My Old Beautiful Friend Fear. My dear friend fear and I have had a long and intimate relationship. My darling friend knows me ever so well; deeply, darkly and lastingly to the point that there is probably no corner or nook of my mind, psyche or body that my friend has failed to penetrate, yet I am just beginning to be truly acquainted and accepting of my darling benefactor and companion; my acceptance and embrace of this confidant has begun to lovingly allow me to grow and flourish.
I sat on a train, my throat choked as I gripped and clenched so tightly under my lower jaw. I noticed momentarily, and that tinge of awareness made me question how long that sensation had been there. Truly I was not quite sure, but deeply I knew it was probably years and years, my whole life through. My eyes were misty, my heart heavy and constricted, why ain’t this shit easier? Why has it not all passed by now? Why does it flash on a move screen in front of my eyes in Crystal clear technicolour?
I know it is for my own good. I know it is healing and I know I must be ready or it wouldn’t have been there, but I don’t like it much at all. It was uncomfortable, it hurt, it frightened and challenged me, but at the same time it was familiar like an old ex-boyfriend who over stayed his welcome and ignored my entreaties to leave, pouring another drink and bedding down for the long haul. That familiarity is totally safe because I know it so damn well. We’ve been through a lot, we’ve got form, we have dueted (new word I like, it may not actually be a word) an intoxicating Argentine Tango so long I barely know who aggresses and retreats, who leads and chases in our compelling sway, but I am hypnotised and captivated by my need for identity; identity afforded me by our heady interplay.
In June I noticed something. I was in a constant state of fear, all day, every day. I was frightened of my phone ringing – who was going to be on the other end; were they were going to say something awful, I had concern about a multitude of things at work, what my boss would or wouldn’t say, were my girls alright, how were my parents doing, what was happening to my house??? (And on it went.) Constant, loud, intrusive, oppressive, ugly, debilitating, paralysing fearful thoughts. All. The. Time. How was this even possible? Why was it possible? I had been taking considered and conscious steps toward working through my stuff and dealing with where I was at in my life and I felt like I had made good progress because on a day to day basis I felt a million miles better than I had done before; my mind was less cluttered and fractured and more centred, clear and focused. I had perfect daily rituals that I adhered to in order to maintain and support the more directed work I was doing; rituals that made a discernible difference to my day if I had not performed them in the morning. A yoga practice that at times encompassed strength and physicality and at others was about stillness in mind and body. A meditation practice that brought with it many tears and waves of emotion, uncomfortable understandings and deep peace. A breath practice that created great succour to start my day in an open and accepting way and gave me a retreat from the tests and encounters that surfaced as the day progressed and self-reiki that gave me delicious pockets of self-love. Despite all the continual architectural construction on my solid foundations of healing there I was in a train on my way back from London, choked with and by my fear.
My fear had manifested as anxiety in mind and body and I had suffered from panic attacks between 2012 – 2015 which came on when I look back on it now because I was doing way too many things at once, I had insane amounts of responsibility with little or no support and I was thinking about what I had to do, didn’t do, should do 24/7. I had no idea what I was doing to myself then, how I was contributing to, reinforcing and exacerbating my situation by trying to think my way out of it. I was under the illusion that I could control my way out, even things I clearly had no control over, if I was able to control, think and be the thing and outcome that I wanted then it would all work out in that way. This is something that my dear friend fear has kindly and respectfully shown me not to be true, and for that I am grateful to my aide.
I remember so clearly the first time I had panic attack and realised that was what it was. I had a phone call that my dad was in hospital and I was in the middle of a very busy summer activity programme at the Kids Club that I had at the time, I was working on opening a yoga studio, and then a bolt out of the blue, my dad who despite his advancing years was always in good health and took care to maintain his wellbeing was now seriously ill in hospital. How on earth was I to juggle all these things along with my responsibilities to my children? My dad was not around the corner, it was a 2-hour trip there on a good day and I was doing crazy long hours. I remember gasping so desperately for air; I could just not get it in, I grasped for the kitchen counter and begged for air while at the same time squeezed my throat so tightly shut any air I tried to drink had very little hope of getting in. The more I pleaded for air, the less I took in and so it went on for 10 minutes. I was hot, and freaked out of my mind but I couldn’t stop it until I collapsed on the floor sweaty and exhausted from the effort and remembering that I had to be there for my children and get up to see my dad.
