What would it mean in our lives if we trusted more and feared less?
Have you ever had the experience of hearing something that changed the way you view the world? Maybe a time when you were just hanging out, minding your own business, maybe even zoning out a bit when the door to your brain opened up a little wider, demanding your immediate and undivided attention? Well, that happened to me recently in the most perfectly timed and unexpected way.
I was attending a celebration for a couple’s 60th wedding anniversary. During the party their daughter, Audrey stood up and read a heartfelt tribute to them. As I listened to her story (and I’m paraphrasing here) she talked about how all her life her parents were worriers. So, no matter what she did or where she went, she always had to check in and let her parents know she had arrived safely and was alright. She joked that her parents felt that chances were she could die. Audrey then continued her story and said that when she married, she was shocked to learn that her in-laws believed that no matter where they went or what they did, chances were they would live!
Now, that might seem really strange to hear but, I instantly resonated with this story and felt as if a thousand tiny light bulbs went off in my brain. I felt as if the molecular structure of my being had subtly shifted! You see, my wonderful Italian mother was exactly the same as Audrey’s mother! My mom was most comfortable, most happy when all of her children stayed put—not doing anything too adventurous, scary, or daring because, chances were, we might not survive whatever it was we wanted to do. She loved us fiercely, and I know she wanted to protect us. I think she also saw the world as a scary place where anything could happen, so we were better safe than sorry. Any time I went anywhere, I had to phone home just to let her know I was still alive. This included every time I got in a car or on a plane and traveled anywhere outside the county in which we lived.
So when I heard Audrey’s words, something inside my brain woke up. I realized that despite all my adventures and travels and my crazy job as a firefighter, I had inherited this fear and worry gene from my mother and internalized it. For example, each time my husband and I traveled, I would assume that we might not make it back. I would make sure the house was clean (kind of like the clean underwear theory), our bills were paid, relatives were notified, etc. I was someone who loved to travel, except for the traveling part. And in the few days before any trip, I would quietly fret about the uncertainty of it all. It wasn’t like a full-blown anxiety attack. Instead, it was a subtle but very real undercurrent that kept my body/mind/heart on alert and ready for the “inevitable.”
So imagine the shift, the idea, the audacity of thinking and believing that (drum roll please)—CHANCES ARE YOU WILL LIVE!
Chances are you will make it to your destination; chances are you will survive, arrive, thrive, adjust, enjoy, and explore—just like the millions of other people who do and travel and play and try new things all day long! What a weight lifting relief to realize the truth instead of fiction—to understand that yes, things do happen, but they don’t happen every time you step out the door or walk down the street or get in a car or fly on a plane!
This “ah ha” came perfectly timed just a week before we were getting on a plane and flying across the ocean. “Chances are, you will live” became my mantra. Each time I felt a bit of fear or anxiety, I would repeat that mantra—and it worked. Something in me shifted. I felt myself relax and let go of some of the incessant worry that had always been a part of my life. I realized that this habit went well beyond my own being—to my friends, my family. My mind played the “what if” game, as I wasted precious time and energy on things that would likely never come to fruition.
Les Brown said, “Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are too busy living our fears.” And yes, we can certainly keep ourselves as safe as possible by minimizing our exposure, but in doing so our lives become the size of postage stamps and our experiences become a bit beige. Do we really want beige? Is this what we want to do with our one wild and precious life?
And yet, there is more. During the same week before our trip, I had lunch with my lovely niece and her two daughters. They were all wearing these inexpensive rings with different words on them. Her ring said “fearless”. I asked her if I could borrow the ring and she happily lent it to me. All through my trip I wore that ring, looking down at it any time I felt a bit unsettled. I would picture myself in the “super woman” pose—confident, poised, able to handle anything. Can you hear the music? I thought: “I am fearless—da da ta dahhh!” And then, once more, an “ah ha” came my way. As I looked at the ring and thought of all the people I love and all the opportunities there are in life to see and do and be, my mind visualized a dash between the letters “R” and “L”, and I saw the ring in a whole new light. Fear-less. There was that message all over again. Fear freaking less!
What I noticed was that the less attention I gave to my unsubstantiated fears, the more I opened up. My heart softened and the world became a safer, friendlier, more vulnerable place. The definition of fear—False Evidence Appearing Real—became clear for what it was, and the trip I took across the ocean felt very different indeed!
What would it mean in our lives if we trusted more and feared less? If we realized that, chances are, we will be all right? And even if the “you know what” is hitting the fan and things really aren’t all right, worrying, stressing, projecting isn’t going to help. As dumb as it sounds, maybe what we need in that moment is to see thousands of planes all flying in the air at the same time or millions of flowers opening up, or parents around the world having babies…in other words—life happening on purpose all around us—to understand that somehow, some way, everything is going to be okay even if it isn’t all right.
Waylon Lewis, editor of Elephant Journal, said this:
“Don’t push away all that is uncomfortable,
and cling to all that is pleasurable.
This is ego.
Instead, breathe deeply and relax into the present moment.
This nervous feeling in your heart?
Breathe in, breathe out.
Stay for one moment.
This is fearlessness.”
So the next time I am uncomfortable or afraid, I just need to breathe and be in that moment and remember that we are not alone on this journey. We can lean in and ask ourselves: “What is this feeling and is it true?” We can reach out and let others in. We can tell our story in hopes of connecting with others. And certainly, we can fear less and love more. All aboard!
Mary Boutieller is a Registered Yoga Teacher through Yoga Alliance. She has been teaching yoga since 2005. Her work experience includes 22 years as a firefighter/paramedic and 10 years as a Licensed Massage Therapist. Mary’s knowledge and experience give her a well-rounded understanding of anatomy, alignment, health and movement in the body. She is passionate about the benefits of yoga and the ability to heal at all levels through awareness, compassion, and a willingness to explore. She can be reached at: SimplyogaOm@gmail.com.