A Beginner’s Guide To Dealing With Fear

In The DistanceFear, like any thought or emotion, cannot be picked up with the hands and thrown away.  But despite its intangibility, in these days leading up to my surgery I am learning things about fear I never knew before.

The undercurrent of fear that we all experience to some degree is more difficult to notice and release than big fear.  The little things I’m genuinely afraid of, like bugs, a lack of money, or my plans not working out, seem so normal that I can hardly imagine what it might feel like not to be afraid of them.  But this big event I’m experiencing, a major surgery, is so unknowable and uncontrollable that the fear of it cannot be brushed under the rug.  Big fear either forces surrender or causes excruciating suffering.

Another aspect of fear that I’ve been noticing is that it lessens with an increase of gratitude.  I’ve been realizing that I’m so grateful I can even have this healing surgery.  I’m grateful that I can go to a hospital and have people looking out for my health and caring for me.  I’m grateful beyond measure for the love and compassion I’ve been shown in the wake of this challenge.  The generosity of spirit that those around me have demonstrated has softened my heart towards humanity in a new and deeper way than ever before.  When given the opportunity to show compassion, each person can reveal an infinite wellspring from within their being, an insatiable desire to help.

I have also noticed that no matter my fears, what is simply is, and what will be simply will be.  This doesn’t mean my mind won’t take me to the thoughts that are most potent for spawning more fear and subsequently more thoughts, but when that happens there is always surrender, there is always the “For This Practice” game, there is always gratitude, and when all else fails there is always one more chance for surrender.


How To Stop Deflecting Miracles

Waterfall Is there someone in your life you aren’t completely satisfied with? Is there someone you are holding something against?

When I asked myself these questions the answers surprised me. The people in my life with whom a small sliver of dissatisfaction sometimes remains, people who I might want to do something for me or act differently, are generally not unfriendly acquaintances. Rather, they are those I love, and have the deepest connections to.

A grudge is the continued non-forgiveness of another human being, whether it is for something they did or didn’t do, said or didn’t say, or for their inability to make you feel whole and happy. Allowing yourself to look clearly at your non-forgiveness, without self-judgment, is the first and vital step to releasing yourself from the negative consequences of unconsciously wanting others to be different.

When I remind myself that fear and resentment, in whatever forms they appear, prevent my life’s purpose from unfolding, a choice is presented. In this instance I can make a new decision and choose to love being in the moment I am in. Reminding myself that this decision causes a chain reaction of miracles makes this choice all the easier.

The brilliance of this Super Soul Sunday video with Marianne Williamson is that she not only defines miracles and how they occur, but it is also made clear that allowing every individual to be on their own life path is essential to their highest potential as well as to yours. It is so easy to resent where people are at on their journeys, even more so in situations where they disagree with or harbor resentment towards you. But dealing with the consequences of your own resentment is not easy. Knowing that your inability to completely accept other people can prevent you from moving forward towards the miraculous makes the choice to love a more accessible reality.


My Big Fear

WyomingWhat do you consider your greatest burden?  What keeps you from feeling free to enjoy life?

Some people worry, some stress.  Some people have experienced trauma that never leaves their minds.  Some people don’t want to be where they are right now, while others don’t like who they are.  

Since I was a little girl the most dominant thought pattern disrupting my natural ease has been fear.  While a fear of death outweighs other fears, it doesn’t really matter what I’m afraid of.  The content of each fearful inkling doesn’t matter because after all of these years listening to a thought pattern fueled by fear I have found that anything can be used to feed its momentum. This is also why fear is my greatest teacher.

Whatever your most intrusive burden may be, it provides you with two paths.  It has the power to drive you deeper into unconsciousness and pain, or drive you out into light and understanding.  Fear is such an easily accessible fuel for my thoughts that I can either focus on the energetic train of one thought after another spurred by the initial feeling of fear, or I can use the fear to force me into becoming completely present.

