WEEK 26: Face Your Deepest Fears

“Expose yourself to your deepest fear, after that fear has no power.” ~ Jim Morrison

A few years ago when I was in Sedona, Arizona, I went on a hike to the area’s famous energy vortexes, led by a rather intimidating ‘shaman’. I will never forget standing among those beautiful red rocks, on an equally beautiful June day, and having this complete stranger yell at me: “You are so scared, you don’t even know what you’re scared of!”

I was completely taken aback by the vehemence of his words, so I can’t remember now if I even responded. But I do remember thinking he had no idea what he was talking about because, having just finished 5 weeks of radiation treatment for early stage breast cancer, I was pretty sure that I actually did know what I was scared of back then.

And even today, though, luckily, cancer is no longer at the top of the list, I think I still have a pretty good handle on what my deepest fears are.

For instance, I’m scared of being the center of attention. And of being judged by others. I have a deep, inexplicable fear of anything having to do with vampires. I am also becoming a little worried that I won’t get through all 100 topics on my Official List by the December 21st deadline, which I guess points to a certain fear of failure.

Anyway, as I started to think about this week’s topic to ‘Face Your Deepest Fears’, I was reminded of that crazy shaman’s words, and it occurred to me that maybe he wasn’t as crazy as I’d thought. In fact, maybe he had just been trying to get me to do what this week’s assignment was forcing me to do.

Because it turns out that it’s one thing to know what I’m scared of, but to actually do something about it is an entirely different matter. Not to mention, a whole lot harder.

Ok, so for my assignment this week, I decided to face one of my bigger fears (i.e. being judged by others) by trying to do something I’d been putting off for a while. Ever since last summer, I’d been tossing an idea around with a couple of my like-minded friends about getting a group together to talk about spiritual stuff. Kind of like a book group, but without the book. I kept putting off doing anything about it, though, because (and this is pretty embarrassing to admit) I was a little worried about what my other, less like-minded friends would think of me if they found out.

And, unfortunately, the longer I put it off, the worse I started to feel, because I knew that, deep down, I was really just being a total chicken. I kept hearing this little voice in my head telling me that I better be careful. That if I started this group people may talk. About me. Behind my back. Yuck.

But because it was ‘Face Your Deepest Fears’ week, I made myself take a deep breath, shush the little voice in my head as best I could, and figure out what I needed to do to get this group going. And so I picked a date, made a list of people who I thought might be interested, and sent out an email inviting them to come to my first ever Consciousness Group.

Pushing the ‘send’ button on that email may have been one of the scariest things I’d ever done. That is, until I had to stand up in front of all the people who had, happily, all come to the meeting, because that was even scarier.

But the way I felt after it was over was definitely worth every moment of terror that led up to it.  I imagine it’s the same way someone might feel after they’ve gone skydiving: elation that they’d found the courage to actually jump out of an airplane into thin air, and relief that the parachute had opened so they didn’t plummet to their death. And though I realize that starting a spiritual group is a very far cry from jumping out of a plane, that is exactly how I felt.

I had stepped out of my comfort zone and survived. I was so happy.

The thing is, in the long run, I’m not sure it actually matters how I stepped out of my comfort zone, just that I did. Because whether it’s starting a group, fighting cancer, or jumping out of a plane, the important thing is to find a way to quiet the voice that’s telling me I can’t, so that I can hear the other voice that’s telling me I can.

Because, as Eleanor Roosevelt once said:

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence in every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”

And I think that in order to do the things that I’m not sure I can, I have to listen for the voice that’s going to remind me to be brave, rather than careful. The one that’s going to urge me forward, rather than hold me back.

And, most importantly, the voice that will remind me to be who I really am, rather than who I think everyone else wants me to be.

I just have to remember to be brave.

P.S.  I realized as I was crossing ‘Face Your Deepest Fears’ off my Official List just now, that I can actually cross off a few other topics as well. Because in order to do this week’s assignment, I really, really had to ‘Muster Up Some Courage’ (#54) to ‘Form A Mastermind Group’ (#80) so I could ‘Be A Leader’ (#83) to ‘Share Unique Insight and Wisdom’ (#38) and ‘Guide Others in Raising Their Consciousness’ (#77).

At this rate, I might make my December 21st deadline after all. Yeah!

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WEEK 19: Choose Empowering Beliefs

“Man is made by his belief. As he believes, so he is.” ~ Bhagavad Gita

For some reason this week’s topic to ‘Choose Empowering Beliefs’ has really thrown me for a loop. I just haven’t been able to figure out what direction to take, and so every time I sit down to write, I find myself going around in circles.

I can’t really put my finger on what is making this one so difficult either. Maybe it’s because I didn’t really like my ‘assignment’ that much. Or it could be that I’ve read so many different things about beliefs that it’s hard to pick one area to focus on.

