Blog : mindfulness

Walking Towards What Scares Me

Walking Towards What Scares Me

Like many people, I’ve made a lot of mistakes in the love and relationship department.

Once, many years ago, I fell hard and fast for a man. He was smart, funny, handsome, creative, and attentive. And, the chemistry between us was so intense, it was like fireworks on top of fireworks. He wasn’t just good-looking, he was positively dreamy, and I thought he was way out of my league.

I thought I was in love. But deep down, I was holding back. I started to tell myself that the timing wasn’t right, that I wasn’t ready for a relationship. Or maybe it was him that wasn’t ready.  But the truth is that I was afraid. And not just afraid; I was terrified. I was scared that he didn’t like me as much as I liked him, and that made me feel even more vulnerable. I was sure I’d be emotionally devastated if things went wrong between us.

So I sabotaged things and ran from a relationship that could have become something special. I will never know, because I let my fear rule.

I remember recognizing myself in this line from Leonard Cohen’s hauntingly beautiful song, Hallelujah: “But all I’ve ever learned from love was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you.”

I beat myself up about running away from that relationship for longer than I care to admit. Because even though I felt like I’d glimpsed a possible future that was filled with all the things I’d wanted, I bailed anyway.

I still carried a lot of guilt from past relationship mistakes, so I didn’t feel worthy of the kind of love I craved. I wasn’t ready for it when it presented itself, because I had more work to do: more healing, more work on changing unhealthy patterns, and ultimately, learning to forgive myself.

I had chosen the most familiar path to me – the path of yearning and remorse – rather than the path of living fully. I chose it because it was safe, even if it was painful.

At a certain point, I realized that the story I had spun about past hurts, and the guilt I held so close, was keeping me stuck. Ultimately, I had to question whether that story was true. I had to confront myself and take as an objective, non-reactive look at the facts as I could – the good stuff and the not-so-pretty.

Was this scary? Extremely. The sense of frozen apprehension I felt at the thought of looking at my “mistakes” – or, more accurately, the distractions I had created – was nothing compared to what I felt when I finally took an honest and unflinching look at myself. That fear showed up as a knee-wobbling, stomach-churning feeling every time I took a step forward. Events that I now know were “opportunities for growth”. These included a time when I broke up with someone I loved, who loved me too, because we wanted different things. Another time when I saw clearly how my attitude towards money was intertwined with my relationship with my parents. A time when I confronted people I cared about who had lied to me. And times when I apologized, from the heart, to those I had hurt.

Ultimately, I chose to learn from my past. I didn’t want to sabotage any more relationships. I became mindful of my patterns of grasping and running, and paid close attention to how I felt when faced with something I was afraid to do.

How did I do it? I got good therapy. I practiced what I knew. I trusted the process. I forgave. I surrendered (some) control.

I came to recognize that the sensations I experience in my body when I feel fear – pounding heart, shallow breathing, impulse to flee – are the same ones I experience when I am presented with an opportunity for growth.

When these feelings come up, my first instinct – like most people – is to turn and run in the opposite direction. I did just that for years, and then I’d sit around wondering why my life never changed.

As time went on, I began to realize that I’d experience that fight-or-flight sensation every time I was about to do something I had been working really hard to bring to fruition. Or, when something I wanted to happen, like a new relationship, looked like it was finally going to come through.

Our brains have a negativity bias, and we’re hardwired toward pessimism. Our ancestors stayed alive because they not only ran from snakes, but also from sticks that looked like snakes. So our natural instinct is to run away from the things that scare us. But in modern life, many of our fears are based on nothing but instinct – not facts – and most of them never come to pass.

All that goes a long way to explain why, at the moment I’m on the threshold of something I really, really want, I feel that instinct to cut and run.

About six years after my ill-fated relationship, I had another chance at love. I was still scared, even though the circumstances were different and I felt more “ready”. But I had become self-aware enough to recognize my fear for what it was. And this time, I didn’t let it make the decision for me. I still felt it, but I realized that having this experience meant more to me than staying “safe.”

“I have to walk towards this,” I thought. And I did.

Was it hard? Absolutely. But it didn’t kill me or even wound me. In fact, the fear lessened as soon as I made the decision to move through it.

That man and I are still in a deeply committed partnership, and we have a beautiful daughter together. He teaches me, on an almost daily basis, what love really means. It isn’t always about fireworks (although those are nice, too). It’s more often about showing up, even when it’s hard.

Proving to myself that I could “feel the fear and do it anyway” is an experience I will never forget, and one that serves me to this day. Once I broke through the fear, I knew I didn’t have to let it rule any longer.