The less focused I am on the reality of my immediate experience, the easier it is for old thought patterns to gain new life.  Now when a fearful thought enters my mind, no matter how benign it may seem at first, I use it to force me into focusing on my surroundings.  I visually examine whatever my gaze falls upon and make it the center of my attention.  I listen closely to the sounds around me.  Fearful thoughts still come, but they are balanced and increasingly overpowered by the intensity of presence which they trigger.

What thoughts cause you to suffer?  Even if those thoughts are justified and grounded in reality, if they cause suffering they can become your presence trigger, they can wake you up.  While joy, peace, and love are equally effective teachers of being, if you work with what you’ve got you can transform any substance into pure gold.


How To Know When You Can Finally Be At Peace

At The Airport What were you worried about yesterday? What about last month or last year?

As I woke up today with tingly feet and immediately began worrying about my them, I remembered that the day before I worried about a one-day teaching residency I’m going to have to travel extremely far for, to a part of Chicago that is as of yet completely unknown to me.   When I decided to allow the discomfort in my feet, and surrender to the present moment, my mind started thinking about finding a new apartment in September and how stressful that might be.

Sound familiar? When life is stressful the voice in the head tells us that after a certain point or after something happens we will finally be at peace.

Even though I think that I’ll be at peace after I figure out what is going on with my tingly feet, when that moment does come my mind will just as soon have an exorbitant amount of other things I’ll have to wait for until I can be at peace.

While the content of the thoughts we have differs, we all experience the same mechanics.  There is always a phantom future moment when the mind will agree to let you relax and enjoy life.  And that is exactly how that voice stays alive, in control of your attention.

Once I was able to become aware that unless I decided to be at peace now I’d never actually be at peace, I was able to choose peace now despite the circumstances.  The long standing thought mechanics in my mind still had a whole lifetime’s worth of energy to keep it going, so the worry thoughts popped up nevertheless.

Despite this mind mechanic momentum, to smile and allow yourself to relax even when your thoughts are still vying for your attention, is to take control of your life and your sanity.  In that moment you are present and the momentum gained from that glimpse of consciousness will only grow. Eventually the old thought mechanics will lose steam and peace will be all the remains inside and out.


The One Where I Admit I Know Nothing

Photo by Peter SperoWhere do your actions arise from?  I notice that a great majority of my actions are first thoughts.  Sometimes the actions occur so rapidly that I haven’t yet voiced the thoughts in my mind.  Sometimes I assume I’m acting from present moment awareness, when in reality I am reacting to a thought.  This raises the question, what actions would arise if unprovoked by thoughts and assumptions?

There are many things I know in my mind.  I know that the present moment is the only place of true power.  I know I only exist right now and will only ever experience this singular now.  But just as my actions often arise from thoughts, these truths during periods of my life become only thoughts in my head.

When these spiritual truths are mere thoughts for me I lack all understanding of them; I don’t know what it truly is to live from a place of presence, to act unprovoked by thought, to live free from fear.  My mind becomes extremely preoccupied with past and future, and that causes stress and anxiety.  Sometimes I’m so afraid I can’t do anything at all.

So what?

By Peter SperoI could say that this is where the universe comes in to provide a sign of its reigning presence in my existence and that grace will descend and enable me to let go of all the fear and identification that I grip onto as if my life depended on it.  I often speak and learn from comfort.  But as “fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys,” as Dickens puts it, I feel it is helpful to express the state of my consciousness in a moment such as this where it seems to burn dimly, when my consciousness lies in the glaring gap between my beliefs and my state of being.

Spiritual truths, when they are just thoughts in your head, cannot change your life experience.  Spiritual truths are to be tried, tested, explored, turned upside down, and contended with.

Do you already know that the now is where all peace and joy reside?  That won’t mean anything to you until you make an honest effort to test the theory.  I can look back at occasions of true presence in my life and know that I had real, miraculous, and deep experiences of peace and oneness with the universe.  Yet even now as I look back they are but thoughts in my head.  Helpful pointers maybe, but bearing no weight on my current state of consciousness lest I practice that which brought me there in the first place.  Lest I practice presence.

