I was sitting pressed against the window on a cross-country flight. With every little jolt of the plane, my grip strengthened on the armrest and my mind started chatting.
“Maybe you should stop flying.”
I had never been afraid of flying so this sudden unease registered.
“What is happening to me?”
At this point in my life, I was just exhausted of fighting fear. I had been scared since I was a little girl. Terrified actually. But for years, I had prided myself in being a “fear warrior”. If something scared me, I did it anyways.
“Take that fear!”
But I was now in my early-thirties and was tired of fighting. I was slowly starting to give in to my fears. And with each fear I gave in to, another one popped up immediately.
I was an anxiety-riddled mess.
Fast forward two years and I was a completely different person. I had spent over a year in solitude, silence, and meditation. I felt a deep peace that I had never known. My panic attacks were long gone. I now knew what “bliss” meant and it was awesome.
And that’s when I had an epic panic attack.
I was washing dishes when suddenly the fear came rushing in. If you’ve ever had a panic attack, you know exactly what this feels like: overwhelming fear, heart racing, can’t breathe, shaking uncontrollably, absolutely certain that you are going to die at that very moment.
I was completely startled by all this. I quickly sat down on my meditation mat and tried to catch my breath. And then I started to cry. I had been free of this fear for over a year and now it was back, reclaiming its place in my body.
I started talking out loud, just in case an angel was passing by and wanted to help.
“Why is this fear back? I don’t understand. I was doing so well.”
Silence. No one was answering the Angel 911 line.
But after a little while, I felt an answer emerge from the depths of my being. My soul had something to say.
“You must see and accept all parts of you.”
That’s when I got it. I had spent years either fighting fear or running away from it. I rejected it. I hated how it made my body feel. I hated to be scared. But at that very moment, I understood how the energy of “fight” and “rejection” served as a shackle — keeping fear trapped inside of me.
So this time, I decided to do something different. I took a deep breath, relaxed my body, and spoke directly to the fear.
“I see you and give you space to stay as long as you want.”
Before I finished that sentence, the emotion was gone. I can’t really explain how that happened. But I went from a state of utter panic to peace in less than a second.
I sat on my meditation mat for a long time after this whole incident, thinking about the power of what had just happened.
“How is it possible for fear to disappear that quickly?”
I closed my eyes and became intensely aware of my newly peaceful internal environment.
“Perhaps fear is a signpost, pointing you to something deeper. If you follow it to the destination, the signpost has performed its duty and becomes unnecessary.”
I opened my eyes and stared out into the beautiful sunny day. I thought of the symbolism of a sign. And then I asked out loud:
“What does fear point to?”
The answer formulated immediately in my mind and the pieces to the puzzle of fear finally came together in a beautiful picture.
Fear grips you so that you may see something that is not in accordance with your essence.
Fear is the signpost that points you to subconscious patterns that keep you from achieving your full potential.
It turns out, fear is a blessing. It is your ally in evolution.
Why is fear a blessing?
Let me answer this question with another question:
If you have a toxic subconscious belief or thought pattern that you are unaware of, what do you think is the best way to get to that pattern? What is the best way for that pattern(s) to become conscious in you?
Is it by attaching to it an emotion that makes you feel good or bad?
Think about this for a minute. If I held a subconscious belief that is not in accordance with my essence (aka a lie about myself) but felt happy every time that thought repeated itself in my head…would I be inclined to see or change it?
Of course not! And that’s where fear comes in. It feels horrible. Fear is yucky on the body. It is a powerful emotion that we cannot miss.
And maybe in the end, that’s exactly its purpose:
You cannot miss it.
Fear comes in and says:
“I am here to show you something. Would you like to see it?”
So how do you do it? How do you use fear as your ally?
I’ve developed four steps to help you harness the power of fear:
When fear rushes in, let it be. Welcome the emotion as if you had chosen it.
I understand this may be hard initially because fear feels horrible. It’s uncomfortable. But know that your rejection of fear won’t make it go away. It’s there to show you something and it won’t leave until you see. So you might as well relax, take a deep breath, and let it in.
Now, realize how so very different this first step already is from what we are used to.