Growth opportunities continue to present themselves, as I dare to dream big dreams for my life and my business, and take one step after another – even though I can’t see all the way down the road. Do those feelings of terror still come up? Yes – every single time. But now I know that they signal a chance to engage with life on a more profound level. So I take a deep breath and keep walking, moving through my fear, instead of letting it stop me in my tracks.

This article originally appeared in Elephant Journal.

*If you enjoyed this article, you might like our upcoming Imagination Retreat, where you’ll take a deep dive into your own healing and imagination and enjoy just the right combination of activity, personal exploration, pampering, and beach time – all in an idyllic, naturally gorgeous oceanside setting.

 

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Dayna Wood, EdS, REAT

Dayna is the founder of Integrative Counsel, where she shows stressed out professionals how to reignite their creativity and spark new meaning and adventure in their lives through the power of brain science. Take the 7 Day Creative Brain Challenge to reclaim and recharge your creativity – in 10 minutes a day or less!

Stop spinning round and round

Stop spinning round and round

Living under old belief systems that keep us stuck can be automatic for us. Mindfulness practice and other tools that assist you in accessing the power of your whole-brain can help you identify these destructive thought patterns so you can move forward instead of just spinning in place. When we become aware of them and their cause we can shed light on these ineffective thoughts, release them and jump off the carousel. From there you can replace them with constructive systems and continue onto the path you are craving to be on.

Here are a few steps to help you:

1st Step:  Quiet and Gentle check-in with your thoughts

Sit in a quiet place GENTLY notice where your mind takes you.  Being gentle and non-judgmental is important because any judgmental “thoughts of your thoughts” is going to feed the hurtful cycle. I know that sometimes the thought of being alone with our thoughts is intimidating in itself but trust me that much power lies in this quiet practice. Journaling, sharing them with a friend, and/or joining a supportive mindfulness group are great ways to practice this awareness process.

2nd Step: Reality Check

It’s AMAZING how untrue our thoughts can be.  Whether it’s an ingrained message from our childhood OR an irrational belief we hold of ourselves, or both, it can be quite life changing to recognize what thoughts we play over and over that aren’t even true.  Again, a professional along with support can really help you become aware of and confront these destructive patterns in a safe and structured environment. Individual counseling and groups with a mindfulness focus give you time and space to do exactly that.

 3rd Step:  Soft and Immediate Replacement

Now that you know what thoughts you don’t need, you need something more to interrupt the cycle. The next time those heavy, destructive thoughts creep in, try replacing them with one of these “ARTS of DISTRACTION.”

Deep Breath.  A Song. Affirmation/Mantra/Grateful thought. Engaging Your Senses (Which are all the right brain tools you can find in the creative brain challenge.)

4th Step:  Continual Practice

Like everything in life, practice makes better.  When you think uplifting and constructive thoughts, you have more energy, feel better and your mind feels clearer, fresher, like the Spring air. That renewal will free you from the past and take you to the place you’re longing to move into. It doesn’t happen overnight, but I promise it will become more and more natural each time you practice it.

 

*If you enjoyed this article, you might like our upcoming Imagination Retreat, where you’ll take a deep dive into your own creativity and imagination and enjoy just the right combination of activity, personal exploration, pampering, and beach time – all in an idyllic, naturally gorgeous oceanside setting.

 

Jennifer Carey EdS, LMHC

Jennifer Carey Ed.S., LMHC

Jennifer has been teaching and counseling individuals and groups for over a decade. Her counseling background combined with certificate as a Reiki Master Practitioner provides a strong foundation in helping others learn, heal and grow through mindfulness practices.

 

Gas Tank Compassion

Gas Tank Compassion

As a therapist, I’m constantly asking people to practice compassionate curiosity about the places that scare them. I believe that people are inherently good and intelligent. That’s why I’m so interested in those moments where we find ourselves acting “out of character” or doing something that we know falls short of our values. Fortunately, I have frequent opportunities to observe and experiment with this in my own life.

Just the other day, I noticed a wild impatience rise up in me at the gas pump.

I was running late. My tank was near empty. I had somewhere important to be. Each of the ten pumps at the station was mysteriously operating at an impossibly slow rate. Initially, I blamed the station attendant, but he was engaging with such kindness, that it was hard to stay mad at him. I thought of the owner of this broken-down establishment and how he’s probably taking advantage of the people in this far- from-affluent part of town. I didn’t get much satisfaction from that either. I had neither a short supply nor a delay in the pumping out of rationales to fuel my anger. With a death grip on the handle, I counted in rage: one drop, pause, two drops, pause.

