Recently, I have had the opportunity to confront some fears. I have used these experiences to reflect on how I learned to conquer the thoughts and sensations that typically accompany my insecurity. Here are some thoughts and the steps I took to powerfully respond!
The mind filled with perilous thoughts, heart racing seemingly out of control, sweaty palms and an awkwardly shallow breath, this is what I often felt when faced with a task I wasn’t truly sure I could do. The insecurity was not always the reality, instead it was the creation in my mind. For some, experiencing these symptoms is a game-ender, the only choice is to walk away. Others find a way to move beyond the limits of fear, courageously facing possibility, this is my story.
Listening to stories of people overcoming fear inspired me that there was hope, but often I was left wondering what their secret was? What was the magic bullet that would allow me to step beyond the limitations of fear? Blocking out fear didn’t work, in fact it magnified my fear making it more scary, more crippling. I experimented with many techniques to break free from fear’s stranglehold, nothing was reliable until I learned to refocus.
Allowing the fear to be a part of my experience was the first step. Refocusing my attention beyond the fear to the internal sensations of movement was the key that changed everything. This simple step put me fully in the moment, able to think beyond the irrational thoughts that often had the power to derail an adventure, a performance. This may seem a unusual response to fear, allowing it to be part of the experience, but it works for me.
My process unfolds like this…
- Acknowledge the fear, allow it to be part of the moment. Notice the shaking, the thoughts, any sensations that accomany it.
- Refocus, go internal find the sensations of movement by awakening the powerful kinesthetic sense available at joints and in muscles. How am I moving? Are there places I am not moving? Release, move!
- Become aware of the movement of the ribs, responsible for moving the breath in and out of the lungs. As I pay attention to the breath, I also notice the fear, but it is blurry, less powerful.
- Expand awareness to include the bottom of the feet. Feel both feet connected to the floor equally. This connection is empowering, sending energizing support up through the body.
- Add knees into awareness. Are they locked, balanced or bent? Release into balance, allowing the upper leg bone to be poised directly above the lower leg bone.
- Next, broaden the visual field to include the peripheral space, notice the ceiling floor, colors and textures of the space. Enjoy that security that comes from being fully in the space.
- Feel the textures of the clothing I am wearing, softness, scratchy, tight, loose whatever my outfit is today.
- As this all unfolds, I notice that that I can feel rib movement, contact with the floor, my knees, clothing and the fear is diminishing. WOW!
I continue this broadening of my awareness to include hip joints, ambient noises, anything that brings me into the present moment. This gentle expansion of my awareness allows the fear to reside in my experience usurping it of it’s debilitating power, empowering me with the strength I need to move ahead, to step into a new realm of possibility. As the process unfolds, my heart rate slows, breathing becomes fuller, and the sweat on my palms is no longer distracting. I am ready to perform.
Learning this process at the trapeze rig was a powerful lesson, teaching me important skills for facing fear in any area of life. In my first two trapeze classes, as I contemplated walking up the ladder to the board (24 feet up), I was practically paralyzed by a fear of heights, I was ready to walk away. Luckily I didn’t because in the third class a magical transformation happened as my fear became exhilaration, and I found a place that I could learn to move, experience time, as I showed myself I was capable of more than I imagined. This experience continually empowers my playing, my teaching, and my being. No longer do I have to be limited by fear, and neither do you. Choose to face fear by refocusing to strength on the inside!