Tag Archives: fear

In case you didn’t already know

morning message

It’s just today, again, here for you to take in.

I like to feel good. Stress, typically, does not feel good. Sure, sometimes it’s exhilarating—the thrill of rushing toward a deadline, the zing of taking a risk. But I don’t need a lot to get my fill, and lately I’ve had too much.

The other night I did yoga at home, and that helped, for sure. I twisted and stretched and wrung out some lymph nodes, coaxed my immune system to stay strong. But I don’t always have make time for yoga. Sometimes it feels like there is barely time to breathe.

And that leaves me anxious and afraid. Because, as I’ve noted before in a quote attributed to Fritz Perls, “fear is excitement without the breath.”

I need my breath, because I want to be excited. My writing group is sharing excerpts of our novels-in-progress at a local bookshop tonight. Also, the first printing of Are You My Boyfriend? is officially underway. These things (and many more) are awesome. These things are scary, too.

And so I will breathe. And I will pass along a message.

Ever since my writing group got together in March 2012 and worked through The Artist’s Way, I’ve set aside time to write morning pages every day. The pages are mostly messy brain ramblings, but they’re also a form of meditation, and I often receive information from my version of god/the universe/whatever.

Today, I felt almost possessed—my hand did not belong to my stressed-out self, no, it was guided by something else, and the words on my page shifted from first-person thoughts to second-person assurances. It was a message not just for me, but for you, too, and so I am sharing:

“Just go with it, roll with it, show up and have fun. No expectations, no worries, just do your best…let go and trust, that’s what must happen, it’s the only way this works…I love you so much, I’ve got you and all the others and all of this, it’s fun, it’s supposed to be, breathe in and enjoy it, relax, allow, exist, it’s all right, you’re okay, it’s just today, again, here for you to take in.”

…Just in case you didn’t already know.

sunshine tree

Love is greater than terror.

sunshine tree

Love’s light can shine through anything. Growth is always possible.

“Terrorists are jerks.”

That’s the subject line of an email a very dear friend sent me last weekend. She went on to let me know that some terrorists had opened fire at a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, and that a very dear friend of hers was there when the gunfire began and was currently MIA.

The next night I found out that her friend, Ravi, did not survive the attacks. He’s dead now, just like more than sixty other people who were mercilessly gunned down for no good reason.

I’ve been focusing a lot lately on surrender, on letting go, on accepting a lack of control. And that’s great, it’s lovely, it’s wise and good and all of that.

But sometimes it seems like a load of crap. It’s hard to feel helpless in the face of inhumanity.

My first reaction when I learned of the attacks, and especially of Ravi’s death, was to lash out spiritually. I felt aggrieved and angry. How can god/the universe/whatever I believe in let this kind of stuff happen?

But then I remembered I already know the answer to that question. God/the universe/whatever has no choice BUT to let this kind of stuff happen, because energy is responsive and humans have free will.

So my next reaction was to lash out at the terrorists. How could anyone voluntarily commit such horrific acts of violence?

And then I remembered I already know the answer to that question too. Hurt people hurt people. If the attackers felt fully whole, if they were deeply connected to their inner okayness, if they truly loved themselves, they could not also be terrorists.

Terror, a stronger word for fear, is the utter absence of love. Where love flourishes, terror cannot.

It’s true I can’t control what happened at Westgate. Upsetting as it is, acts of violence, hatred, and terror occur all the time, and most of them I can’t stop. Nor can I prevent the pain and grief that follow.

But that doesn’t mean I’m helpless, because I can still choose love.

Every time I pick love over fear, I am shining light into terror’s darkness.  Love—that is what god/the universe/whatever is absolutely full of, and that is what we’re here to share.

Every single human on the planet has love to give. Some of us are taught to spread fear instead, and that’s why it’s so important that the rest of us show up for what’s good.

Change happens one person at a time, one heart at a time, one action, one vote, one choice at a time. By supporting my friends in mourning, by smiling at strangers, by asking for help and declining despair, I am choosing love.

My heart goes out to those who are grieving the loss of Ravi. I never got to meet him, but I know he was a person who chose love. I am so sorry that fear caused his death, and I am grateful for his light. May we all have the courage to shine.

Dance like the whole world is watching

Uniqlo 4th ave credi

All the world’s a stage. Including the Uniqlo store on 5th Ave.

“You need to work on your shyness.”

That’s what a middle-aged gentleman called out to my friend Laura Hames Franklin as she twirled down an aisle of Uniqlo’s 5th Avenue flagship store, playfully interacting with mannequins and brandishing packaged tank tops like pom-poms.

The man was joking, but as I hovered nearby, I took his observation to heart.

