While I was there, a children’s swimming lesson was going on. I noticed a little girl sitting with her father at the edge of the pool, looking terrified. She was watching the older children learning to swim and dive with uncertainty in her eyes. I could almost read her little mind – “there is no way I’m getting in; I won’t be able to survive; it’s too dangerous”.
Fear is a basic human instinct. The problem is, in our fight or flight response, inherited from generations upon generations of our ancestors, we do not rationalize in the moment what there is to realistically fear and what is not to fear. Yet our instinct for danger kicks in when we are about to do something that stretches us out of what is familiar, safe and comfortable. And this instinct often prevents us from doing something that could actually bring us tremendous joy, potential exhilaration and great fulfilment, if only we allowed ourselves to take the leap.
Back to the little girl. I had gone to the Steam Room, and when I returned, she was in the pool with her father and the swimming instructor, who had her on her tiny back, teaching her to float. Occasionally the instructor let go of the girl, and she floated for a minute before involuntarily floating back onto her front which made her go under water. She managed to get her head above water, but she didn’t look happy. The instructor stayed close, turning her once more onto her back, whilst the father stayed close, encouraging his daughter to keep going and acknowledging her for her efforts.
Within a short time, the little girl managed to float a full length of the pool on her own. At this point, she appeared like a little Zen monk, so peaceful was her floating. Her hands were facing upwards, as if praising some divine presence, her eyes focused, yet calm, her body was relaxed, allowing the water to hold her up and carry her forwards. Her father and I smiled at each other and my heart bubbled with pride.
Afterwards we had a chat. He told me that the week before, in her second lesson, she screamed and cried throughout, kicking and screaming to get out, struggling at every turn. And here she was tonight, looking like she was born to be in the water, totally at peace.
It got me thinking – when we’re about to do things we’re afraid of, we do kick and scream and struggle. It’s unfamiliar and therefore our minds tell us it’s unsafe, dangerous. We don’t like what we don’t know. We lose our faith and our trust. We’re afraid of what may happen, focusing on what could go wrong instead of what could go right. Often we turn our back on an opportunity to grow and experience untold gifts, because of our fear. Yet, if we were just willing to accept the fear, face the fear, feel the fear and still go forwards, we open ourselves to receive rewards beyond our imagination.
I love Guillaume Apollinaire’s quote and often think of it before I’m about to do something I fear:
“Come to the edge,” he said.
They said, “We are afraid.”
“Come to the edge,” he said.
He pushed them…and they flew.
Recently I have started doing Speaker Events on themes I write about in my Blog and my book. When I am doing them, it feels like the work I was born to do. I absolutely love it, on every level. I feel energized, joyful, and fully connected to a higher wisdom, as well as to myself and to the people in the room. I feel open and trusting of the process throughout. What a gift it is to help people; seeing their faces light up as the Talk progresses, watching them open and connect with themselves, with each other, with life. My heart is beyond grateful.
So you’d think I’d really look forward to the events right? Wrong! For a short time before the Talk, usually the day before, I go through such fear; my body literally aches with it. The panic is fed by my thoughts, such as, “no-one is going to turn up, they’ll laugh me out of the room, they’ll be bored, they’ll regret coming, I won’t make sense”, etc.
If I listened to these thoughts and took them seriously, there is no way I’d do these events. And if I didn’t do these events, I wouldn’t experience the gifts they offer, and neither would others. I’d deprive myself and others through acting on my fear, instead of accepting it, facing it, feeling it and going forwards despite it.
The dark place as Erica Jong refers to, needs to be gone through, not around, not under, not over, but through. Once we do that, we discover, of course, that nine times out of ten, it’s never as bad as we imagine, in fact it’s a whole lot better.
Remember the valour of the 2-year old girl in the pool? She struggled until she let go, literally. The path of letting go requires you to feel the fear. It won’t kill you; on the contrary, it will likely make you feel more alive!
Think about something you are currently afraid of doing. Are your fears based in reality or the product of your irrational mind? What would be the gifts on offer if you were to do what you fear? What would you achieve? How would you feel? Are these worth going through the fear for?
Have the Courage to Connect with your fear; go through it and it might lead you to a life of fulfilment. Our time is limited, so begin your journey in the direction of where you want to arrive. What have you got to lose?