When I was a kid Halloween was so scary!! But also exciting? Isn’t that funny? Being scared can actually be a little fun? Like a roller coaster (a real one, not the proverbial one we are suffering through right now).
As an adult, I take fear very seriously. There is a lot of fear driving us right now and for good reason. Fear has the important job of trying to keep us safe.
When I was training to be a yoga teacher, my yoga instructor did a whole session on teaching from a place of love versus a place of fear. I get it. This lesson was supposed to parallel our lives. We should respond with love over fear so that we respond compassionately with others. As I propelled along my yoga journey though, I began to question the simplicity of it.
Our society often creates these dichotomies, these either/or propositions, when really things are much more intricate than that. For instance my gut fear as a woman has kept me safe. My real fear of failure has pushed me to achieve. My fear of phishing keeps me from clicking that email. And yes, my fear of death is what keeps me vigilant during this pandemic. In those circumstances, I begin to see fear not as the enemy but as a friend. We need fear AND we need to make decisions from our heart. Not decisions that come from being bulldozed by fear but we do need to listen to what messages fear has for us. If we ONLY follow fear, we exist in a reactive place in which we end up steamrolling our way through life. Fear however, does play an important role in our existence.
If this time of year teaches us anything, it’s that fear doesn’t have to control us. That fear can be assessed, helpful and maybe even fun! We have the power to play with fear. Isn't that what Halloween is all about?
In this moment in your life what scares you? Take a few minutes and write your most pressing fears down. It sounds like a depressing task but we cannot just make fear go away. As much as we would love to hurl our fear into the abyss, it doesn't work that way.
Elizabeth Gilbert explains it well in her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear.
“Dearest Fear: Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously. Apparently your job is to induce complete panic whenever I’m about to do anything interesting—and, may I say, you are superb at your job….. There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making any decisions along the way…. You’re not allowed to touch the road maps; you’re not allowed to suggest detours; you’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive.”
So, this Halloween, I encourage you to meet your fears. Push them into the backseat (not out the window!) and drive towards your greatest self carrying fear right along with you.
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