The Art of Releasing Fear

“Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free.”
–Jim Morrison

My favorite time of day is dusk. It’s when I take time to pause and soak in the day on my balcony. The powder-pink sky shifts with the wind and, as I look up, I’m enveloped by a comforting sense of interconnectedness. It’s as if the world has unfolded for my delight. But as I continue to sit, I begin to realize I'm no longer one with the sky but captured by the trance of my thoughts.

With a growing business and exciting new ventures on the horizon, fear-based thoughts flooded in without notice. And I began to observe that I would hang on every thought like it was the cliffhanger of a mystery movie. “What’s around the corner?!” In this space, I felt the chambers of my heart closing out the world. In these fearful moments, I was believing the story of my small, inadequate self, unworthy of success, connection, or even love. 

Fear is paralyzing. But because we’re humans walking this earth, we experience fear. We can’t get around this reality, but what we can do is journey through it. By facing what we fear most, we excavate that beautiful, courageous, radiant being beneath the limiting stories we spin about who it is we truly are. Releasing fear is a daily practice, an art of attention.

Here are three ways to regain that sense of radiance and inner power beneath what terrifies you.

Dig Into Darkness

 The richness of humanity is found in both the euphoric joy of witnessing a rainbow and the clenching fear of losing what we love most. Without the valleys, the peaks don’t exist. Get to know the darkness within. We all possess experiences, feelings, urges, and fears we’re not particularly proud of. Embrace each and every precious piece of what makes you, well, YOU. You’re a beautiful, imperfect, radiant being that deserves love and acceptance, and you were put on this earth to share your unique gifts. Journey through your fear to discover those gifts within.

Try this: Practice some self-inquiry. Ask yourself in a moment of fear, “What am I believing about myself in this very moment?” Without judgment, be curious about what emerges from within. When we’re able to unearth those dark beliefs about who we think we are, that very awareness becomes the key to our emotional freedom—untangling us from the grasp of fear.

Befriend Your Belly

Our fears live in the emotional body and show up as tension, tightness, or other constricting body sensations. Most of our fears are top-down, as they stem from the delusion of our thoughts and core beliefs about who we are in the world. Get to know your gut. This is the birthplace of your intuitive spirit, the inner GPS that exists to guide you throughout life’s journey. Become aware of the sensations in your gut, particularly when you notice fear-based thoughts creeping in. Do you feel knots, clenching, or pain in the belly? As you cultivate awareness of this region, you’ll soon see that particular fears correlate with specific body sensations.

Try this: When you notice fear flooding in, take a five-minute belly-breathing break. Sit in a comfortable position and put your hands over your belly, relaxing each muscle in your abdomen. Breathing through your nostrils, sense your hands rise and fall with your breath, as if you were blowing up a balloon in your gut. Belly-breathe for five minutes, activating the parasympathetic (rest-and-relax) nervous system with each exhale.

Practice Presence

In order to get some distance from fear, we must gain distance from our fear-based thoughts. A mindfulness practice will help you cultivate the awareness needed to sense that you’re so much more than the stories, thoughts, and beliefs that swirl around your mind. There are many flavors of mindfulness, including dozens of meditation practices, yoga, breathing techniques, etc.

Try this: Create an affirming gatha (short, mindful poem) and repeat this to yourself three times before your feet hit the floor in the morning. Rather than entering your day with a burst of cortisol (stress hormone) from that incessant to-do list, try practicing gentleness through words of love. Mine? “I bow to this brand-new day before me. I vow to live each moment fully. I will look at all beings with eyes of compassion. And I stretch far beyond the limits of this physical body.” To change our fear patterns, we must change our thought patterns. At first, I felt like a fraud repeating these words. Now? I claim them with loving conviction. 

Find out about upcoming programs with Lena Franklin at Kripalu.

This essay originally appeared on Lena’s blog.

Lena Franklin, LCSW, is a mindfulness-based psychotherapist and international wellness guide who teaches that to journey inward is our highest calling.

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