Three Practices for Living Fearlessly

When I awake in the morning before the busyness of the day begins, I think about my life. I ask myself whether I’m living on purpose. The truth is, if my life ended today and I was asked if I had any regrets, I’d say yes. I know that I’ve been living with a fear that’s preventing me from stepping fully into the life I long to live. I know that fear is holding me hostage.

Kripalu presenter Rhonda Britten, master life coach and best-selling author of Fearless Living: Live Without Excuses and Love Without Regret, understands how debilitating fear can be, and she also understands that fear is about more than being scared of snakes, heights, or public speaking. “Fear is both the cause and effect,” she says, “of the feelings, thoughts, or actions that prohibit you from accepting yourself and realizing your full potential.”

The Emmy Award winner (for the reality TV series Starting Over) and founder of the Fearless Living Institute was paralyzed by fear after the horrific experience of watching her father murder her mother and subsequently commit suicide when she was just 14. “But that’s not what started my fear spinning,” she admits. “It didn’t help it, but it didn’t start it.”

Rhonda says that our core fear, what she calls our Wheel of Fear, is formed by the time we’re five years old, based on our life experiences. “Fear is tricky, insidious, and invisible,” she says, “and if you don’t see how fear actually works in your own life, it can be easily missed.”

Here’s an example. Maybe your relationship, job, or health is breaking down. You know something’s wrong; you know something’s got to change. “Your soul wants you to have love and dreams and rainbows,” Rhonda says. “Your soul’s intention is that you have everything beautiful and wonderful—every new adventure you’ve ever hoped for.

“But your brain’s job is different. Its number-one job is to keep you safe. It loves you. It thinks you’re the best thing ever, but, unfortunately, it protects you by making sure you do the same things again and again, like Groundhog Day. If you try to do anything differently, it triggers as much fear as it takes to get you to stop. Your brain wants more of the same, no matter what that is. If what you’re used to is a dysfunctional family or a painful marriage or an unrewarding job, that’s where it feels safest to stay. Your brain doesn’t care if you want to do a good thing like grow your business or learn Italian. Your brain is so good at keeping you afraid that you don’t even realize you have that fear filter in place. You just suddenly have a bunch of distractions, worries, or reasons why you can’t grow your business or learn Italian right now.”

When we do things like assume, complain, worry, blame, judge, isolate, manipulate, and procrastinate, fear is tricking us, according to Rhonda. To prevent us from having to deal with it head on, fear ingeniously keeps us tap dancing around our emotions, goals, and dreams. “Fear figures that if you focus on yourself, your circumstances, or your mate as the problem,” she says, “you won’t figure out that it’s really fear that’s keeping you stuck, stopped, and stuffed.”

Eradicating fear entirely is impossible, because it’s part of our neurobiology, Rhonda says, but we can learn to master it by understanding how it works, internally and externally. “When you know that the fear filter is there and exactly what your fear is, you can replace it with your freedom filter,” she explains. “It’s just like changing one pair of prescription glasses for another. It doesn’t hurt. You don’t need to be probed and talk about your history. You don’t even need to be cheerful. Instead, with the right freedom filter in place, you have the same thousand thoughts and feelings you had yesterday that told you to be afraid, but now those same words and feelings tell you something entirely different. Suddenly, they’re full of encouragement, opportunity, and clarity. Now you can safely make progress on the relationship, work, and health goals that you were stuck on before.”

To release longstanding fears, Rhonda has developed an acclaimed method called Fearless Living. Here are some of her favorite practices.

Express Gratitude

Rather than advertise our fears by complaining about what isn’t working in our lives, Rhonda suggests expressing gratitude. “Gratitude can literally help your reframe the way you see the world,” she says.

She suggests expressing gratitude like this:

  • Focus on things you’re grateful for outside of yourself (people, places, things, etc.).
  • Use the present tense: “Today I am grateful for …”
  • Frame your gratitude as a positive—eliminate the word “not.”
  • Be specific.
  • Expressing five “gratitudes” a day is optimal.
  • Write them down.
  • Be aware of shifts in your experience (thoughts, feelings, etc.).

Vent

“Complaining and venting are both meant to move stagnant energy,” Rhonda explains, “but only one helps you move forward. Complaining keeps you stuck in the problem, while venting helps you honor your feelings and act on your commitments.”

Most people don’t vent properly, according to Rhonda. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Pick a venting partner who’s supportive and trustworthy.
  2. Explain that you want to vent and ask if they are available to support you.
  3. Establish a mutually agreed-upon time, and a time limit for the session.
  4. Clarify the venting partner’s job: They’re not to offer wisdom, opinions, or  advice. They must keep what they hear confidential. They have to maintain objectivity, and not take on your issue or the emotions associated with it.
  5. Fully vent within the agreed-upon timeframe.
  6. Breathe!
  7. Request additional support if you need it, such as expressions of empathy for your experience.
  8. Have the listener acknowledge you for letting it out.
  9. Thank the listener for their support.

After shifting the way you see the world with gratitude and then honoring your feelings by venting properly, Rhonda suggests this exercise to change the way you see yourself:

Acknowledge

“Acknowledgement is the biggest confidence booster,” she notes, “but it isn’t about patting yourself on the back for a job well done or giving yourself credit when everything is perfect. Rather, it’s the number-one tool to bolster your self-confidence by giving yourself a high-five for every little, tiny step forward.”

Here’s how (the process is a lot like expressing gratitude):

  1. Focus on any new insights, actions, and thoughts you have regarding yourself.
  2. Use the present tense: “Today I acknowledge myself for …”
  3. Frame your acknowledgement as a positive—eliminate the word “not.”
  4. Be specific.
  5. Expressing five acknowledgements a day is optimal.
  6. Write them down.
  7. Be aware of shifts in your experience (thoughts, feelings, etc.).

Exercises like these begin to help us live in freedom instead of fear, says Rhonda. While fear has us shaming ourselves, blaming others, focusing on “should,” and seeking guaranteed results in guaranteed time frames, living in freedom “gently nudges you towards your destiny,” Rhonda insists.

“When you live in freedom, you live in the present. You're free to forgive the past and trust the future. You don’t compare, or believe you have all the time in the world. You make decisions based on intuition, on trusting your knowledge and experience. Remember, fearlessness isn’t about jumping out of a plane. It’s about jumping into your life—fully and completely.”

Register for Rhonda Britten’s Fearless Living program at Kripalu.

Portland Helmich has been investigating natural health and healing as a host, reporter, writer, and producer for more than 15 years.

© Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. All rights reserved. To request permission to reprint, please email editor@kripalu.org.

Portland Helmich has been investigating natural health and healing for more than 15 years, as a host, reporter, writer, and producer.

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