I don’t generally think of myself as shy, but when it comes to dancing in public…I’m shy. Which is precisely why I agreed to take part in Laura’s WeDanceDay film shoot. What better way to confront a fear of embarrassment than to intentionally embarrass myself?

Except I don’t actually want to be embarrassed, so I was struggling to muster up the energy that Laura so easily exhibited.

watching Laura

Watching Laura and trying to avoid embarrassment.

My comparing and despairing mind was quick to point out our differences: Laura’s a trained dancer, whereas I’m just a gal who agreed to bust a move on her lunch break. Laura has rhythm, I don’t. Laura has who-cares confidence, and I…

Do! I do have who-cares confidence! I even have a little rhythm. (I definitely do not have dance training.)

Sometimes I worry about what other people think of me. I try to control their perceptions by controlling my appearance. And it’s true that the way I look impacts the way I am perceived. But at the end of the day, there’s only so much I can control, and the thoughts of others are really none of my business. I’m confident in my authenticity, and beyond that, well, who cares?

Our bodies were made to move, and WeDanceDay is a great excuse to boogie down. I wanted to feel free and happy and to have fun; I wanted to show my fellow humans that it’s okay to be openly silly and joyful.

So that’s exactly what I did. As I watched Laura shake loose, I acknowledged my insecurity, gave it a hug, and decided to enjoy my experience. Not just to dance like no one was watching, but as if the whole world could see. Because I’ve got nothing to hide, and when I allow my full spirit to shine, embarrassment is impossible. (Awkwardness? Well, that’s another story.)

dancing anyway

Embracing embarrassment with who-cares confidence!

I am willing to feel great!

Scatter Joy

“With excitement comes possibility, the prospect of unprecedented joy I can generously scatter.”

“This too shall pass” is one of my favorite phrases, because I’ve found it to be very, very true. In good times and bad (and everything between), remembering impermanence helps me appreciate, or at least tolerate, the present.

But what if I could always feel okay? For that matter, what if I could always feel good? Or, dare I say it…great?

A YouTube video by Brian Johnson has me seriously considering the possibility. In the video, Brian neatly summarizes The Big Leap, a book by Gay Hendricks that, among other topics, addresses the issue of upper limits.

I learned about what Gay calls “upper limits” back when I read Conscious Loving several years ago, and I’ve been pushing past them ever since.

Basically, an upper limit is a glass ceiling of my own creation, a limiting belief that prevents progress. These limits keep me comfortable, but they also hold me back.

For a long time I was afraid to feel good. This sounds silly to me now, but it also makes sense: feeling good was unfamiliar, and I feared the unfamiliar.

Of course there’s nothing wrong with fear, it’s just not often helpful. But you know what is? Breathing. Love.

“Fear is excitement without the breath,” according to Fritz Perls (via Gay Hendricks via Brian Johnson). This may be my new favorite quote, as it resonates with truth straight to the core of my breath-loving belly.

When I breathe into my fear, it fades. And as I learn to let love’s light dissipate the darkness of fright, I learn to welcome the unfamiliar with open curiosity, even with excitement.

And with excitement comes possibility, the prospect of unprecedented joy I can generously scatter.

In the video, Brian recounts an anecdote from The Big Leap:

Apparently when steam-powered trains were a new thing in the nineteenth century, scientists and other thought leaders wanted to cap the maximum speed the trains would be allowed to travel. “They were convinced that human bodies would explode at speeds greater than thirty miles per hour,” Brian says. “How funny is that? Thankfully some brave souls went for it…”

Thankfully, indeed! Can you imagine if no one had breathed through their fears?

It might seem absurd to consider society stuck at 30 mph, but Brian says Gay thinks “we’re at essentially the same place in our own development, in terms of how much goodness we can sustain, how much bliss we can endure, how great we’re willing to feel.”

I’m excited to find out.

Bravely blossoming

The onset of NYC spring feels like the epitome of ambivalence. Day after day I wonder: heavy coat or light jacket, boots or flats, umbrella or not?

But it’s more than just my outerwear that fluctuates. My attitude seems unsure as well, a familiar toggle between safe and brave that feels accentuated by the chill in the air and the promise of new life.

“Go ahead and take a risk,” the buoyant breeze seems to say, even as rainclouds frown and suggest I stay inside.

The truth is I’m feeling overwhelmed with possibility and potential, and please note I’m not complaining. Rain or shine I trust in what’s to come; I just wish my circumstances were more certain.

And to some extent, of course they are: I am certain I am cared for, I am certain I am breathing. I am certain I am trying daily, and I’m certain of both failure and success.

