Imagine walking in utter darkness, blindfolded, guided only by your senses. Your heart is pounding, your palms are sweating and you are terrified. But your intuition tells you to keep walking, to put one foot in front of the other. Your entire body is clenched, but you know you have to let go. You finally reach “the moment” and your whole body exhales. The anxiety melts off your skin and oxygen finally reaches your brain. You have conquered your fear. The journey was the challenge; the actual moment was the triumph.
When was the last time you agreed to face your fears?
Everyone has fears. Some are terrified of adventure or heights. Others are scared of failure or success. But many are fearful of change, truth and, most of all, losing control. Fear begins in the mind. We create a story, and our body and brain respond. If we tell ourselves that we are unsafe and life is scary, our situation will evolve accordingly. But if we tell ourselves that overcoming fear can lead to intense happiness, we will take more risks. The challenge is to control the mind.
I recently went on a yoga retreat to Costa Rica with many fears. One of my more “rational” fears was zip-lining. The idea of being that high up and not feeling secure seemed like an unnecessary risk. Even though I had been adamant about not zip-lining, I surprised myself when I realized there was a part of me that was slightly curious. Something kept telling me to keep an open mind. Then one of the staff members at the retreat center decided to get to the root of my fears. She asked if I was afraid of heights. The answer was no. She asked if I could remember a time when I was afraid and how I handled it. This made me dig a little deeper. I wasn’t afraid of heights. I was afraid of feeling out of control. What would I do if I had to actually let go? It was time to find out.
Just as in life, the climb was the real experience. The ride in a flatbed truck up the unpaved mountainous roads was not the highlight of my experience. It did very little to quell my nerves, but it was symbolic. The journey isn’t always smooth, but it is in those moments that you recognize your strength. I couldn’t jump out. I just had to let go and trust.
When I arrived at the first zip-line I was met with a sense of calm. I had already committed to the adventure and knew that I was there for a reason. My goal was to be more present, and I longed to feel free. As I lunged off the cliff and through the air, I felt a sense of pure exhilaration. I didn’t just zip line once — I did it 13 times!
We can choose to let fear be a noose around our neck, holding our breath through life. We can choose to hold onto what we believe we can control, saying no to experiences that may seem risky. We can choose to walk on even ground, hoping that life will be a steady stream of simple experiences. We can choose to be satisfied, but less than passionate. Or we can choose to cut the cord, drop the safety net and truly live. Life isn’t about controlling our surroundings. It’s about controlling our mind, and believing that we are safe and life is a set of risks worth taking.
What fears are you avoiding? When will you start living?
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