The past week or so I have been thinking a lot about fear and how fear has played a major role not only in my own life but also around the world. I have been thinking about how when we are operating under fear, we limit ourselves and others, our dreams feel impossible, and the fullness of the Universe seems to narrow in so we feel closed off to the truths that lay right beneath the surface of reality. When we are living in fear, other people are always to blame, always out to get us, and people's choices that do not align with our own automatically seem wrong and invalid. A Course in Miracles offers that as we are moving through life if we are not living in love, then we are living in fear. This metaphysical text describes how love and fear drive the many decisions we make, including our reactions to life events, the career paths we head down, the relationships we choose, what we think we are capable of, the ways in which we put ourselves out into the world, how we perceive reality, how we perceive others, how we treat those who are different than us, and our willingness to hear and trust in Universal guidance.
This dichotomy can not only be challenging to recognize but even more to accept. It may seem that by dividing all of human emotion into two emotions we are not taking into account the vastness of human feeling and all the truths of one person's lived experience. Though from my perspective when we are calling out the fear that resides beneath the outward projected emotion, we are not only recognizing the projected emotion for what it feels like, we are also diving deeper into the root of the emotion to really determine where it is coming from. The root of the emotion is never really anger, frustration, sadness, or pain, these are simply symptoms of something underlying, something embedded much deeper that must be felt and transmuted in order to experience liberation from it.
Whenever we are experiencing any unwanted emotion we first have to become aware of the emotion in our body. We have to meet ourselves where we are and become something of an observer to what it is that we are experiencing. When we are aware of our emotions and aware of how our body is responding to a situation, then we can begin investigating what the emotion is trying to tell us. If we can dig beneath the surface of these emotions, beneath the stories of who made us angry, sad, or upset; beneath the stories of who hurt us; beneath the blame we are placing on ourselves or others, and curiously question where the emotions are coming from we can begin to find the truth of what is really causing our suffering. We can become a witness to the stories we have been telling ourselves, the beliefs that we have been holding, and how we have been separating ourselves from the abundance of love that the Universe has and always holds for us.
To share a story from my own experience, when I was working on my Ph.D. program, I often found myself in a state of frustration, anxiety, or anger about my program. I was living in a constant state of stress and always wanted to blame my feelings and suffering on something or someone else. It was the professor's fault for assigning more work than one human could do in a given week, it was the entire establishment for silencing me, not understanding me, and not seeing me, it was the structure of academia forcing me to be someone I was not and behave in a way that was not authentic to who I really was. These limited stories ran through my mind daily and I found myself perpetuating my own suffering simply from the thoughts I was thinking. It was when I finally decided that I had enough of the drama, enough of my own sorrow, enough suffering that things began to change. When I really began to meet myself where I was, work with my thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and make time to sit in the stillness I uncovered that all of these limiting beliefs and stories I had been telling myself were merely a projection of the fears I was feeling inside. When I went deeper into myself I found that my anxiety from the amount of work that I was being asked to do came from my fear of not being able to sustain my home life outside of the degree. My frustrations of being silenced came from my own fears of not being heard and not having anything valuable to say. My feelings of being denied the right to be my authentic self and having to behave a certain way to fit in came from my own fear that I was denying my soul and going to live my entire life floating on the tail of someone else's dream. When I really got down to the root of the problem I found that all of these stories and limiting beliefs stemmed from my fears of not living up to my fullest potential and missing the opportunity to help the people in this world I came here to help. On the surface I was angry, frustrated, sad, anxious, and stressed but beneath all of this, I was simply afraid of leaving school, leaving what had been my life for the last 11 years, and embracing the dream and vision for the future I had in my heart. When I was living in these fear-based stories I was automatically cutting myself off from all the love I feel for others and the love I came to this world to share. When I was giving in to these limiting beliefs, I was making it impossible for me to bring any change to the world as I was vibrating at the energy of fear and forgetting about my ability to love. When I got really honest with myself, embraced the emotions, embraced the fear, and made the decision to shift my perspective to one of love, my whole world began to change. I am now halfway through my leave of absence from school and becoming more clear every day on where that is going (though that is reserved for a much later story). I am now building my business and finding time to embrace divine inspiration, listening to the nudges of what is being asked of me to create. Of course, the new adventure I am on and perceived shift in direction is bringing up its own set of emotions that are once again inviting me into the fears and limiting beliefs that are beneath the surface. I am learning to become comfortable with my discomfort, feel the fear and take the leap of faith into love anyway. While fear is uncomfortable it can also be quite beautiful, this is because our fear shows us what it is that we want, by very clearly showing us what we do not want.
So how do we recognize what fears are beneath the surface and reconnect with love? The first step is awareness, which asks us to meet ourselves where we are and be an observer of what we are feeling and the thoughts we are thinking. If we are not aware of what we are feeling and aware of our reactions then we cannot make any changes. Once we are aware of what we are feeling, aware of what is going on around us, and the emotions we are experiencing, we can begin looking deeper and curiously investigating what thoughts and beliefs these emotions are distracting us from. Making time in our schedule for meditation or a stillness practice is a wonderful way to get to know our true Self and to unearth many of the beliefs that live beneath the surface of our everyday lives. Though being aware does not automatically mean that we are no longer angry, frustrated, sad, upset, or giving in to our fear, but it does let us know where we are so we can begin making the conscious shift back to love.
