A friend of mine asked a beautiful question the other day that I think many of us have asked ourselves before. He said (I am para-phrasing): “I have no problem being angry. Anger is a STRONG emotion. I can be present for that. But how do I stay present with fear and self-doubt? Those are such weak, wimpy, non-masculine emotions. Plus, when I stay with them, sometimes I end up unable to effectively run my business or be with my family.”
My friend is on the right track. We do not want to stuff fear and self-doubt down our mental toilet, only to have the piping back up. These emotions as a natural part of being alive–if we cut them off we distance ourselves from the brightness of life.
But feeling emotions is very different from letting them consume us (that is where my friend was running into trouble with his work and family). We need to open our hearts without getting lost in our experiences and confusing them for reality. So in a sense, we need to be really strong in order to be truly vulnerable.
So the deeper question is: How can we develop the strength to truly face fear and self-doubt?
I have two different practices that I would like to share with you. One is mine, and the other is from renowned vulnerability expert Brene Brown.
Me: Cultivate the Heart of a Warrior
To develop this strength, I consciously cultivate a relationship with my awareness/witness mind. This awareness is spacious, vibrant, and tender. As I walk to work in the parking lot, I connect with this awareness through my heart, body, and breath. As I brush my teeth. As I do my work. Definitely, when I meditate.
Then, when a big oh-shit wave of fear and self-doubt comes, I can watch it rise and fall with compassion, even curiosity. Because I know the emotion is not me, I can let the fear and doubt be as deep and wide as they want to be without getting sucked in. This is what Shambhala calls developing the heart of a spiritual warrior. A warrior heart is strong and open enough to face even the scariest fear.
Brene Brown: Release the Fears to God
Brene Brown is a well-known speaker who has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. (Agh-LOVE!) She just posted this beautiful post about her practice of “Turning Things Over.” When she has any fears (or even great hopes) come up, she writes them down on a piece of paper. I would encourage anyone doing this practice to take a few minutes to sit with that fear and feel it in your body. Then she puts them in a bowl or box that symbolizes turning over those fears to God. (The bowl in the picture was given to her by an admiring potter.) This is a concrete way to allow yourself to FEEL and ACKNOWLEDGE the fear, but then release it to a higher power. Again, a great way not to get sucked up in the Fear Trap my friend was worried about.
Brene’s practice might be especially great for specific problem-related “nagging” fears, while my Shambhala-based practice might be especially suited for pervasive self-doubt. I hope that they both serve you.
With love and light,