Throughout my martial arts and self defense career I learned how to do one thing, face my fears. When you do full contact fighting with everyone in your school, regardless of age, gender, rank you learn very quickly that you might have the best side kick in town, but when you are afraid that part of your brain that can react to a "threat" can shut down. I cannot share how many times I let my own fear control my ability to fight - which at times would result in my getting my clock cleaned by a beloved teammate.
Irrational fear can stop you in your tracks. You can forget what you are doing. Lose sight of what's important. Be unable to use the skills you normally have - like my amazing saber kick and jabs, which would just float away in a sea of fear. Many many years ago one of the women that I had the honor of working with in a padded attacker workshop shared the following wisdom with the class - "Fear is in the inaction, there is no fear in action". Fear lives in the past and in the future, not in the present.
Think about the last time you were afraid. What were you afraid of? Something that happened before or something that you were worried was going to happen. Fear is exhausting, and can hijack all our logical thoughts. I remember preparing for my 3rd degree black belt test. It's a long test with a lot of things that needed to be done, but before the test would actually start you had to make it through a dark room of fighters. These fighters have been given one job - don't let the tester through. If you are unable to get through the room, your test doesn't start. If you are unable to get through the room after a certain number of tries, your test is done - forever.
I can still remember standing outside the room waiting to be called in. To say I was scared in an understatement. I didn't think I would be hurt, and I also didn't want to have to be back in that place of waiting for the unknown to start again. I was going to get through that room the first try - even if it took me all night (which it did not). While I was waiting I focused on my intention word and used a calming water meditation. Every time my heartrate would increase or my brain would start to spin I would take a breath, say my intention, and imaging the waves of my emotions becoming calmer and the water becoming still. Even as some external chaos was happening - unconnected to me and my test but resulted in my having to stand at the door even longer - In continued to remember that fear was in the inaction and that I KNEW what I needed to do once I was in there.
When I think back to this test and my feelings at that door, instead of feeling anxiety or worry I remember the deep feeling of peace that was surrounding me. I knew, by keeping myself in the present and not letting my monkey brain take off in the fear that I would be fine. Honestly when I walked into the room and was able to access all the tools that almost 20 years of training provided me, being in the present rather than living in the fear of the task, the task was easy. It was so easy that I thought they let me through, which was silly and is an entirely different conversation. What I know is that by walking into the room with my intention set (I already saw it done) and using the calming of the waves to keep my monkey brain quiet, I learned the true power of being present and in the moment.
Next week I will share the water meditation with you.
as always, be well