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The Value of Fear And Why It Can Be A Good Thing

Anxiety | Health

One of my dear friends visited me this week impassioned. He has recently moved to NYC with the hopes of becoming an actor. A far cry from his current career, I have never seen him so excited. And yet, I couldn’t help asking: “Aren’t you scared?”

His answer: “Of course. But, I do it anyway.”

The Conjoined Twins

Now, many of us have heard this before: acknowledge your fear but don’t do what it says. However, in practice, we do the opposite. We coddle our fears. We avoid them. We settle. Then, somehow we wonder why we feel unfulfilled.

One of my favorite writers, Elizabeth Gilbert, speaks about how creativity and fear are “conjoined twins”; they cannot exist alone. This means that if we want to dive headfirst into creation and expansion, it’s going to be scary. Terrifying, even. And, we have to allow the fear to join us.

Like an annoying younger sibling, you work with your fear by not poking it and by not doing what it wants. (Yes, your mother was right.) Then, eventually the fear gets bored. It doesn’t go away. It just stops pulling on your shirt.

Remember, the goal is not to kill fear; we just want to give fear the room to wear itself out.

What Fear Actually Signifies

In my experience, fear means you are on to something. Pema Chodron calls fear a “reaction to moving closer to the truth.” As yoga students, this is part of our job. We must get intimate with ourselves. Think about it.

Next time you are on your mat, notice your ‘scary’ pose. It might be the shape during which you go get water. It might be the moment when you start to plan dinner in your head. This type of avoidance is actually a strategy that lets fear win! Now next time, when you come to that pose, engage.

You don’t have to force or fight (in fact, don’t do that!), just notice what is actually coming up for you. It might be a judgment about your body. It might be a feeling of confusion. Take a few breaths to allow the fear mechanisms to stop whirling and notice what’s underneath. This is where creation happens. This is where you find nuggets about yourself.

You can take this practice of witnessing fear everywhere. When you start to strategize away from experience, tell Fear: “I hear you wanting me to run but I’m on to something. Thank you for reminding me of how much I care about this.” Remember, you don’t have to let fear drive the car anymore.

By recognizing that fear is part of the experience of moving forward, fear can slide into the back seat and you take that journey you’ve been wishing to!

Featured in New York Magazine, The Guardian, and The Washington Post
Featured in the Huffington Post, USA Today, and VOGUE

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