Month: March 2021

When Fear Arises

When Fear Arises


Little fears cause anxiety, and big fears cause panic.— Chuang Tzu

Although most of us have been deeply conditioned by fear, for the most part we have avoided directly exploring its nature. Because we are not aware of its workings, it is often an unconscious driving force in our lives. When fear arises, whether it’s fear of pain, fear of certain emotions, or fear of death, the meditation practice of mindful loving awareness invites us to explore and understand fear itself. What does it feel like? What are the sensations in the body? Where are they located? Are there images or pictures in the mind? We can look closely to see the constellation of experiences we call fear, to understand its true nature. When we do so we see that fear is also a passing conditioned experience, and then it becomes much more workable.

Start simply. When fear arises, name it softly and experience what it does to the breath, to the body, how it affects the heart. Notice how long it lasts. Be aware of the images. Notice the sensations and ideas that accompany it, the scary stories it tells. Fear is often an anticipation of the future, an imagination, often unfounded. As Mark Twain remarked, “My life has been filled with terrible misfortunes—most of which never happened.”

Of course, when we work with the fearful mind, we will initially become afraid. However, at some point, if we open our eyes and our heart to the fearful mind and gently name it, “fear, fear, fear,” experiencing its energy as it moves through us, the whole sense of fear will shift and eventually become recognition: “Oh, fear, here you are again. I know you. How interesting that you’ve come.” Make friends with your fear.

From this foundation of loving awareness and acceptance we can make choices about how to act with some degree of discriminating wisdom. Sometimes it is wise to retreat from a situation, and sometimes we move ahead despite the fear. We become more willing to take some risks because our energy is not so bound up in resisting the feeling of fear itself. We learn that it is okay to feel fear. Our mindfulness practice should challenge us to come to the edge of what we’re willing to be with, what we’re willing to do, what we’re willing to open to. If we keep avoiding the feeling of fear, then we have to build barriers and defenses, closing ourselves off from every experience where fear might arise. Not only is this impossible to do, but it results in a narrow and restricted way of living. We close our hearts and close off the possibility of true vitality, compassion and growth.

Practicing meditation with patience and courage, we can gradually learn trust, how to sit firmly on the earth and kindly sense the contraction and trembling of our body without running away. We learn how to feel the floods of strong emotions—fear, grief, and rage—and to allow them to slowly release with mindfulness. We learn to see the endless mental stories that repeat over and over, and with the resources of mindfulness and compassion, to let them go and relax, to steady the mind and return to the present. Befriending fear becomes a gateway to freedom, an invitation to live more fully with trust and love.

Practice: Transforming Difficult Emotions

Visit the Pandemic Resources page on my website for meditations & other materials.

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Through The Looking Glass

Our senses can only take us so far in understanding the world. But with the right tools, we can dig deeper. This hour, TED speakers take us through the looking glass, where we explore new frontiers. Guests include astrophysicist Emily Levesque, wildlife filmmaker Ariel Waldman, psychedelic-assisted psychotherapist Rick Doblin, and science fiction author Charlie Jane Anders.

What Do You See? Is the Glass Half Empty or Half Full?

You are most probably familiar with the expression, “Is the glass half empty or half full?” The answer to this question depends on our point of view. We can choose to see the positive, or choose to see the negative … Continue Reading

The post What Do You See? Is the Glass Half Empty or Half Full? first appeared on Success Consciousness.

Listen Again: Sound And Silence

Original broadcast date: October 16, 2020. Sound surrounds us, from cacophony even to silence. But depending on how we hear, the world can be a different auditory experience for each of us. This hour, TED speakers explore the science of sound. Guests on the show include NPR All Things Considered host Mary Louise Kelly, neuroscientist Jim Hudspeth, writer Rebecca Knill, and sound designer Dallas Taylor.

