In part 1, we discussed how our fears can appear real and large simply because they haven’t been dealt with and that this avoidance holds us hostage to them. The mindfulness approach suggests actively engaging what we fear as a way to lessen its hold on us.
So how do we discover and engage the fears and anxiety in our lives?
We begin by slowing down or pausing. Then we allow ourselves to become aware of what is going on within ourselves. When we avoid the unknown side of ourselves, we end up skimming the surface of our lives. It is only by going deeper that we begin unraveling the fear around our hearts. And this is where and how we become “warriors,” as Pema Chodron calls those who choose to lean into the very thing that makes them uncomfortable and afraid.
Working with our fears:
Begin by following or concentrating on your breath for several minutes. Then starting at the top of your head, scan your body. Notice the places you feel tension and tight feelings. Pay attention to your heart rate, restlessness, breathing etc. as these indicate how anxious you are at the moment. Sit with these feelings.
“Sitting with the feelings” means — become aware of how the feelings are: how long they last, what they feel like in the body and emotions, and what they shift or change to. Notice also your resistance to sitting with the thing that makes you uneasy. If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the sensation or feeling. Don’t judge or comment on what is going on; simply observe.
The point of the exercise is to be with the feelings, and to learn our reaction to them. We’ll discover that the intensity of the feeling changes over time, and that we are able to bear more than we thought we could. Becoming knowledgeable about our anxiety creates a separation between us and the feelings, which lessens its hold on us. This practise makes us courageous. From this strong position, we are then more likely to listen to and follow the path in life that is uniquely ours.
You can do the step by step practice on deeply engaging fear (“Stepping into fear”) with Dr. Ron Siegel by downloading or listening to the audio guided meditation. Also check out Dr. Siegel’s “The mindfulness solution: Everyday practices for everyday problems.”
In Jack Kornfield’s, “Meditation for beginners” he does guided meditations to walk you through dealing with “difficult emotions” like fear, anger, etc.
And in Dr Susan Jeffers book “Feel the fear and Do it anyway” you will learn how to empower yourself to take the necessary steps to face your fears.