What do we usually do when we fear something?
- Ignore. This is so common. This is when you get jittery about something in your life, turn on the TV and say: “I want to watch a movie so I get my mind off of things.” What we’re really saying is: “I’m going to watch TV so I can distract myself from the uncomfortable feelings inside that I am not prepared to see or deal with.” Or, we go on a weekend trip with friends, get drunk at a bar, or go on a shopping spree. All of the activities on the outside are used as a distraction from the uncomfortable feeling of fear in our bodies.
- Confront. I remember this one really well. I used to be terrified of heights. So I decided to go skydiving! I approached fear from a perspective that is was my enemy and I needed to fight it. I was not going to let my fears conquer me! No way! But you see how the energy of “fight” limits us? When we fight against fear, we’re essentially totally identified with it. We cannot see beyond it. And if we cannot see beyond it, we can never learn what it is there to teach us. Right?
So in this first step, we are doing away with the old-fashioned way of dealing with fear.
We are going to do completely the opposite of what we’ve been doing.
Begin to separate yourself — the consciousness or soul that lies within — from your mind or ego, where fear is generated. You can sit in meditation as I did, right when I was having the epic panic attack. Or you can simply close your eyes and become intensely aware of the feeling of fear in your body.
Scan your body and pinpoint any physical places where fear might be stored. I remember feeling fear in my chest and stomach area. As soon as you acknowledge the presence of fear in your body, make sure you lean into it, instead of running away, ignoring or fighting it.
How exactly does one “lean into” fear?
- Breathe deeply.
- Open your chest up and stick it out. Like a gorilla right before he beats his chest! This physical position of “chest open” is an indication of acceptance. It’s also a position that makes you “bigger”, as if you are making more space within you to welcome fear.
- Relax. This will be the hardest part because our initial reaction to fear is usually a tightening of the body. So you must be intensely present to counter this tendency.
- Speak to the fear as if it were a person knocking at your door. Repeat this mantra out loud or mentally:
“I can feel your presence. Welcome.”
Once you open the door and let fear in, you must have the courage to surrender to its wisdom. Fear will only stay as long as it needs to. Accept that it is there to help and as uncomfortable as it may be:
Give fear space to be.
- Relax your body and feel yourself melting like candle wax under a flame. By relaxing into the fear, you are allowing. This is really just a continuation of the instruction in step one (welcome). Remember: your body will have the tendency to tighten up as fear courses through it. Intense presence is important so you can hold your awareness at a little bit of a distance from fear.
- Allowing is not the same as “giving in” to fear. For example, if you are afraid of heights (as I was) and you decide not to live in a high rise apartment building or you won’t go near the edge of a building, this is “giving in” to your fears. It means you are so identified with the emotion itself that you completely change your behavior in order to avoid the presence of fear in your body. But note that you do not actually address the pattern that underlies the fear itself. You probably don’t ever think of asking yourself:
“Why the heck am I afraid of heights in the first place?”
When you allow fear to exist within you, when you give it “space”, you are literally giving yourself space to see things from a broader perspective. You are allowing your consciousness the room to explore fear and what it is there to show you.
But here’s the bottom line on this: when you allow fear to stay as long as it wants, you’re basically just dropping the illusion that you have any choice in the matter! Ha!
Fear invades our bodies, whether we like it or not. And we all know on a deep level that ignoring or confronting it doesn’t really work in the long-term because all those strategies do is keep fear bottled up inside. So it’s really an illusion that we can magically get rid of fear whenever we feel like it, isn’t it?
In this step, I like to use the following mantra:
“I give you space to exist within as long as you need to.”
This is where you go beyond fear.
You must be so intensely present that you completely bypass fear itself and all the yucky physical symptoms that come with it.
Notice how different this is from avoidance or confrontation (the usual coping mechanisms for fear that I discussed above). In those two common strategies, I am so intensely focused on fear itself that I can’t get passed it. I can’t see what it is trying to show me and thus, I never actually get to the bottom of my subconscious beliefs or limiting patterns.
But in this step, we’re doing just that. If fear is really there to show you something, then go ahead and ask:
“What are you here to show me?”
