Environmental activist and author Joanna Macy in the On being podcast this year said, “If we can be fearless, to be with our pain, it turns. It doesn’t stay static. It only doesn’t change if we refuse to look at it. But when we look at fear, we take it into our hands, just being with it and breathing ….then it turns. It turns to reveal it’s other face which is our love for the world, for humanity, for ourselves.” What we most cherish inside of us is what our fear can show us… when we are courageous enough to get closer to it.
I totally agree with Joanna Macy because I have found the other side of grief and pain in my life also. It is a powerful voyage and I want to share it with you. Joanna is the greatest teacher I have had when it comes to learning how to face and befriend difficult feelings because she models fearlessness. It can be tempting to run away from fear or to let it swallow us up. However, turning towards our fear and facing it directly is the key to healing from grief and trauma. By embodying fear and feeling it fully in our bodies, we can contain it and face it head-on.
You will encounter fear on every phase of the Midlife Voyage to Transformation. Fear can be the main block to our grief journey, making it difficult for us to move forward. However, there are ways to recognize and tame fear so that it becomes an ally rather than a block to our transformation.
Learning to recognize fear when it arises inside of us is the first step towards taming it. Taming Fear is all about feeling the sensations of fear as it shows up in your body, and learning to name it. This naming begins a relationship with this feeling. When you have befriended fear, it becomes an ally rather than a block to our transformation! I have a practice called ‘Working with Fear” that helps you learn how to breathe into fear and feel it simply as breath. And how to begin to build a relationship with it. Through this mindful connection, the fear is recognized as sensations that can move and shift very quickly as any emotion does in the body.
Fear is a powerful awakening force. When we notice and befriend our fear, we are opening the door to what is really behind the fear. My experience with my fear, which I write about in my memoir in Chapter 15 when I am on the top of Mt. Killimanjaro, is that the feelings behind my fear were magnificent and powerful. It wasn’t until I got to the top and my fear finally released, that I was able to feel these amazing feelings–feelings I had not felt so intensely ever before in my life. My fear had kept me imprisioned from my beautiful intense feelings for so long!
Fear manifests in two really powerful ways. There is the fear of the future (Pachad) that has been triggered from experiences of our past that were traumatic or difficult. Most of us experience this kind of fear and it usually keeps us stuck and blocked from our true potential. We feel this kind if fear mostly in our heads talking to us. It is trying to protect us from painful things that happened in the past. It lives in the past. But there is another fear (Yirah) that is awe-ful and mysterious and expanding. Yirah is a deep awareness of the excitement and power of the present moment and what it is offering you. Feeling this kind of fear in your body is the best way to feel Yirah. As you experience it watch how it manifests inside of you and how it shifts and changes. Ask, is this excitement and wonder, and light or is it heavy and stuck? If it is light and wonderful and powerful then know that it is a gift you must explore more deeply because it is from this moment of now. If it is heavy it is probably Pachad and needs to be released and moved over.
Leaning into your fear allows you to notice the quality of it and what it requires of you in that moment. Trust yourself to lean in and befriend your fear. It will lead you to what you are looking for — fear leads the way because it both protects us from the most important door we must pass through and guides us with energy and excitement.
Riding the waves of other big feelings can also be a valuable tool in getting through our grief journey. By learning how to ride these waves of pain and fear, we can move through our own complexity of grief feelings to the other side. What I mean by this is, that learning how to hold a container for whatever feelings need to arise mindfully, without being caught in fear so that we push some feelings away. That’s why learning how to work with fear first is essential.
At our fall grief retreat, you will have the opportunity to practice this tool and perfect it, with lots of support along the way. You will have the opportunity to explore your fear mindfully and learn how to befriend it so that other feelings can feel safe to arise and fall also. Those other painful or difficult feelings need to be felt and loved and befriended also, in order for your healing to occur. This is all part of the Grief Journey.
Join us at our fall grief retreat and learn valuable tools for life, including how to recognize and tame fear and how to ride the waves of big feelings. Together, we can create a healing container for grief and move forward with calm and balanced feelings once again.