Photo by Peter SperoI occasionally find that I keep myself distracted from the moment because of the underlying fear within that I would encounter in such a moment of stillness.  Yet I know that I do not want fear, and that the facing of it is the only way it will dissipate.  There is no way around it.  I can only go through.

What do you avoid facing in the stillness of the present moment?  What will happen to you if you face it?

Even if it seems unpleasant or unbearable, you will not die.  You won’t go anywhere.  But that which you had been avoiding through thoughts, emotions, past and future stories, habits, addictions, and to-do lists, will inevitably disappear in the light of your presence.  Your true self will always remain.

There is a catch: this concept will remain a mere concept, void of any real meaning, until it is tried, tested, and experienced.


The Day The Universe Divulged My Secrets

One Way

For something new to come into your life, space has to be created. For example, if I want to have a new relationship with an acquaintance, but I already have set parameters about how we function together, there is no space for a new way of being together to arise. If you want to gain new understanding about your life, your work, the world, space must be created by releasing the old understanding. For me this translates into declaring out loud to the ether, “I don’t know anything!” Which is often followed by, “For real, this is crazy. I have no idea what is going on!” For you this may sound different.

By vocalizing that you do not understand, you create an opportunity for new understanding to present itself. This can also sound like, “I do not understand. Please show me!” Several years ago I experienced an incident on a city bus that prompted my declaration of “not-knowing.” It is not a story I tell at parties, because I still do not understand it. But the beauty of its consequence continually reveals a world more wondrous than I could have thought up.

As I was sitting on a bus one hot summer day in Chicago, I overheard two girls talking behind me. I wasn’t paying a great deal of attention to them, but the conversation took an abrupt turn, and admittedly I went into full eavesdrop mode. They began telling my life story, the story that I told myself about my life at the time. It happened all of a sudden; in the middle of a normal conversation one of the girls started discussing a girl she knew. She described her relationships in detail. There were even timelines. What was more, she was telling the story of fear I had been operating on. There were tales of betrayal, mistrust, and secrets, along with the faults in this person’s character and how it was affecting her relationships. Although it is several years later, I cannot bring myself to recount the exact story the girl on the bus regaled to my eavesdropping ears, because it still feels too personal. Too many fears and perceived flaws divulged.

The story ended and the girls quickly exited the bus through the back door. I tried to get a glimpse of them. At first I thought, “Was that someone from my hometown? Did I go to high school with these people?” I couldn’t get a good look at them as the bus sped away. I was left completely and utterly baffled, and slightly afraid. There was no good explanation for the event.

I never found out who the girls were, whom they were really talking about, and why my life related so closely to the story. Logically, I knew it wasn’t an actual story about me. Then the question became, “Who has such a close life experience to my own?” I had never encountered such a mysteriously inexplicable moment in my entire life. After the initial horror that came from hearing my greatest fears spoken aloud to me on a city bus for all to hear, I reached a point where a decision had to be made. I could drive myself crazy by trying to find a logical explanation with my thinking mind, or I could let it go, and admit that I had no idea what was going on. Because it was such an unbelievable occurrence, I decided to relinquish my need to explain it away, and just not know.

That letting go, of the idea that I had to know everything, created the space that allowed my true self and a new way of experiencing life to begin to emerge. Life started to become more and more miraculous. I was able to relinquish past fears, because after all what did I know anyway? I was able to let go mistrust, and love the people in my life more fully than I had ever let myself before. From admitting that I did not understand, the universe began to show me new ways of understanding. When life showed me that I had no idea what was going on, it in turn started to present a new reality.

I had been putting restrictions on life. When you put parameters on the universe, you restrict the fullness of reality from presenting itself to you. You leave no room for your highest potential to manifest in your life. Over the years I have become comfortable with the “not-knowing.” What would happen if you let go of some of your own thoughts about how things are? What would life be like if you knew nothing about it, created no barriers? The simplest way to invite a new life situation your direction is to relinquish your firm understanding about how your current life is or should be.