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Entries in fear (10)

Friday
Apr042014

Getting Better at Feeling (rather than feeling better)

I have been angry and resentful for years.

I have called those feelings all sorts of other names in that time in order to hide their origins or make them prettier, more acceptable. Yet, regardless of the labels I have used and the ways I have justified my emotions, the feelings are 'angry' and 'resentful'.  

The shock I wrote about recently has helped me towards this place of learning. Owning my feels - including my immense shame - will hopefully help me towards letting go.

That makes letting go sound like a goal. 

In a way it is - because the holding on is now too painful and is no longer a place I want to be. Seeking to let go, be it a place, a relationship, a feeling, a thought, a behaviour; is really about moving from one "place" to another. In doing so, a movement or shift occurs, and change happens.

In another way, owning my feelings is the goal and letting go is an attractive by-product of it. Owning and naming my feelings has many interesting and life-changing benefits. My objective has become getting better at feeling rather than simply hoping to feel better

It's not easy at first: I feel like a baby again. I get tied up in language, and using too many words. I notice myself reach for the comfort of explanation ... "I feel this and this is why and how it came about and and and". The story I tell about the origins of the feeling takes me away from feeling the feeling. I get carried away, literally, by telling minute details of the story. The story becomes a place to blame, to hide, to escape and to avoid. The story helps me stay away from taking responsibility for and owning my part.

Likewise, I watch my well-trained and practiced impulse to judge those feeling when they come: "I feel sad ... and sad is not good, sad is bad and I need to change to feeling something else because sad isn't a good thing" goes my head. I even go so far as to take up the cry of "sad? you have nothing to be sad about! you have a home and family and food to eat ..." - all unhelpful judgements and shaming myself for feeling what I feel. 

Stepping back from the judgement, resisting the temptation to get caught up in the story: these things are helping me learn to get better at feeling, to sit in the discomfort of the resentment, anger, jealousy AND to feel the joy, the happy, the warm, the connected, the soft. 

Getting better at feeling ALL the feelings is, by default rather than by design, helping me feel better. 

What are you avoiding feeling in the hope of feeling better?

Sarahxx
Tuesday
Feb182014

Sitting in the discomfort.

It's been 4 months since we started our life in this new environment with a different language and culture, different schools for the children, different friends, different groceries in the supermarket, different climate... I was starting to feel settled. I was proud of what I had achieved in that time and amazed at how well things had been going. 

Just over a week ago I got a phonecall that has really shaken the "settle".

I am amazed again ... this time at how instability feels - how uncomfortable, how terror-filled, how nightmare inducing (literally!) and above all, how shocked I am at how temporary things are - even though I "know" in my head that it's always been this way and always will.

The hardest part is not slamming the door shut on hope. At different times I want to give in to my Mind that is taunting me with "see I told you this was too good to be true" and "I knew it - nothing THIS good could be real or last".  

I've been through all the emotions I can imagine. It hurts and it's hard. The work comes not from running away from the feelings, but in resisting the temptation to do so. I know this is life. And! (not but) the discomfort is excruciating some days.

So the work I am doing is to sit in it ... to just sit there in the discomfort, the pain, the fear, the anxiety and the not-knowing how it will all turn out. 

In doing so, I notice feelings of shame: shame at having let myself go, of having fallen so deeply in love, and having believed that I could have this wonderful experience. Shame that I had dropped my defenses enough to truly feel, to be vulnerable, to live whole-heartedly. 

I notice that naming my shame, my feelings and my fear has helped me stay in the experience rather than running away. Realising what I feel ashamed about has also reminded me of how I want to spend the time I have in this life: to live whole-heartedly no matter how excruciating the pain, true to my experience.

That realisation is where I feel myself lift - up out of the pain, the fear and the confusion - into a place of acceptance: acceptance that whatever is coming is going to be OK; of trust that I can cope with it, whatever it is. 

Beyond acceptance, I am grateful for the experience and it's lessons in vulnerability. I am thankful that I am still learning, noticing that I continue to find the courage to practice the things I say I want to have in my life: courage, whole-heartedness, sitting in the discomfort - walking the talk!

Of course I don't feel the lift all the time - I am still learning the "how" on this one :-) - but I am able to step back from the experience every now and then, to notice the dance of Self and Mind, to appreciate the difference between these two and to sit in the discomfort of learning and evolving towards a place I want to be

Where do you want to be evolving to, and what discomfort are you willing to experience to get there?

Sarahxx

Monday
Jan272014

Noticing the noise.

These days, I wake up at 4am and savour the moments of bliss before watching, noticing, observing my Mind fill with noise. 

When I had small babies, I would lie awake for hours worrying about getting enough sleep, raging against the lack of sleep I was able to get, fearing the daylight hours, fearing the night hours too. Getting up to a child in the night meant being awake at least 3 hours ... and it was making me sick. It wasn't the lack of sleep, it was my Mind keeping me awake and making me sick with worry, rage, frustration, fear. 

By accepting my being awake in the early hours, I have come to treasure it as a moment when my Mind is clear and less noisy than "usual". I get up and write, or read or research or listen to the gentle silence in my mind. 

Of course when the noise begins to take over my Mind, I notice I feel the need to get moving, do things, start on the list I want to get through for that day.  That noise is what I now recognise as anxiety in my Mind

Notice, I don't say "anxiety in me"?

