Early this morning I swam in the icy cold Camps Bay waters again for the first time since lockdown 5. I still remember the last time I was at that Tidal pool. I wanted to go and swim for “old time sake” before we were prohibited to go onto the beaches again. But that morning the collective fear in the air was so strong. No one was at the beach and the Inner critic that wants me to always be a “good girl and do everything right” got hooked onto that fear and stopped my innocent inner- wild- spontaneous- child from swimming free.
Lately I became more aware of the immense role that fear plays in our lives. I’m currently in a process of deepening my capacity to sense into the moment. What is fascinating is that the more I consciously breathe to take in more of life in the moment, the more I become aware of the strong pull of fear that sits heavy on my shoulders and is trying its utmost best to keep me from opening up. How the accumulated fears that I was born into and also bought into are causing are inhibiting me. How it is keeping me contracted and trapped in boring familiar behaviour of reacting. And how by not being awake to it there is no room for life to surprise me. No space for new breath to expand my beingness.
The natural reaction of human beings is to hold their breath when they are faced with fear. It is like when you walk into cold seawater you gasp for air, you take a deep breath in, but then you hold that breath. In that moment the body contracts and you tighten all your muscles. It is only when you breathe out that the body starts to relax, soften and gently open up.
When we perceive a threat (be it psychological or physical), we unconsciously hold our breath in and in that pause, we lock the fear into our body. As we unconsciously hold onto the fear it causes a sense of tightness or heaviness in the body. We start to feel trapped in our body but then instead of taking ownership of it and facing the inner fear. We protect ourselves by projecting it to something external and say phrases (that are all too familiar to me as well) like “this relationship is suffocating me”, “I feel trapped in my work”, “the burdens of the world lays heavy on my shoulders”, etc. By reacting in this habitual way, we don’t gift ourselves with space to curiously explore whether that is indeed the reality of our experience. If how we are behaving is a wise response to what is happening in the moment or whether it is a default reaction to keep us in our comfort zone (how boring it may be).
The ever-present invitation of life is to kindly open up to all that is in the moment. To continuously breathe in and out no matter the circumstances. To see that whatever we may perceive (intellectually) as a threatening or uncomfortable may be a true gift of life. It may not be the gift we wanted (isn’t’ that how it sometimes works with gifts) but the one we need in the moment. This moment, this one you are in right now. Not the next moment, not tomorrow or yesterday, but right now. Breathe.
To gracefully receive and unwrap a gift you have to be present to it. You use your whole body to unwrap it. You are curious and without expectation of what it needs to be but already filled with gratitude for receiving it. Once you’ve opened the gift a spontaneous sound – Ah! – escapes your body. A sense of wonder and relieve in the body. A lightness enters the room as you breathe out. That is how it feels when you allow yourself to release what you fear and not hold onto it. For example after a good cry we say “ I feel lighter” of when we finally had the courageous conversation we’ve postponed for a long time we say “it feels as if a weight has lifted from my shoulders”.
I can speak from personal experience that sitting with the discomfort and facing up to fear is not always easy. Who said life needs to be easy? Another assumption that causes duality. Yet, it is the doorway to freedom and a life less ruled by fear (conscious or unconscious). But it asks of us to show up for ourselves. Like you would to a dear friend when she is in distress. To knock on the door and say – I’m here, I’m ready to listen, I have time, you are safe with me no matter the outcome.
Like the sound of the waves invites us into the ocean of life. Can you hear the knocking sound of your breath inviting you into this moment?