Tag Archives: intuition

Feeling the fear

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It’s been many years since I read the classic book by Susan Jeffers, ‘Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway’.  Over a decade.  But in all that time I have tried to remember to face my fears and so move life on rather than getting stuck in an all-too-comfortable rut.

Fear is a basic human emotion, one which underlies so many of our other feelings.  It is also a physiological response to dangers, which may be both very real and also can be imagined and magnified out of all proportion.  When we are presented with a very real danger, then our bodies initiate the ‘fight or flight’ response, conditioning us to deal with the danger by fighting or running away.  We experience familiar symptoms including sweaty palms, a pounding heart, accelerated breathing.  Our muscles get ready to take action. Our digestion slows down as blood and energy is diverted to our vital organs.  A very useful response if we actually need to run away or fight an enemy.  But if we are stuck in traffic and worried about being late, or worried about a situation which we cannot actually influence in any material way, then these same responses can be counterproductive, leading to all the many symptoms of fear in the chronic, persistent condition of stress.

So fear can be helpful, or unhelpful, depending on what is inducing the fear.  But fear never diminishes unless we face it head on, and really look at it.  We can then try to decide if the fear is helpful, if it’s rational and serves a purpose.  Or if our minds have blown the actual danger out of all proportion.

There is a story Pema Chodron tells in “When Things Fall Apart” about a man whose meditation teacher sent him to meditate overnight in a tiny hut.  He thought he saw a venomous snake in the hut with him, and once his candles had burnt out he spent the night in terror. He – and we – will never know whether the snake was real or imaginary. All we know is that it was not there when the dawn came.  When the cave was illuminated, and the man saw there was no snake, the fear was gone. But the night he had spent had given him a much deeper knowledge of himself.

We may like to run away from our fears, and pretend we are brave whilst staying firmly in our comfort zone.  We can cement our aversions around ourselves like a fortress against having to really look at those fears.  We can prevent ourselves ever having to experience the sensations of fear.

Or we can try to stretch ourselves, to knock down the fortress of our fears, and face our challenges head on.  We might be terrified the first time we do something, but we may come to know ourselves more truly by ‘doing it anyway’.  We may discover qualities and gifts we would never have known we had, and grow into more rounded individuals. As Pema Chodron writes in “The Places That Scare You”:

Openness doesn’t come from resisting our fears but from getting to know them well”

Of course, fear can also be a healthy response to real dangers. It may be sensible not to do something which is well beyond our current capabilities, but to  learn more slowly.  We all have our intuition which can help us if we tune into it.   We can spend a lifetime discovering the difference between the fears that protect us, and those that hold us back.  And then we can keep pushing our boundaries just a little bit each day, so that we can look back at our lives and see just how far we have come.

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A sense of wonder

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Last week I saw a rainbow forming  a perfect arc in the sky.  As I watched it fade, I thought of Blake’s poem which expresses so beautifully the sense of wonder a rainbow inspires in us:

My heart leaps up when I behold 

A rainbow in the sky:

So was it when my life began;

So is it now I am a man;

So be it when I shall grow old,

Or let me die!

The child is Father of the man,

And I could wish my days to be

Bound each to each by natural piety. 

~ William Blake

Every time I see a rainbow, I experience this same lifting of the spirits that Blake describes;  a joy and wonder at the beauty of this earth we live in.  We could explain the rainbow scientifically, as so much else in this modern age, but I don’t believe that scientific understanding diminishes the beauty or the splendour of the natural world.  However logically we explain the phenomena of rainbows, clouds, sound, or tides, they remain a marvel, in the true sense of the word.

I recently wrote a post describing the wonder that our children show for the world around them, and how we can learn from them as adults.  This is what Blake touches on here, as he asks that he may never lose his sense of wonder, even as an old man – ‘Or let me die!’.  Let us try to maintain – and even grow – our fascination for the natural world.  Let us find the time to pause and truly notice our surroundings.  Once, when I was attending an intensive training week for a new therapy team,  we all rushed in at the start of the day, except one wonderful therapist, who took just a moment, just one small moment, to stop and breathe in the scent of a flowering shrub by the entrance.  To be fully present in the moment before embarking on another day of lectures and discussion. To notice something which the rest of us had missed in our rush.  So I ask, as Blake did, that I never forget to notice the splendour of our world in the rush of daily life.  That I may pause to take a conscious breath, and to wonder at the little things that make such a difference to our lives.

The rainbow also reminded me of a talk I attended many years ago, when I had recently embarked on my career as a therapist.  The talk was given by an author, Brenda Davies, about her book ‘The Rainbow Journey’, a book about the seven main chakras.  As a new therapist, and having not at that time embarked on my yoga training, my understanding and experience of the chakras at that time was sketchy, and so the talk was utterly fascinating.  Since that time, I have studied the chakras through further reading, and by experiencing ways of working with their energy, both on a personal level and through my yoga and therapy work with clients.  I have written assignments on them and have embarked on a book of my own.  The wonder and fascination of the chakras, our own inner rainbow, will never leave me, and I hope to write more about them in future posts. With every training I have taken over the years, in yoga, in reflexology and in Jin Shin Jyutsu, I have experienced the same excitement and wonder that shows me I am on the right path.  I hope to always listen to that intuition, and to never stop wondering about the world.