Sit with that for a little while and then follow it up with the BINGO question:
“What was I thinking immediately before fear hit?”
This last question will take you deep into your subconscious mind. It will uncover the subconscious thought or pattern that was causing the fear in the first place.
To help you in this step, try to follow this simple practice:
Write down the answers to the two questions in a journal.
Journaling is so very helpful because it allows you to read those words back to yourself multiple times and see how they are not in accordance with your essence.
Let’s use my old fear of heights as an example. When I asked the BINGO question, I noticed that the underlying thought repeating itself in my head whenever I stood at the edge of a building was:
“You’re going to fall.”
That thought triggered the fear in a powerful way. But I kept going deeper and wrote more thoughts down as I went. Why was I so terrified of the possibility of falling off a building?
Because I was deeply afraid of dying. And the fear of death came from other thoughts and patterns that became so clear once I wrote them down.
The fear of death stemmed from my experiences growing up with a sick parent. I also started connecting this deep fear with my panic attacks. It all began to make sense once I started the practice of journaling.
In my experience, step 3 takes the longest to work through, especially if you have a lot of fears and toxic subconscious patterns.
But there’s no way around this. If you want to change all those limiting held beliefs and thoughts, you must do the introspective work that brings those patterns to conscious awareness.
I spent a lot of time meditating during this step and had my journal at my side. I would ask the questions and then just sit with them for as long as necessary. Once the answers poured in, I opened my eyes and wrote them down in my journal.
Once you ask the two important questions, you will see what fear is there to show you. And when you see, when you come face to face with the subconscious thought or pattern that fear was pointing to, two awesome things will happen:
- Fear disappears.
- The underlying subconscious thought associated with that fear is cleansed.
Now, here’s the most important part about “seeing” the pattern:
Observe it without judgment.
This means you can simply look at all the subconscious patterns that you wrote down in your journal and read them back to yourself, without adding another voice to them.
In my example of the fear of heights, I simply wrote down the subconscious thoughts and read them aloud multiple times. Observing without judgment means I didn’t add a thought like:
“I have a voice in my head that says I will fall. That’s dumb.”
If you judge your patterns (the “that’s dumb” is completely unnecessary), you are just adding a self-critical voice over your original one.
And self-criticism is itself a subconscious pattern that we can live much happier without.
I like to use the metaphor of “light” to illustrate what it means to “see without judgment”. If I walk into my house and a room is dark, all I have to do is flick the switch on to illuminate the room.
Light turns darkness into light. It’s that simple.
In this step, you can simply observe in silence or you can vocalize a mantra that I often use to symbolize “observation without judgment”:
“Hmm…that was interesting.”
I use this mantra to give me a mental cue that a subconscious pattern has been observed by my conscious mind.
That’s it. When you are able to see every single subconscious thought that is not in accordance with your beautiful essence, fear will become unnecessary. And it will leave you as quickly as it arrived.
Now, you may be asking:
“If I follow these steps and see all my subconscious patterns, can I one day become fearless? Can I reach a ‘fearless Nirvana’?”
My completely honest answer is:
And the reason I answer this way is because there are always different levels of subconscious patterns to cleanse and transmute in you. As soon as we release one toxic thought that is not in accordance with our essence, another one may pop up a month or a year later.
Evolution is a never-ending staircase and it makes sense that it be this way. If the universe is constantly evolving and expanding, then so too are we.
There is never a “finish line” for evolution.
But I can joyfully report that your life will change completely, even if you cleanse only ONE deep subconscious pattern. With each pattern that becomes illuminated, your energy ascends in frequency and you begin to live more closely aligned with your soul or essence.
We may never reach a point of “fearless Nirvana” but we can certainly live less fearful every day. And there will come a time when fear only visits you on rare occasions.
I’ve dropped so many patterns using these steps and with each one that goes, I feel lighter and lighter. I feel a deeper sense of freedom too.
It doesn’t matter how many more I have to see and transmute. I will let life show me.
And if I encounter fear tomorrow or the day after, I’ll just repeat the 4-step process and carry on.
If you learn to see fear as a blessing, it can help you expand your consciousness beyond your wildest dreams.