I have been rather consumed by fear in the last couple days, lost to a damning combination of no sleep, excessive thoughts and responsibilities, and a habitual return to old patterns of paralysis and numbing. It's been a trip, to say the least.
Fear has always been a huge challenge for me, and has, sad to say, largely defined my life so far (or at least most of the time leading up to the last three years...)
As a child I was unable to function in pretty much every situation, immobilized by the fear of failing, the fear of succeeding, fear of death, fear of loss, fear of gain...it all stunned and incapacitated me. I wouldn't sleep alone for the fear of coyotes entering my house and eating my family. I was certain I had breast cancer at the age of eight, and used to lay on the bathroom floor sobbing, so upset at having to tell my parents that I was most certainly dying very soon. This continued into my teen years with deeper fears of self worth and meaning, culminating in a most beautiful breakdown at the age of 26.
I also had an overactive imagination, as you can likely see. Actually...had? Have. Still have. Very much so. It is the expression and vehicle of all the creative possibilities that are available to me, and yet also all the debilitating worries and fears I have experienced over the last 33 years. It is the bane of my emotional existence, and yet also the possibility for all my healing. It is my double-edged sword (as it is for all people).
I seek to work with my mind through the practice of meditation, and generally I am very good at this. I hone my attention to things that make me feel good and grateful; I intentionally place my mind on a sense of possibility and future potential, as much as I can in every moment. I have succeeded greatly in doing this and cultivating this sense of self-regulation, and yet I have, in the last six months, been challenged greatly once again.
For the past six months this is because I have been living in the future and the past (the only two places that fear can really survive), wary of past wounds appearing again, or of future times presenting the possibility of loss and regret. I have been consumed by my imagination in the hours when minds should lay still, eaten alive by the demons in my own mind, the grip of fear cascading down from the conditioned neurons up top into the sensitive cells of my stomach and liver, compromising my present health for future concerns in the most illogical manner. I have relinquished the only power I truly have--that which allows me to determine my own emotional and mental experience--in exchange for anxiety and victimhood, handing the reins to my old friend so that I might not have to really stand up and be an adult in the situation.
That is what I have been doing. That is what I am doing no more. Fear is not going to run this.
But how do we get past fear? How do we re-condition our minds and hearts to live presently, love honestly, create openly? When we have had so many, many years of restriction and doubt, how do we move into the space of clear personal truth and expression with integrity and kindness? How does fear leave us?
I was speaking to my teacher last night about this, and his thought was that I should go out and sit in the dark woods all alone until my fear leaves me. That I need to really allow myself to get totally fucked up about it, create a sense of insanity in myself in letting the fear really happen. His promise is that when you are really in that space you can see fear for what it is--a hollow spectre; form without substance or ground--and then let it go. This is the basic premise of the spirit quest, and something that I have contemplated doing for myself for many years. Perhaps it is time.
Whether that will happen right away I'm not sure (as I can't say I'm all too pleased about the thought of sitting in -20 and snow in the dark by myself), but I do know that I am changing my relationship to fear today, and instead of running away from it in whatever form it takes I am going to move closer, get intimate with it, and sit with it until it buggers right off. I am no victim, and it's a lovely day to really live that.