The Sacred Pause

The Sacred Pause

Our life can take on a whirlwind quality of working, responding, answering, solving, building, caring, tending and enjoying. When we are busy, and conflicts or difficulties arise, we can easily find ourselves overwhelmed, or reacting to problems in ways that make things worse. Because experience happens so quickly, unskillful habitual responses can come out of our mouth before we know it. It helps to practice skillful responses when things are easy. That way when things are tough, a healthy pattern is available, already set. It also helps to train ourselves to pause before our response. This is called the sacred pause, a moment where we stop and release our identification with problems and reactions. Without a pause our actions are automatic.

In a moment of stopping, we break the spell between past result and automatic reaction. When we pause, we can notice the actual experience, the pain or pleasure, fear or excitement. In the stillness before our habits arise, we become free to act wisely.

In this pause, we can examine our intention. If we have set a long-term intention or dedication for our life, we can remember our vows. Or we can simply check our motivation. Are we caught up, upset, angry, trying to get even, win at any cost? Or with a pause, can we take the time to act out of respect for ourself and others, to sow seeds of understanding and courage? It is in our hands.

The power of intention is most easily visible in our speech. In conversation, we get immediate feedback, and often the response we get will reflect our intention. Before we speak, we can pause and sense our motivation. Is our motivation one of compassion and concern for everyone? Or do we want to be right? Clarifying our intention is critical in times of difficulty. When there is difference or conflict, do we genuinely want to hear about the concerns of the other? Are we open to learn, to see other perspectives?

Try this in your next argument or conflict: Take a pause. Hold everyone’s struggle in compassion. Reflect on your highest intention. Whenever things get difficult, pause before you speak and sense your wisest motivation. From there, it will all flow better.

This is the secret of wise speech. As the Buddha describes it: “Speak with kindly motivation. Speak what is true and helpful, speak in due season and to the benefit of all.” When we pause and connect with our highest intention, we learn to see with eyes of compassion and everything becomes more workable.

Excerpt: The Wise Heart

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6 Life-Changing Tips to Mentally Heal from a Physical Injury

Your body can stand almost anything, it’s your mind you have to convince.

Dealing with an injury can go beyond just the physical components of healing.  It can require a great mental journey to fully heal as well.

Think about if you stub your toe getting into bed.  The next few times you’re in a similar scenario, your awareness will be heightened and you’ll be extra careful to not hurt yourself again.  And then eventually that will fade and you’ll go back to moving through the motions without thinking about it.

That’s just a minor example, but it illustrates the mental journey of an injury.

If you suffer a serious injury, the mental impact can be very difficult to manage and overcome.

A few years ago, I suffered a back injury that really affected me mentally.

I had been playing volleyball for almost my entire life – I would even go so far as to say that it was my life.  I played year-round almost every day. 

Volleyball was where I made friends, felt a sense of achievement, and found passion.  However, it also led to my life-changing back injury.

During my senior year of high school, right before I was supposed to start my last volleyball season, I started to experience some back pain.

At first, I thought with a little bit of rest and relaxation, everything would start to feel better.  But then days and weeks started to pass, and I wasn’t feeling any better.  It was time to go to a doctor.

After an initial exam and x-rays, the doctor determined that one of my vertebrae had shifted forwards.  In order to make a final diagnosis though, they needed to do an MRI. 

I had to wait a few days for my MRI results, which felt like years.  Meanwhile, I was still attending volleyball practice and games, cheering my teammates on from the bench just hoping to get some positive test results. 

And then doctor called and said I would likely never be able to play volleyball again. 

The days following were difficult.  I was dealing with constant physical pain which in itself was challenging, but it was mentally difficult as well.

I had to ask myself questions like “What are my hobbies or passions if I can’t play sports?” And I had to deal with the mental frustrations of wanting to do things that my body just was not ready for.  Exercising, sitting or standing for long periods of time, even going to an amusement park with friends…everything suddenly felt restricted.

