Saturday, 28 May 2011

Smile at Fear

"When choosing between two evils, I always try the one I've never tried before." Mae West

Dzogchen Beara
It’s been a crazy, stressful week!  I had to represent myself in court simply to get my daughter’s passport renewed and gain permission to travel abroad with my children.  I’ve been hoping to bring them to America for a month-long vacation, but their dad wouldn’t consent even though my family hasn’t seen the children for four years.  It was such a relief when the judge sided with me!   

That small victory was a reminder that my life continues to move in the right direction.  Then I received a call offering me a new business proposition.  I immediately accepted.  There are no guarantees that the venture will work out, but the risk is minimal for me.

Two days later, however, I received another phone call.  My initial response was excitement, and I rang my solicitor with the good news.  As a result, I retracted on the business offer.  Although I haven’t completely made up my mind, I couldn’t commit right now.  I have a big decision to make, and I don’t have a lot of time.  Each day I seem to flip-flop from one position to another…  

I know what I want to do, but I have my children to consider.  I’ve sacrificed so much for them, but I have my limits.  I can’t give up everything, yet I want my kids to have the best life I can provide them.  Whatever I decide will impact them greatly so I must choose carefully.  

Last summer I planted this seed.  When I discovered Reverb10 last December, I still desired the change but felt it was out of my control.  I sort of gave up on it and put my energy into other things.  The universe didn’t forget and has conspired to make my dream possible- as it does- but my reaction is different than I anticipated.  I wanted this change more than anything else on my December lists, but it requires the biggest leap of faith.  I’m beginning to panic.  Everything was settling nicely… and this change would be a major upheaval.  I would gain a degree of freedom, but risk my remaining security.  There is much to lose materially.  Is it crazy to willingly take away my safety net, or would it be crazier not to?

I put a question out to the Reverb10 community.  “Wondering how others cope with the fear and anxiety that accompanies taking big risks?”  The responses were helpful and I’d like to share them with you.

“Breathe into it. Slowly. Recognize the greatest reward often comes from taking the greatest risk.” @doclizz Regina McMenomy
“Tea. Lots and lots of tea. Music. Meditation. Chocolate. Comedy. Praying. Positive Affirmations.” @sailorscorpio Meredith S
“Break the big risks into little steps if possible! Don't try to eat the elephant all at once. :) Good luck!” @noelrozny Noël Rozny
“Perhaps: don't try to push the anxiety under the rug; lean into it, try to observe what's at the root of it.” @LetsReverb #reverb10/#reverb11

  *   *   *
I had plans to go to Dublin this weekend, but cancelled my trip.  The kids are with their dad; I need the time to reflect and start making preparations.

Yesterday I went for therapeutic massage to address the constant ache I feel in my hip.  It’s been bothering me since March; I’ve stretched, taken hot baths, gone for massage, put heat packs on it… but the discomfort won’t go.  My work is demanding on my body, but the problem is postural as well.  Though I’ve always lived with this imbalance, it’s only flaring up now.  My therapist pointed out that the hips correlate to balancing life, which makes perfect sense!

I have had many massages, but yesterday was more intense than anything I’ve experienced.  It was so painful I nearly cried.  (I’ve had 3 natural births without swallowing so much as an aspirin.  Physical pain doesn’t usually faze me).  She worked deeply on my iliopsoas muscles and I had to consciously tell myself to keep breathing.  She explained, “You may have an emotional release after this.  All humans bury stress here; it’s the body’s primal response.”  I relaxed into her words, into the discomfort, and let go.  The intensity passed.  Now I feel closer to reaching the source of my dis-ease.  Next time
it will be easier.

My close friend also had an emotionally challenging week.  She’s a single mom too and fortunately has this weekend free.  We decided to head off to Dzogchen Beara together for the afternoon.  It’s a gorgeous Buddhist retreat centre overlooking the ocean.  I’m not a Buddhist but find great wisdom in the teachings and practices.

We were guided through a Loving-Kindness meditation followed by a Forgiveness meditation.  Both were very helpful.  I loved when the woman guiding us spoke about the Critic, an archetype present in most people’s psyches.  That voice can be so strong in my mind.  Let me tell you, she is one mean futhamucka!!  

During the week, I was tired and she reared her nasty head.  While I was teaching Zumba, the Critic tried tearing me to shreds as I looked in the mirror.  Since I received the potentially life changing phone call, she has been looking for ways to bring me down.  I’ve got my eye on her though and suspect she’s closely tied to my inner-saboteur.  

Thankfully, I’ve developed kinder voices which remind me to let the Critic say her piece but not attach to any of it.  Honestly, I wouldn’t talk to anyone the way my Critic speaks to me!  During meditation, it was affirming to hear that most of us struggle to varying degrees with this issue.  What do you do with your inner critic?

Awareness is a great starting place.  When the meditation was over, we went to the Dzogchen Beara shop.  Browsing through the books, one caught my attention by Pema Chödrön.  The following passage struck me:

“Traditionally, laziness is taught as one of the obstacles to awakening. There are different kinds of laziness.  First, there’s the laziness of comfort orientation, we just try to stay comfortable and cozy. Then there’s the laziness of loss of heart, a kind of deep discouragement, a feeling of giving up on ourselves, of hopelessness. There’s also the laziness of couldn’t care less. That’s when we harden into resignation and bitterness and just close down.”

Laziness is one of the major reasons why I may not make the change I’m considering.  I recognize myself in the first category.  “Comfort orientation” is putting it mildly!  When I walk in a new room, I spot the comfy chair and plop myself in it.  I don’t like to be hot or cold so I wear layers of soft, natural fabrics.  Hunger is to be avoided too, so I pack snacks and drinks when I leave home.  I’m fussy about what I eat and will opt for gourmet if given a choice.  My house is comfortable rather than stylish, although aesthetics are important to me too.  Seeking pleasure is a favourite pastime (and I don’t feel bad about that)!  I’m almost proud of being a hedonist.  Yet, I can see how my pursuit of material comfort may be a trap.

If you would like to read more of Pema Chödrön’s thoughts on laziness, check out her insightful article on the Shambhala Sun website.  

Today I’m no closer to making a decision.  My dreams are usually a great guide, but they’ve been puzzling.  I can’t make sense of them.  All I can do is stay present and wait until an answer comes.  When it does, I hope I’ll be able to trust that it’s the right choice and have the courage to act on it with confidence.  

I want to smile at fear rather than allow it to hold me back.  I hope you will do the same.




  1. I'm glad my input really resonated with you. I'm also glad the Reverb community brought us together. Natural birth? Three kids? Big decisions? I can relate. I'll be adding your blog to my Google Reader.

  2. Thanks, Meredith! I am a homebirth advocate too, and we seem to have a lot in common. I'm also glad we've connected through Reverb. I look forward to hearing more from you.


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