My Mind and my Self are different: my Self is calm, centered, clear.

My Mind is full of noise: crazy stories, thoughts, judgements, ideas, fears, conversations had, conversations that need to happen, to-do list items, random sounds.  That is what I observe... when I step back from my mind and notice. 

This morning, for example, I noticed how I think about my ability to speak French as "intermediate", "it will never be more than that" and "I am intermediate or average at everything I do and have always been". I noticed these thoughts and wondered  "Really? ... where does this stuff come from?". 

These limiting thoughts are fairly benign: they relate to a skill that does not make or break my day - although has definitely led to all manner of frustration over the years!

But what if this kind of thinking is prevalent in other ways in my Mind ... and even more crucial, what if I am actually listening to it, believing it, holding it to be a truth, and living my life as if it's true?? What are the consequences of seeing that noise as a real part of me? 

These days I notice the noise and see it as separate from Self. These days I label it as noise, acknowledge its connection to the anxiety I feel, and accept that it is something I carry with me that does not define me. It is NOT me (Self), it is my Mind - that is all. 

Naming Mind and Self as different is a freedom we all have, if we choose.

Noticing the noise is a significant step to seeing the separation between Self and Mind and to reducing both anxiety and depression. 

When you listen to your noise, what do you notice?

Sarahxx

Monday
Jan132014

Time flies, stay your path.

How time flies ... how life changes! 

It's been almost a year since I last shared here. So much has happened, yet it's still hard to believe it's been almost a year! Regular life and a few big changes have distracted me from parts of my work and some of the things I value. 

So it is with days, weeks, months and years. We get caught up in the goings-on around us: we neglect to pay attention to the small but important items that hold us together, keep us on track, help maintain the balance - the things we value as important.

In my case, I packed up my life and moved it across the world, reinstalling myself and my family in a new location with new 'everything'. It's taken time and energy and focus away from my Self and my work and placed it on other things that are important to me.

All the while I have been conscious of wanting to get back to this place, because I value the work I do here, I know that it's important to me. I felt nervous all those months wondering how long it might take, and whether I could find my way back - whether the link was strong enough for me to know how to return.   

I consciously gave myself a year: a year seemed like a decent time limit without letting it spill over into two or three or even more (the horror :0)! Putting it off any longer would be giving in to the resistance. Not coming back would be about fear and the disconnection that comes with it. It would also be about denying a part of me I had come to know, and ignoring things I hold as valuable to doing the work I love.

Yes! time flies. Yes! life gets busy. Yes! there are other things to do or concentrate on. Yes! it's not easy to find the way again. Yes! it's scary and challenging and there are much, much easier ways to spend the time.

No! I don't want to give in to the easy option, the fear, the resistance, the distractions.

Yes! I choose to do the things that keep me in balance, keep me on a path that I value, hold me accountable to myself, maintain my authenticity, help me feel. 

Do what you value. When you find yourself distracted, review your values and priorities, sweep aside the excuses and get back on track... even IF it takes almost a year.

Sarah xx

ps I passed with a Distinction :-)

 

 

Tuesday
Feb052013

How am I making it through?

Apparently, the key to overcoming a long-held fear is to begin ... and so I did.  (here is what I did)

It helps to have important dates and milestones along the way: tests and assignments due regularly, and the grande finale of an exam in a couple of weeks that marks the end - except for the bit about waiting to see if I passed!. Some of the dates near the start were about giving up, pulling out, deferring. They were opportunities to bail on the whole mad scheme – to give into the fear. 

Make a start – that’s the hard part. 

Turn around and face the thing you fear. Diminish its power over you.

Name what scares you the most. Share it somewhere – write it down, tell someone, say it to the wind – whatever! Just get it out.

Then put one foot in front of the other. Each day do something little that helps you towards your goal. 

When (not if – cos it will!) looking at the big goal makes you feel queasy, glance away and decide on how you will proceed for today only. 

When the distractions arrive, or the self-talk creeps in telling you “it can wait” or “this is more important” – tell yourself “you made a start, this other stuff is resistance, you are on the path towards a goal and the only thing for it is to keep going”.

And the big distraction I was offered was impressive.

A couple of weeks into the course my son broke his leg. In our case, this meant that he needed to have three weeks off school, then it was two weeks school holidays. When he could finally return to school, I needed to go four times a day to help him up and down three flights of stairs (no lift). I had to pull back on my work hours, change appointments, stop doing as much writing, socialising, reduce my “free” time and dig in for a month.

When I was sitting in the hospital for two days while they sorted out his leg, I thought to myself “oh no, I just started … maybe I should pull out, this is going to be too hard to manage all at the same time”. It would have a been a decent excuse. But I knew it was just that!

An excuse. It was my fear talking.  So I kept going. 

And here I am, with two and a half weeks to go before the exam (THAT’S a whole other experience!) and while I am feeling quite anxious about the exam experience, I know that I am almost there. I know that I am closer to my goal than I would have been if I'd never started… that I am one big step closer to the thing I have wanted for so long.

I say a big step closer because this wasn't simply a case of studying a subject that doesn't enthrall me, this was about overcoming a fear that has plagued me for twenty-five years.

And now I am free - not because I passed (I don't know how this all ends) but because I am beyond the point where the fear has control of my life and my choices.  

Name the fear that is standing in your way ...

sarah xx