Mindful Monday: Facing Fear, Fire and Wind

If you touch the fear instead of running from it, you find tenderness, vulnerability, and sometimes a sense of sadness. This tender-heartedness happens naturally when you start to be brave enough to stay present…

Pema Chodron

I was 500 miles away and I still felt the fear. News about the fires, gusty winds, scorching sun, evacuations, and power outages were flooding my phone and loved ones were checking in on me continually. I had travelled to San Diego for my nephew’s Marine Corps graduation and while it was truly a celebratory experience, my niece, who lives in Santa Rosa, and I were on edge. We were both getting updates from friends, Twitter and Nixle. We couldn’t wait to get home. Reminded of the 2017 fires, we were both making plans for getting our belongings out of our homes in case of an evacuation. 

Home at last … all seemed calm …no smoke in the air, no wind, cool temperature. That lasted until about 1:00 am… when the winds picked up. I have never experienced such strong winds before. I had tree limbs falling in the yard and my dogs climbing into bed with me. All day today, I could feel the telltale signs of fear … restlessness, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, feeling “anxious”, wanting to eat – escape, wanting to stay close to home. 

I remembered the wise words of Pema Chodron: Smile at Fear

“Usually when we’re afraid, it sets off a chain reaction. We go inward and start to armor ourselves, trying to protect ourselves from whatever we think is going to hurt us. But our attempts to protect ourselves do not lessen the fear. Quite the opposite—the fear is actually escalating. Rather than becoming free from fear, we become hardened.”

“If we choose to take notice of the actual experience of fear, whether it’s just a queasy feeling in our stomach or actual terror, whether it’s a subtle level of discomfort or mind-numbing dramatic anxiety, we can smile at it, believe it or not. It could be a literal smile or a metaphor for coming to know fear, turning toward fear, touching fear. In that case, rather than fear setting off a chain reaction where you’re trying to protect yourself from it, it becomes a source of tenderness. We experience our vulnerability, but we don’t feel we have to harden ourselves in response. This makes it possible for us to help ourselves and to help others.”

Notice : Are you trying to protect yourself ? Is your fear escalating or are you able to take notice, spend a moment with the fear, smile at it? 

“Meditation practice is a method for being with ourselves fully and completely, allowing the time and space to see it all with gentleness, kindness, and dead honesty. It is the safest environment within which to undertake this mission impossible. And when meditation practice has helped us to be honest and courageous enough to know ourselves in a deep way, we can begin to extend out and help others, because the things outside of us that appear threatening seem that way because of the fear within, the fear we have been reluctant to look at. The things that unnerve us, that trigger feelings of inadequacy, that make us feel that we can’t handle it, that we are not good enough, lose their power over us when we learn to smile at fear.”

Notice: Are you willing to just pause and meditate today…even for 5 minutes? Are you willing to allow time and space to just notice your fear, touch it with tenderness and offer a smile? What do you notice ? Does your energy shift? Do you open up a space to begin to extend compassion, kindness, courage to others today?

I find that smiling at fear takes practice and as I meditated today, re-read this article by Pema Chodron, I was able to let go, breathe, relax, think more clearly and extend my energy towards others. I invite you to read the full article from Lions Roar and take time to practice this beautiful meditation.