On a recent visit to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, I learned a few things about plants. Most of the landscape was still brown, plenty of bare branches and empty bushes.

In early April, a lot of land still looks barren.

In early April, a lot of land still looks barren.

Those plants know it’s not yet safe to blossom—a cold snap could still come and kill, and so it’s wise to wait.

But occasionally I saw bursts of color that delighted me. I felt connected to these flowers, bravely blooming without guarantee of survival. They boldly risked the wrath of winter to show their true colors, and, it seemed, they paved the way for their fellows to follow.

blossom 1

Some plants are carelessly colorful!

That’s not how it really works, my friend frankly informed me. The flowering plants bloom sooner because they’re not native to the region; in their southern climates of origin it’s perfectly safe to open up so early.

In other words, they’re totally in danger, they just don’t know any better.

All right, so it was ignorance rather than boldness that caused the beauty I appreciated. And maybe it doesn’t make sense to personify plants—the facts definitely damage my metaphor—but the vision inspires me nonetheless.

Each day is different, and a cold snap could come, but I can blossom anyway. I can be bold, and choose brave over safe, just like love over fear, again and again, whenever I can.

And whatever the weather, I can wear my heart on my sleeve.

I’m so scared

Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone

I try so hard to be brave. My comfort zone feels like a distant home, a place I love to visit but where I no longer live. And a lot of the time that feels fine. I am excited about where I’m headed. I’m SO excited. But I’m also scared.

And not confessing the fear makes it worse, because then it turns into a shameful secret, and shame is self-hate, and self-hate is harmful.

So I want to talk about this, even though it’s (surprise!) frightening to be publicly vulnerable. It feels like because I am strong I’m not allowed to show weakness; because I have courage I shouldn’t flaunt fear.

But the fact is I’m afraid. And the more I illuminate that truth, the lighter I will become.

I’m afraid I can’t hold all the goodness I’m asking for. I’m afraid to write another book. I’m afraid to look for an agent. I’m afraid I don’t deserve the massive success I envision for myself. I’m afraid I’m a fraud, that my earnest attempts at authenticity are nothing more than ego.

I’m afraid to publish this post, that exposing insecurities is naive and unsavvy. I’m afraid you’ll pass judgment. I’m afraid I’ll be sorry.

And all of that’s okay. Each of my fears and ten million more are not only okay, they’re inescapable.

As a human, I am going to feel fear. A lot. Probably always.

But I also feel love.

Love is my trump card, my winning lotto ticket, my night-light, my soft blanket, my wide smile, my huge hug. Love is my hope, and my laughter, and my promise to keep trying.

Love is what I have to give, and fear is what I face to do so. Neither emotion will disappear, but what I focus on will flourish.

So today I choose love. Awareness gives me the option, honesty gives me the freedom, and with gratitude, I am not so scared.

More love, less fear

love greater than fear

It’s the first day of 2013, and I have had an extraordinarily fulfilling twenty-four hours. I can without hesitation say this is the best January 1 I’ve ever personally experienced.

The reason? Love.

I don’t mean love in the romantic sense–I didn’t kiss anyone at midnight and that was fine by me. I mean love in the universal energetic sense: Every action I have taken since the clock struck twelve has been motivated by caring and consideration, and the people I’ve shared time with have offered warmth and authenticity. The combination has created a deeply satisfying state of connectedness and well-being.

After a morning of self-care and cooking (hope you all ate your black-eyed peas!), I spent the afternoon at a birthday party that ended with a group meditation and gratitude circle. I appreciated the willingness of guests to go along with such a suggestion, and it was interesting to observe the contrast between the lively chatter that had dominated the day and the quiet of sitting with our breaths that followed.

And when the ringtone gong signaled the end of our silence, each guest had the opportunity to voice intentions for the year ahead. One by one, when the moment felt right, we told the group what we were grateful for, what we wanted to hold on to, and what we wanted to let go.

I said I was grateful for community, and that I wanted to let go of my willfulness–my desire to control situations and anticipate outcomes. I said I wanted to hold on to my boldness and to have the courage to share my true self with the world.

I like what I said, and I certainly meant it, but someone else’s words are sticking with me most: One of my friends simply stated that he wanted to let go of fear and to bring in more love.

More love, less fear. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.

In the “Religious Views” section of my Facebook profile, I assert “Love > Fear.” I’ve found it to be a succinct and reliable spiritual philosophy, and it was inspiring to hear that truth stated as intention today.

Fear is never going to make me feel better, while love always will. That’s one of many reasons I choose love as often as possible. I’m grateful to say I successfully did so today, and I’m glad I’ll get the chance to try again tomorrow.