Once we are aware of the emotions and even the fear beneath how do we shift into a state of love? Below I have listed four practices that have greatly helped me to make this shift and I hope that you will find some comfort in them too.
Connecting with Gratitude. There is always something to be grateful for. Always. Even on days when it feels like we have nothing, when we are down to our last dime and our world is crumbling down around us, there is still something to be grateful for. Maybe we can find gratitude in the shoes on our feet, or the earth beneath us where we sleep. Maybe we can be grateful for the water that we drink, or the smile from the stranger on the street. Maybe we can find gratitude for our families and friends, and those who have helped us in times of need. There are so many things to be grateful for, we just simply need to take the time time to feel into this gratitude.
Once you have the memories, people, experiences, and things that you are grateful for, attempt to truly tune into the feeling of gratitude. What does gratitude feel like to you? Where does the feeling of gratitude reside in your body? Make the sincere attempt to connect with the feeling of gratitude, while breathing into this feeling, allow it to move throughout your entire body.
Make a list of at least 10 things that you are grateful for. As you move through each of the items on your list reconnect with the feeling of gratitude in your body and see if you can radiate this feeling throughout your entire being.
Acts of Service. Shifting our perspective from all the things that we feel are going wrong, to one of "How can I help? How can I be of service?" can help to shift our entire emotional state. When we are able to be of service to others, we are not only able to positively influence or impact someone else life, but we are also able to reconnect with the feeling of love that service has to offer. Service comes in many forms and no act of service is too small.
Some examples of how you can be of service are, picking up trash, helping a neighbor with yard work or another task, volunteering for a local organization, writing a letter of gratitude to someone you care about, phoning a friend who you know has been having a hard time, or simply phoning a friend or loved one to tell them you love them.
Deep Breathing & Heart Focused Breathing. When we breathe deeply into our body and invite our attention to the sacred space of our heart this helps to calm our autonomic nervous system, slow our heart rate, and send signals to our body that we are safe. Many ancient texts, reference the heart as the location in which our Soul (the Self) resides. When we can slow down, fuel our body with our breath, and feel into our hearts this takes us away from the noise of our minds and helps us to reconnect with our Spirit. More modern-day science is verifying the importance of heart-centered breathing in bringing our heart into coherence and our body back to balance. You can learn more about Hear-Centered Breathing and its benefits by taking advantage of HeartMath's free course, The HeartMath Experience.
Deep breathing does not often come naturally and requires a decision to do so. To invite your body to breathe a little deeper, simply first begin to observe your breath, is it shallow? It is moving quickly? once you are aware, begin consciously deepening your breath. You can do this by counting your inhales and exhales to the count of 5 (I like to count to 8) and pausing for 2 (or more) seconds between each breath. Ex. Breathe in.... 1, 2, 3, 4, 5... Pause... 1, 2,... Breathe out... 1, 2, 3, 4, 5... Pause... 1, 2.
Breathe deep into your heart, following a similar pattern as before, but now with a specific focus on your heart center. You can imagine that the air is flowing directly in and out of your heart center, or place a hand on your heart for increased awareness.
Practicing Presence. Often when we are experiencing unwanted emotions and fears about what is in front or behind of us, it is a signal that we are living each moment in our minds instead of being present in the Now moment. Many times after a painful or stressful event occurs, we can relive that event in our head for days, weeks, months, even years after it has happened. Every time we relive the event in our mind our body actually believes that we are going through the event again and we are continuously flooded with unwanted emotions. Shifting our attention to the present moment allows us to become more aware of what is actually going on around us and take us out of our fear-based stories. When we are rooted in the present moment, we are able to reconnect with the abundance and energy of love that is universally and immediately available to us.
To reconnect with the present moment, begin by becoming aware of your breath. Our breath only ever happens in the now moment and can be a beautiful anchor back to presence. Once you are breathing, begin feeling into your body and gently observing your fingers, hands, arms, and other parts of your body, continuing to move your focus of awareness, observe your surrounding in the space in which you are in. Without attaching any labels to anything gently observe what is around you, moving from one object to another, breathing deep, allowing yourself to become rooted and grounded in the present moment. As thoughts come in, simply observe them like clouds in the sky and return your focus to what is in front of you.
Okay friend, that is all for today. I would love to hear if any of these practices resonated with you or if you have any other practices that you use to shift back to love. If so, I invite you to leave a comment below.
I also invite you to click here to check out my most recent very RAW YouTube video where I discuss the call to choose love over fear. Making this video required me to embrace my own fears and discomforts and show up vulnerably to share my authentic self with you.
Well dear soul, until we meet again, I'll see you in the quantum field.
Peace, Love, and Blessings.