17 October 2007

Letting Go of Fear

Fear blocks our ability to “just be” in the world. Working with and understanding fear and the role it plays in one’s life is almost always a part of the counseling or therapeutic process. Often, when the issues at hand become less pressing, it is discovered that underneath stress, anger, depression, etc. is fear in its many forms.

We live in a society and culture that is in many ways based on fear. We fear others, fear death, fear poverty, fear ridicule, and on and on. We take for granted that the movement of fear is leading us to safety, and thus don’t question it until it stops being useful and we really see how harmful it is. For example, when we are having relationship problems or struggling to take a test, etc. we really see that fear is making things worse, not better.

The opposite of fear is faith. Faith is a loaded word in these times, but what does it really mean when used in this context? Faith, used in this way, describes a presence within, an inner knowing that is not fear or worry based on past experiences. It is the faith that if we do what feels right to us in our heart, and don’t act from fear, our life will be as it needs to be. Faith is seeing the inherent emptiness of fear. Fear wants us to believe in it, but what does it truly know?

We all have a center that does know, that cares about others and the world around us, that will take care of us as we need to be taken care of. When we lose that we turn to fear in order to feel secure. By taking time to just be in the moment, and to recognize the flavor of fear, we see that allowing fear to rule our lives creates less, not more, safety. When we seek to love our fellow man, we discover that fear is trying to protect us from that same person. When we find the strength within that does not need to be afraid, love springs forth, and with it, a new way of being in the world.

15 October 2007

Feeling Comfortable in Your Own Skin

What does it mean to be comfortable with ourselves?  To be at ease in the world and in our relationships, able to enjoy life's beauty and endure its hardships?  These are questions many who come to counseling are asking without even knowing it.   What is it to be happy? 

Looking outside
We often make the mistake of thinking that outward things are going to make us happy.  Yet even as we buy "Real Simple" or turn towards political movements in an effort to live a more simple life, we are clinging to the idea that changing what is on the outside is what will make the difference. Time and time again, though, we find that the things outside of us are not what matters -- truly, it is what is going on inside that affects our daily life.

The first step in becoming more comfortable with ourselves and in our own skin is accepting things just as they are, in this very moment.  This process is about letting go of judging that everything is terrible or perfect; it is a state of mind that allows the heart to open to the world.

We can spend a lot of time trying to fix what is in our minds and hearts -- trying to be something or someone different -- but what we need is the courage to allow and accept.  Once we are able to allow what is there to just be, we find that it suddenly changes, moves, comes to life, teaches.  This dynamic, mysterious movement allows us to come to life, too.

Acceptance leads to choice, the choice of what to do with whatever reaction we find arising inside of us.  Choice leads to empowerment, and empowerment allows for relaxation.

You are flawed
The quest for perfection also affects our relationships.  It is very difficult to become truly close to others if we are afraid of what they will find when they get to know us.  This is why we need to find our courage.  If we are able to face our worst fears about ourselves, we become less vulnerable to and scared of the judgments of others.  When we lose this fear, we discover the ability to love and be loved.

Though it may seem to go against everything you have ever thought, it is our acceptance of our flaws that leads to emotional freedom.  This acceptance allows us to have compassion for ourselves and others, rather than self-pity and anger.  It releases us from the quest for perfection, and opens our heart so that we stop taking ourselves -- and others -- so seriously.

Take a breath

The next time you notice yourself getting upset about how you feel, take a moment to accept that feeling, just as it is.  Take a breath, and ask yourself, "What is this?"  The answer may surprise you.  And if you are having a lot of trouble with this, seek out a good therapist.  What I describe above is one of the central goals of good therapy.
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