feel it and not be afraid.
2. Next ask, “What is this fear here to teach me? What am I to learn from this moment, this situation, or this person?”
Being with fear in this way, fully present, is the only way in which you can wake up and discover your Truth. As you practice, you will find your own simple, grounded language to ask your inner Self these questions. Be patient. The response might not come right away, and it might never be obvious, but you are beginning to open yourself up to the continually changing, fluid nature of your own being.
With this practice, you increase your capacity to accept whatever is in the moment and to be brave in the face of fear. With your eyes, heart, and mind open and receptive, you begin to think of your life as offering endless opportunities for growth. Life is always changing—really, the only thing for certain in life is that it will constantly change. When you see this, you begin to feel the adventure life truly offers and realize that there is no way to avoid uncertainty—because that is the adventure! Enjoy this beautiful ride called life from a place of love.