All This Fear Can Go Ahead and Kiss My Courageass!

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Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face… You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.” And somebody else said something along the lines of, “It’s not the absence of fear, it’s the decision we make when we show up that makes all the difference.”

But sometimes I question if these folks have any idea how scary things feel today in 2011. Did they have twenty-four hour news channels spewing words like crisis, killing spree, terrorist, and disaster, be-it of the economic or natural variety? This dialogue has our nervous systems jumping around like oil in a hot skillet. Oh, and we’re amped up on a dark roast to boot.

At designKREW we’ve decided to celebrate fearlessness, faith and trusting that everything is going to be A-OK. We rounded up some news you can use when fear has you frozen in time. This edition is intended to help you tap into the courage that is innate in all of us, give you some tools for the next time you get skerd. And remind you that fear is just misguided excitement. WOOOHOOOO!!

Buddhist writer Susan Piver offers a few simple techniques you can apply to everyday fears, from asking for help to remembering to breathe. Here are a couple of Susan’s Tips to a Fearless Life:

1. Let Yourself Be Afraid
My favorite definition of fearlessness is this: the ability to remain soft and open, even under very difficult circumstances. Most often, fear causes us to shut down to our own and others’ humanity. We just want to get away, but the quickest way out is to stay. If you can slow down a bit, you can see that fear rises, abides and dissolves on its own. Allowing this process is the mark of the spiritual warrior. The coward turns attention toward fighting fear; the warrior accommodates it.
Try this: The next time you notice fear rising, whether it appears as anxiety, melancholy, or anger, stop, grab a piece of paper, and write one short sentence that describes your fear. Start with the words “I’m afraid…,” then scribble the first thoughts that come to mind, without regard for grammar or rationale. It could be something such as, “I’m afraid to check my e-mail because I’ve already got too much to do,” or, “I’m afraid about an upcoming conversation with my boyfriend,” or, “I’m afraid I have cancer.” Slowly read your words over three times. Take a full inhalation and exhalation after each reading. Avoid any attempt at amping up or toning down your agitation.

2. Put Others First
Fear can cause you to ignore your authentic desires and put your life on hold. We want to avoid, retreat, and think what we want isn’t possible or realistic. This doesn’t hurt only you! Those who love you are also deprived, but just as often I find the opposite works. When I stop and remember who is in my life, why I love them, what they need, and how happy they would be made by my happiness, I find tremendous courage to face my fears. I’m doing it for us! My actions are rooted in love, not aggression–and loving others is a secret power source of fearlessness.
Try this: Ask yourself: “If I were to get past my worst fears, who else would be made happy?” If you can’t think of one person who would delight in your delight, imagine the person you most admire sitting across from you. This person can be real or fictional, but when you think of them, you feel a great sense of encouragement. Write down each person’s name and explain why he or she would feel happy if you conquered your fear.

3. Relax
The opposite of fear is not dauntlessness, it’s relaxation. The ability to remain open and mindful under all circumstances, no matter how uncomfortable, is a sign of amazing courage. When we’re not able to maintain mindfulness, we lose track of what’s actually going on around us. We confuse what we think is happening with what is happening. When attention is absorbed in fear, we’re distracted from what is actually going on. Like remaining in the still eye of a tornado–as opposed to being swept away by it–fearlessness requires full, moment-to-moment attention and receptivity, two qualities rooted in relaxation.
Try this: The next time you notice fear rising, stop what you’re doing. Draw attention inward. Where is the fear manifesting in your body? Fear can show itself in a tense jaw, clenched belly, shallow breathing, and so on. When you locate fear’s position, simply relax that area. Let your jaw or stomach go or take a few deep breaths. This is meant to be a physical relaxation, not an emotional one. You don’t always have to calm your mind to calm your body. It can work the other

4. Bring Someone With
Here is an exercise you can do on the spot to calm real fear in real time.
Try this: Before you’re about to do something scary (confront a friend, start a new job, ask for a date), imagine someone who would be proud or grateful if you took this risk. It could be a relative, a mentor, your inner child, or a historic or fictional character. Before you step into your scary situation, visualize this person by your side, holding your hand, or in your arms. Let yourself really feel their presence–and take them in with you. You’re not alone, and there is strength in numbers!

Hopefully something in there resonated with you and will help pull you through a scary moment, decision, or day in your near future. Most likely, if you got to the true source of your fear it is that you have a fear of losing something you value. Someone brilliant spoke so eloquently to that. I’ll let him close our tribute to living a fearless life:

“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”
– Steve Jobs

Now that is one man – I know for SURE – had every idea what modern day life is like. And he took a huge bite out of it. Like an Apple. Here’s to trailblazing.

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