But then slowly, through treatments like physical therapy I started to recover.  It took a while, probably close to a year, before I could fully live my life without constantly dealing with pain or being mindful of my injury. 

And now, seven years later, I have actually been able to recover to the point that I am able to exercise, play sports, etc. as long as I take care of myself when I do so.

All of that goes to say, if you are dealing with an injury and feeling the mental impact of that physical pain, I completely understand and you are not alone.  And I want to pass along some tips on how to mentally recover from a physical injury that I found crucial to helping me heal along my own personal journey.

Here are six life changing tips to mentally recover from a physical injury:

1. Accept what happened

The first step to mentally recovering from a physical injury is accepting what happened.  Come to terms with your injury and diagnosis.

Injuries stem from stress on your body, often through the result of an accident.  Whether you feel at fault or feel the blame is on others, you’ll need to find forgiveness in order to mentally heal from the experience.

Finding acceptance is important before moving through the rest of these steps.

2. Learn about your injury

The next step is to learn about your diagnosis.  The more you know, the more you can mentally prepare for the recovery ahead.

Understand things like how long you should expect recovery to take or what’s involved in the recovery such as medication, physical therapy, rest, etc.  By knowing the details of your injury and the expected recovery, you’ll be able to plan and set yourself up for success.

Planning will put your mind at ease and help you feel prepared to take on the journey ahead of you.

3. Commit to your treatment

Another important factor in mentally healing from a physical injury is to commit to your treatment.  If you got injured from a sport or hobby, it can feel devastating that you aren’t able to train for that activity any more.

Replace that feeling of a void in your life by regarding your treatment like training.  Set goals for recovery and take your treatment seriously. 

It will help ease your mind by focusing on the actions of recovery.

4. Don’t push yourself too fast too soon

While goal setting and committing to your treatment is important, it’s also critical to be conscious of not pushing yourself too fast too soon.  Once you start to see the progress, it can be tempting to rush towards that finish line.  But it’s important to remain on course and not push yourself too quickly.

Pushing yourself before your body is ready can lead to you injuring yourself even more.  It will also be even more mentally frustrating if you try too much too soon and then feel let down when you don’t find success.

The best thing you can do both for your physical and mental health during an injury recovery is to stick to your treatment plan.  Take things one step at a time and ease your way towards healing.

5. Find passions and hobbies that fit your new lifestyle

If you are injured, you’ll likely be unable to participate in the typical hobbies and activities that you used to fill your daily life with.  It will feel sad, frustrating, maybe even cause you to have some anger about it. 

All of that is okay – and understandable!  However, a great way to combat this is to find new passions and hobbies that fit the new lifestyle and restrictions that are impacting you right now. 

For example, I always enjoyed reading and writing, but volleyball took a lot of my time so those hobbies fell off my radar.  And then, once I was injured and could no longer find fun and enjoyment through sports, I reconnected with my passion for reading and writing. 

Having a passion or hobby that you can find fulfillment through will help you get through this injury.  You may even find a lifelong passion that sticks around even after your recovery, as I did with writing.

6. Lean on others for support

The last tip for mentally recovering from a physical injury is to lean on others when you can.  If you were injured during a sport, it may be tempting to distance yourself from the team and your friends because it’s hard to watch everyone else playing when you can’t.  But this is doing yourself a disservice mentally.

Having the support of friends and family will help you through your recovery.  Whether it’s a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen, or someone to provide words of encouragement the support system will be comforting during this difficult time.

Surround yourself with positive people who can encourage you throughout your recovery from this physical trauma.

Those are the six life changing tips to mentally recover from a physical injury.

Recovering from an injury can be really difficult both physically and mentally.  At times throughout your recovery, you will likely feel in denial, sad, angry, and all of the other negative emotions that come with dealing with a difficult challenge.

However, through things like finding acceptance, committing to your recovery, and seeking support from others you can find both physical and mental healing.

What positive things have you discovered about yourself after experiencing an injury?