But whatever it is, the time has come to stop fretting about it and just get started. Hopefully, I’ll figure out the best direction to take as I go along.

Anyway, a couple of years ago I saw this YouTube video of a little girl standing on her bathroom sink, loudly affirming how much she loves everything in her life:

And when I was thinking about how to ‘Choose Empowering Beliefs’ this week, I thought it might be fun to try something similar by giving myself a little pep talk every morning. Simple enough, I thought, and a good reminder about all the things I have to be grateful for.

So I found a list of empowering beliefs on the internet, and picked one that I thought would help me start my day off in the most positive way:

“Anyone can do anything and anything can happen.”

Well, I was a little surprised, at first, to discover that talking to myself in the mirror is not as easy as it looks! When I stood staring at my reflection on the first morning, I was actually a little embarrassed to say anything at all, let alone with the enthusiastic abandon of the little girl in the video. And even though it got somewhat easier as the week went along, I have to admit that I was never really very comfortable.

Which started me wondering whether I was uncomfortable because I was talking to myself in a mirror, or because I just didn’t really believe, deep down inside, that what I was saying was true. Which kind of confused me, because I had pretty much thought that I already believed it! I mean, I love hearing stories about someone who’s done the seemingly impossible…the underdog who’s succeeded against all odds. I’ve probably watched the movie ‘Rudy’ a hundred times and have absolutely never gotten tired of it!

But no matter how loudly or often I would say this affirmation, I couldn’t ignore the little voice in the back of my mind telling me it just wasn’t true. That people do have limits, and so it’s not really possible that anyone can do anything.

What I couldn’t figure out, though, was where this belief had come from. I really have no honest recollection of anyone ever telling me such a thing, so I guess that somewhere along the line I must have done something, or witnessed something, that made me believe it was true. And the fact that I didn’t even know it was there is a little bit worrisome…I wonder if there are other limiting beliefs lurking in my subconscious?

In any case, I started thinking that maybe this is true for a lot of us – that because we don’t always consciously choose some of the beliefs we have, we’re not even really aware that we have them! We grow up with parents who have certain beliefs they pass along to us, which have been passed along to them, and even though we might question them as we get older, it’s probably pretty hard to get rid of them altogether.

And the same way this can happen with families, it can probably happen just as easily with our different cultures and religions. I imagine generations have come and gone with no one ever really questioning the beliefs that have been passed along, because it’s just the way it’s always been.

And, according to Neale Donald Walsch in his book, The New Revelations – A Conversation With God, this is exactly why our world is in such trouble today. Because many of us are really reluctant, whether consciously or unconsciously, to challenge some of those beliefs that have been passed down through the generations. And so we keep making the same mistakes, because we’re unwilling, or maybe just scared, to question the wisdom of our ancestors:

“Your world is facing enormous problems right now, and you must solve the problems at the level of belief. You cannot solve the problems at the level of behavior. Seek to change beliefs, not behaviors…You can take whatever action you want to take to alter someone else’s behavior or to stop it, but unless you alter the beliefs that produced such behavior, you will alter nothing and stop nothing.”

Unfortunately, it seems that we humans have a pretty hard time when it comes to altering our beliefs, even when there’s solid evidence that those beliefs are completely false. For instance, Walsch reminds us, we used to believe that the earth was the center of the universe. When Copernicus, and then Galileo, both offered proof that this assertion was false, they were called blasphemers and heretics. No one believed them. It wasn’t until 300 years later that Galileo was finally pardoned by the Catholic Church and the world accepted this new belief.

It’s amazing how stubborn and fearful we can be when we’re faced with a new way of thinking.

Take what’s going on today with the Occupy Movement. The protestors are being criticized for not having a cohesive message, but I think the message is actually crystal clear. Something is wrong. The world is just not in a good place right now. And whether you’re in the 1% or the 99%, there is just no getting around the fact that our system isn’t working.

And maybe it’s not working because some of our most basic beliefs have become outdated. Economic and political policies that may have worked at one point in history may just not work today. Not necessarily because they’re  wrong, but because the world is changing. And people are changing. And the climate is changing. Everything is changing.

It just makes sense, then, that some of our beliefs about how the world works may have to change too, so that we can adapt to what’s happening and be able to move forward.

Albert Einstein put it this way:

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”

Maybe if all of us, both individually and collectively, would consciously choose to consider some newer, more empowering beliefs, we’ll be able to see which of our old beliefs may be holding us back. And perhaps then, with that newfound awareness, we’ll find ourselves at a new level of consciousness where we can start solving some of our problems.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I definitely think it’s worth a try.

So I’m going to start by choosing a slightly different empowering belief to say to myself in the mirror every morning:

“Anyone can do anything, if they truly believe that they can.”

I think even the little voice in the back of my mind can believe that.