From that point onwards, my breathing generally would feel as though I had an anvil weight on my chest, I felt like I could just not get breath into me. The weight would not allow me to breathe properly, not enough air in, even if I tried to breathe big and deep, the weight would be there dictating to me what it would permit whether I liked it or not. It was a horrible feeling, but it did become a perversely familiar comfort, until I met with Transformational Breath®. Imagine that feeling of surviving on the tiniest bit of breath you can to just keep you alive, then being given a mainline pipeline injection to the centre of your core, all full and fresh and available – that was how and why the breath just GOT ME (and continues to)!
As with all healthful practices, despite what we may like to think when we have big revelations and tangible shifts which lead us to believe that we are ‘sorted’ (how many times have I succumbed to that? Innumerable!) the trick, the magic of the practice comes with the practice itself, the steadfast commitment to it day in day out; when we think of twelve hundred reasons and other things to be doing the real work and sustainable change comes with the unglamorous repetitive action. The by-products of this commitment can oftentimes be rather baffling too. Old patterns, thoughts and feelings that we thought we had ‘dealt’ with, that we were ‘over’ and had ‘let go of’ surface in a cruel and haunting fashion to throw us off kilter and test us all over again. We are shown old movies and listen to old tapes, a resurgence of bygone moments stale with suppression. They come as our teacher, they come as our friend, they come with precious lessons, understanding and wisdom to show and guide us through the maze of our life, feelings and thoughts – beacons lighting the way to shedding the old and allowing for growth and progression. It is with this edified understanding I have come to know embrace, own and love my fear.
I can actually physically feel the remnants of worry and fright from being chastised as a child, sometimes for specific things, but there is a general underlying sensory memory of being ‘told off’ or caught out for doing something wrong or naughty. Sometimes this was not for something naughty, but for things that were not appreciated or desired behaviours for children growing up in 19 long time, or because it was the wrong day, wrong time, wrong adult – whatever, the hangover remains. I have very real and marked images accompanied by audio and physical feelings for pivotal moments in my life, all heavily perfumed with eau de fear, imprinted very deeply. Now these remembering’s although influencing my behaviour were not that long ago locked away in the nadirs of my subconscious making me blissfully unaware of what was driving incomprehensible yet repeated behaviours – incarceration by stealth. It was through my repeated practice daily, small steps taken in the form of ritualistic healing and healthful practices that I started to peel back and uncover the mysterious foundations of my fear. I began to notice the subconscious vice that enveloped every aspect of my waking and sleeping life and how it drove, directed, motivated, propelled and projected me forward. Many of the positive life experiences and choices I have made have been steered by the fears I have had, my desire to achieve, learn, be and do more has been pushed and edged subtly onward by my perceived notion of the fear I would encounter were I not to engage in that way. It is true that I cannot solely credit my fears for all aspects of my life, but where it not such a formidable force enticing and spurring me on, would I have had the motivation to move and act as I have? I doubt this to be the case. I have unwittingly used the negative energy from fearful thoughts, feelings and experiences to push me toward positive better feeling places. My conscious choice to want to live differently and experience life from a more peaceful, relaxed stance has quite perversely ushered my fears to the surface again, but much more lucidly, clearly and this time to serve me in understanding so that I can lovingly and gratefully thank them for their insight and wisdom, apply their teachings and surrender them to the universe so I can be less restricted by their hold. Without the support of the knowledge of the importance of disconnecting from my thoughts more and comprehending that my thoughts aim to protect me, but use the most divisive means of doing so I may be stuck in that spiral. My evolution supports me with the best tools for not only unlocking, but for relinquishing post extraction of the elixir of knowledge the beautiful gifts bequeathed me by my handsome friend. Fear, I love and thank you and look forward to the day when I reminisce more than feel the warmth of our bond.
To all of us who are contending with fear in our lives in whatever form or cocktail, please take heed, there always has been and will continue to be a stunning sustenance in the significance we enjoy from this warning given to us, when we find the courage, support and humility to visit the messenger, our rewards will be immeasurable. I am not talking about feeling the fear and doing it anyway because although I have long been a proponent of this school of thought and right action, what I advocate here is learning to sit with, understand and delve into those fearful places. Examine them head on, smell, taste and touch them to allow you the chance, opportunity and dignity to be more whole, to know yourself more, to feel your feelings right the way through no matter how much that scares or terrifies you, because just the other side of that fear is freedom, emancipation so sweet, so delicate, whole and true that your friend fear will slowly, surely, over time become somebody that you used to know, not because you will never experience fear ever again, but because dear one, fear will never be able to meaningfully command you, because you have embraced and loved yourself enough to love him and all of his knowledge and wisdom for you.