We have a little sign in our kitchen that my mom gave us. It says: "Do one thing every day that scares you." Our recently-literate daughter asked me about it the other day: "Mama I don't like being scared; why would I scare myself on purpose?" She has a valid point. At best, fear is an uncomfortable emotion. Most of us spend a great deal of energy avoiding, overcoming, conquering, quieting, and calming our fears; why would we intentionally pursue opportunities that activate them?
My response was to do a simple demonstration involving two pieces of rope that I learned from the group leader of an Outward Bound course I chaperoned when I was seven months pregnant with my current inquisitor (talk about doing something that scares you!). There's a great infographic that circles around every so often that illustrates the point perfectly (I've shared it previously a bunch of times too):
We should do things that scare us--and often--because it's where the magic happens. Facing fears is how we see fear for what it is (an emotion), release its grip on us, and recognize that our response is our choice. It's not about getting rid of the fear, but accepting it and making a conscious choice to act, or not. Because, of course, there are times when an inner alarm bell rings or we have a "gut feeling" that it's not a good idea to tandem paraglide with an unlicensed guide, that doing an inversion will do more harm than good today, that your blind date is a creep. Instinct keeps us alive and intuition guides us down the right path. But too often, we fall into the rut of habitually reacting out of fear and miss the growth opportunity that lies just beyond the boundaries of our comfort zone.
Following our chat, I resolved to do the thing that always makes my heart beat fast and my palms sweat: ask for help. If you've been following what I'm up to lately, you may have noticed that I'm organizing a Women's Yoga + Meditation Retreat with Prue Klausener. This event is truly a dream come true: the retreat center is idyllic, sharing sacred circles and self-care with women is my genius work, and all of it is happening in collaboration with a true soul sister who shares my passion and brings her own amazing treasure chest of talents. All this is to say that the stakes are high in terms of my personal and professional investment--I really want it to happen!
So I checked my ego and opened my heart and wrote some messages to women I have met over the years at workshops and events asking for their help in sharing our retreat with their yoga community and offering to share their work with ours. As I write it now, it doesn't sound like a big deal at all. At the moment I hit "send," it felt like a giant step into scary-town. All my insecurities and anxieties surfaced in my mind like scum on a pond. And then I remembered what I told my girl: remember, what scares you is also what expands you.
For the last week, I've been receiving super-supportive responses, and I've been able to share some of their work as well. I deepened friendships, and we even have a few more people interested in joining us. Magic. In the weeks ahead, I'll continue reaching out, although the butterflies in my belly have quieted. Because that's how it works with fear, once you face it and do it anyway, your comfort zone expands. And I'll even do it here: if you would like to offer your support by sharing our retreat with your people, let me know and I'll send you some flyers and a hand-crafted essential oil blend as a thank you.
This month, may we each commit to heeding the advice of my kitchen sign (thank you, Mom) and make facing fear a daily practice. Have the hard conversation. Say "no" to your boss. Say "yes" to an invitation. Look people in the eye. Practice arm balances. Talk to a stranger. Stay sober at a party. Speak up in a meeting. Dance wildly. Sing loudly. Eat cake for dinner, hell, eat it for breakfast! Resolve to step outside the confines of comfort and into the unknown, without expectation but with a great big heart full of hope and arms wide open to receive what awaits you on the other side of fear.