Then I remembered: in breath, pause, out breath, pause.

I conceded to do this simple (and probably useless) meditation one time before I would tear out of there to find a normal gas station. At the pause on top of the in breath I could not help but feel a fullness in my lungs. This led me to notice discomfort and tightness in the area beneath my ribcage called the celiac plexus. It’s the “pit in the stomach” feeling. There I was, reconnecting with my “brain in the gut” or enteric nervous system (which houses 100 million neurons and more than 90% of the body’s serotonin, among other big wig neurotransmitters.) The brain in my skull had been determined to ignore the fear in my gut brain, because I had to be somewhere important and do something important. I certainly did not have time to feel scared.

It was too late. I had to exhale and pause. On the exhale I felt a release of tension. In the pause I felt emptiness, and in that spaciousness, I felt fear. In the pure experience of fear, I had no need to avoid, eradicate or change anything. And, surprise, surprise, it did not consume or derail me. By feeling in this stripped-down kind of a way, self-compassion and loving-kindness naturally arose. I felt empathy for myself, and that’s when everything opened up.

I became aware of the woman beside me who was laughing and speaking powerful words of wisdom. I felt gratitude and gentleness arising in my heart and mind which made me much better prepared to do that important thing I had to do. Previously, I had been expending a great deal of mental and physical energy in not feeling fear. Whenever I deny or squelch a feeling, I’m also cutting off full access to my cognitive and interpersonal resources. When I acknowledge what is alive and present, even when it includes discomfort, I allow space for that inherent intelligence and resourcefulness to emerge. When the brain in our skulls works in harmony with the brain in our guts and we approach our pure experience with curiosity and compassion, we are smarter, fiercer and freer to shine.

* If you liked this article, you might like our upcoming retreats.

Photo by Geoff Livingston

Camille-Headshot-1

Camille Bianco MA, NCC

Camille Bianco MA, NCC earned her Master’s Degree in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology & Art Therapy from Naropa University. She began formal training in Art Therapy and Meditation in 2000 and continues to incorporate researched-based creative expression and mindfulness approaches into her professional consulting practices. Connect with Camille on Goolge+.

Mindfulness and Growth

Mindfulness and Growth

As a counselor and art therapist, I am honored to work with people who are seeking greater happiness, improved health and well-being and more fulfilling relationships and careers. I often describe my job in the following way: I help people cultivate the optimal conditions for growth and healing to occur. While the conditions are unique to the individual, one of the most powerful practices that I teach is mindful awareness of one’s thoughts, feelings and sensations.

Consider for a moment something you do habitually that you would like to change.

Have you been meaning to eat more whole foods? Perhaps you feel you deserve a loving relationship and want to stop dating people who mistreat you. Another common experience is to wish you can “let go” of anger or resentment you feel toward the person who wronged you. Despite your strong will and determination, you find yourself pulling into the donut shop, calling your ex, or seething at the mere thought of that person who brings out the worst in you.

Before we order that donut…

dial the number or vent to our friends about how awful that wrong-doer is, there is a very crucial moment. There is a moment of discomfort. Within this moment of discomfort resides great opportunity. The opportunity is to experience the arising and dissolving of that discomfort. When we bring our objective awareness to present moment experience, we notice that a feeling or sensation that seemed to have no end actually does have a life cycle, however brief it may be. It will likely arise again later that day or with the very next inhale. With regular practice of mindful awareness, it has been shown that those moments “in-between” increase in duration. We will notice anger or craving and then notice no anger and no craving. As such, the practice begins to poke holes in experiences that had felt solid and lasting. We begin to experience (not just in theory but in practice) spaciousness even in tight places.

By applying objective awareness to pure experience, we liberate ourselves…

even for just a micro-moment, of any punitive and shaming inner dialogues that, while well-intended, actually impede growth and change. Approaching even the least appealing aspects of our experience with an open-minded curiosity carves out a little space that wasn’t there previously. From this more spacious perspective, we can see new options and choose to act in ways that are more aligned with our values. People report feeling more calm, confident and competent in handling the inherent challenges of life. After nearly twenty years in the field of personal growth and development, I can say with confidence that mindful awareness is one of the most empowering tools that I both practice and teach.

* If you liked this article, you might like our upcoming retreats.

 

Camille-Headshot-1

Camille Bianco MA, NCC

Camille Bianco MA, NCC earned her Master’s Degree in Transpersonal Counseling Psychology & Art Therapy from Naropa University. She began formal training in Art Therapy and Meditation in 2000 and continues to incorporate researched-based creative expression and mindfulness approaches into her professional consulting practices. Connect with Camille on Goolge+.