Thursday, January 15, 2015

transcending Fear

As a working artist I've had to develop a somewhat healthy relationship with the fear, doubt and anxiety that are inextricably woven into a career synonymous with uncertainty and laden with peaks and valleys of the emotional and financial kind.

I've been in the trenches of debt incurred by portfolio building and I've seen paydays from big jobs that have set me up for months. I've seen everything in between as well.

I've learned to accept the flux of this life I've chosen and although at times I do admire the financial security of my lawyer/banker friends, I have been told on a number of occasions that they in turn envy my jet setting to exotic locations to be paid handsomely for what I love to do anyway.

So everything is relative.

Speaking of relativity, a little physics to help illustrated how I work with fear and anxiety:

In classic Newtonian physics there is a subject (me) who is observing an object (a ball). I kick the ball and though the ball flies through the air there is an equal and opposite reaction against my foot. Subject and object and their interaction was the basis of physical understanding up until the introduction of the more complex science of quantum mechanics.

What quantum physicists discovered in the 20th century is that there is a third element involved in measuring an interaction between particles and that is the process of observation itself. On a subatomic level, the process of observation effects the outcome of quantum interactions. (See the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.)

The nature of consciousness is still a big huge massive mystery to almost everyone on the planet. What is consciousness? From where does it arise? Yogis and sages of the east believe that the physical body arises from consciousness whereas many thinkers from the west believe the opposite.

Regardless, I adhere to the truths discovered by the great thinkers of the last century (and the Yogis before them):

Observation changes everything.

Observation and mindful awareness is the root of all yoga, meditation and self healing processes. It is the single most effective tool in easing the patterns of fear and suffering we have accrued throughout our lifetime.

You can't 'get over' your fears. You can't push them away. They will come back, manifested as something else. Perhaps as disease.

What you can do is observe them.

When a wave of fear or anxiety washes over me,  I try and simply observe. I observe the fear as it manifests as a sensation in my body, a tightness in my chest or throat. I observe with detached mindfulness, avoiding the tendency to get sucked in to the emotional play of the ego-mind.

When we observe our emotions with a detached non reactive awareness we create space. Space gives us room to look at our fears and anxieties rationally. When we link this awareness to our breath we have a very powerful tool to ease the debilitating paralysis that the worries of life can impose on us.

In Yoga we hold uncomfortable postures not to get into better physical shape but rather to observe the mind as it struggles with unease. When we are able to say to ourselves 'holy shit, I hate this, I'm uncomfortable but I'm just going to observe this feeling for a bit," we are actually ripping apart a lifetimes worth of patterning.

As we get better at this we can start to observe the mind and its fluctuations on a regular basis, in our interactions with ourselves and others around us. In traffic, at work, in our relationships.

That's how you work with fear, with doubt, with anger, with anxiety. You observe it, you feel it, you watch it ebb and flow and eventually dissipate. You detach from it and observe it as a scientist observes. You become the process of observation.

Because...observation changes everything ;-)

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