Make Fear Your Friend

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
Mark Twain


I recently returned from an incredible vacation with my family where we biked down a mountain, rafted the Gallatin River, and hiked through forests to beautiful glacier lakes. By far, the best part of this vacation was the uninterrupted time with my family. The next best part was the adventure of trying new things and stepping outside of our comfort zones together.  

I have always enjoyed adventure and trying new things. Whether it was scuba diving down more than 100 feet in the sea or swimming with reef sharks, I have found that this planet is full of beautiful adventures, with so much to explore and experience. I find these adventures thrilling and inspiring . . . and, yes, slightly terrifying! Last week, I was scared of falling as I sped down steep and winding trails on a mountain bike. I was nervous as we tumbled over boulders through the white water rapids. I had bear spray in hand as we kept our eyes peeled for grizzly bears on our hikes. But I also soaked in the excitement of doing something new, seeing the incredible beauty of our country, and bonding with my children as we challenged ourselves to do something new.

Mindfulness has taught me to have a healthy respect for danger AND to enjoy new experiences without being held back by fear. Anyone who has tried meditation can tell you that meditation can be challenging and uncomfortable. But with practice, meditation helps you get very comfortable with your own discomfort, fear and anxiety. You build the incredible capacity and inner strength to be with whatever you are feeling and make it through it.

The point of meditation is not to get really good at sitting quietly on a cushion. The point of meditation is to get really good at living your life fully. Learning to be with whatever you are feeling – nervousness, fear, anxiety – and knowing that you have the capacity and the tools to make it through those fears and anxiety is a super power. Most anxiety stems not from fear of the event itself but from the fear of feeling out of control and afraid. So when we build the skills to be with our fear, knowing that we will be OK despite those fears and having the tools to be with whatever we are feeling, we build strength and courage to do incredible things despite our fears, no longer held captive by them. 

Life is way too short to be held back back by fear. We all have our own comfort zones where we feel safe. However, sometimes, the best experiences we can have in our lives are when we step outside of those comfort zones, try new things, be adventurous, and believe that we can step outside our comfort zone to live a full and courageous life. The point is not to be fearless. Real courage comes from being afraid and doing it anyway! 

This does not mean that you have to live dangerously. Stepping outside of your comfort zone even in small ways each day can make a very big difference in your life. Try a new food, read a new book, sit in a different seat than the one you always sit in, or take a new path on your walk today. See what life looks like from a different perspective. Feel the discomfort and slowly move through it to see what lies on the other side!

by Cheryl Vigder Brause