Stillness Takes Us Beyond Our Fears
Many of us experience lives constrained by our fears.
The list of what we fear feels limitless at times.
We are afraid we will not succeed or afraid of what will happen when we do succeed, or both. Some of us are afraid people will not like us. Many of us are afraid we will never know what it means to be loved for who we are. Some of us fear we will not be perfect, not meet the expectations we have inherited.
There are people who are afraid of God, afraid they will die before they have lived, afraid of themselves.
Some of us live in fear all the time. We cannot remember the last time our lives reached beyond our fears.
Others of us are afraid someone else will discover we are afraid.
We tie ourselves into knots to hide our fears, even from ourselves. Some of us put people who love us through complicated challenges and obstacles to stop them from finding out we are afraid.
When we sit still and try to practice contemplative listening it seems as if our fears shout even louder. It feels like we need to wrestle our way through our fears to even begin listening to sacred stillness.
We work hard to get beyond our fears, to set them aside even for a few minutes. All our struggling only seems to makes them stronger.
How can we move beyond our fears so we can listen to sacred stillness? Are there ways we can stop our fears from distracting us and blocking the stillness?
It may sound like double talk or mumbo-jumbo, but stillness is what takes us beyond our fears. We listen to sacred stillness and the stillness carries us beyond our fears.
Listening Our Way Beyond Our Fears
We experience our fears as barriers or challenges. When we approach something we fear it becomes the center of our attention. We are determined to protect ourselves from what we fear, whether we understand why or not.
As we practice listening to sacred stillness we learn how to pay less attention to our fears. We begin to allow things we fear to float past us, not to allow them to capture our attention. Listening to sacred stillness teaches us how to release our grip on thoughts and feelings, including fears.
Our contemplative practices show us new ways to respond to what we fear. We take deep breaths, with our eyes closed, and gain new understanding into what we fear and why we are afraid.
Listening to sacred stillness is not magic. It will not make our fears disappear. Our practice gives us opportunities to reflect and gain insight into our fears. Listening does not change the things we fear, but changes the ways we respond to our fears.
When we are afraid we find ourselves faced with an immediate need for action. Sometimes we need to fight against what we fear and other times we need to run away. Our contemplative practices help us appreciate we have another option.
A practice of listening gradually changes our perspective. We take time to listen and gain understanding. As we see ourselves in new ways we learn to release our fears.
Our fears become less immediate and less urgent. We begin to appreciate them as opportunities to learn.
Moving Beyond Our Fears
We practice listening to sacred stillness and begin to understand why we fear what we fear. Seeing the reasons we are afraid allows us to step beyond the control of fear and learn from it.
Our fears, even when we do not remember where they came from, are designed to protect us. Gaining a contemplative understanding of our fears helps us put them into context. We may realize we no longer need to be afraid of a particular thing.
It may be our feelings of fear have lasted longer than our need to be afraid.
Listening to sacred stillness can be the beginning of moving beyond our fears. We begin to see what we fear is not as urgent or as immediate as we thought they were.
When we listen to sacred listening we practice being open to stillness within us and all around us. The things we fear may lurk in the stillness. Being open to stillness is a way for us to explore what we fear and discover we can move beyond our fears.
We begin to appreciate the benefits of our fears and start to make friends with what we have feared.
Living Beyond Our Fears
Several years ago I decided to give up being afraid for Lent. While I have not yet become completely fearless and have felt fear since then, my relationship to fear has changed.
I invest less time and effort in my fears than I did before. Responding to fear has become less reactive for me. I try to respond to fear in more contemplative, reflective ways now.
Living beyond our fears is not about never being afraid. There are some situations in which feeling fear is the most healthy and rational response.
For me, living beyond our fear is about the questions we ask. Where does our fear originate? What are these feelings of fear designed to teach or show us? Who can we trust to help us deal with our fears?
We sit still listening for what sacred stillness has to tell us. Our fears are not intended to control us. We listen and sacred stillness helps us respond to fear in new ways.
As we listen we take our next step beyond our fears.
When will listening to sacred stillness take us beyond our fears today?
How will contemplative practices help us begin to live beyond our fears this week?
[Image by Bistrosavage]
Greg Richardson is a spiritual life mentor and coach in Southern California. He is a recovering attorney and a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.