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5 Steps to Push Through Fear

“Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious.” ~Rumi

This summer, I drove up Highway 5 from Los Angeles on my way to Grass Valley to visit my friend Carol, a painting teacher, for a week of painting in her studio. I can’t remember the last time I hit the road on my own for an eight-hour drive to nature.

I forgot what it was like to crank up the stereo listening to old tunes, straining my vocal cords to and singing full voice off key.

On my right, I saw semi trucks making deliveries from central California farms. I watched onion peels from the truck beds flit through the air like white winged butterflies. I saw tons of bright yellow lemons piled high, Italian tomatoes toppling onto one another, and potted trees tacked down by enormous tarps waving through the speeding air.

Passing Sacramento and getting off on Highway 49, I found myself driving on a straight two- lane road lined by dense tall cedar trees, into what seemed to be like the center of the earth. Carol calls this the “channel.” Hardly a store, restaurant, or gas station around. I couldn’t help but question my friend’s sudden move into such isolation.

Our plan was to go deep into the painting process, just the two of us, and I was excited for the immersion. Because of the heat, Carol said we’d paint in the morning and the evening, but in the afternoon we would hike to cool down in the Yuba River.

I’ve been a city girl for far too long and was embarrassed by my trepidation to go into the river.

I remember when I was nine swimming across the Mississippi headwaters at Lake Itasca in Northern Minnesota. I also remember the picture of me on my Mother’s desk—I was five, at Robbers Cave State Park in Oklahoma, stripped of all my clothes and crouching in the running cascades over river rocks, with arms held wide into the air.

I brought my bathing suit with me but Carol said I wouldn’t need it—it was Northern California after all.

“Naked?” I yelped.

“Yes, silly! No one but us will be there.”

“Have you seen River Monsters on the Discovery Channel? You would be shocked to see what ginormous prehistoric animals live in the river!”

“In the Amazons!” She laughed. “I’m going to make sure we go to the river every day while you are here.”

For years, Carol was always the one to be there to help me through my fears, while holding such a safe container of love and strength while I faced my blocks with painting. Yet, swimming in water is one of my biggest fears—not just rivers, but oceans, lakes and even swimming pools. Damn that Steven Spielberg!

The first night there, sitting on Carol’s front porch we talked late into the night, telling stories and catching up. I asked her if she was the one that came up with the metaphor of how creativity is like a river.

“It’s an old standard,” she said. But it was from her where I first learned it.

When we dare to create it’s like we are in a river. It takes us with it, through rapid currents, streams, and still slow moving pools, past boulders and leading us to the Great Big Sea. Always liking to be near the water but never in it, this metaphor is particularly profound to me.

It reminds me to move past my fears to just jump in, naked and raw. It reminds me of the uninhibited child in me who was open and vulnerable without knowing there was anything to fear at all.

This is why I look for the creativity in all that I do—this river that guides me and takes me along with its strong currents that push me through my blocks.

Here are 5 ways to step through your fear and join the river:

1. Get naked.

Truth be told, I wore my one-piece suit to the river. I was glad because there were actually a lot of people there. But I like the metaphor of getting naked when we meet our fear.

The idea is to take it off—the story of the fear that keeps us from meeting ourselves fully in the moment—to just drop all of it and expose ourselves.

It’s only a thought form after all, and as the old adage goes: “What we fear most is fear itself.” When we drop the story we build up around our fear and meet the present where we are now, we open ourselves to new experiences and allow the river to take us.

2. Jump in.

I admit it—I was nervous! I acted like a schoolgirl when it was time to get in. But I had something to prove to myself (and to Carol), and I knew the only way I could really overcome my fear was to just jump in.

I waded into the shallow end; my goodness, the snowmelt from the Sierras was cold! And a sweet little girl, maybe 10 years old, standing waist high in the running water firmly coached me, “Yeah, I know it’s cold. What you have to do is put your whole head under the water. Then it won’t be cold any longer!”

Who was the adult here? I called on the fearlessness of my own ten year old and lowered my head in.

It’s really that simple, just jumping in. When we do this while facing our fears, our lives are changed forever.

3. Swim.

Sure, I dog paddled with a little squeal across the deep end of the river’s pool to join Carol on the other side. But once I got to the river’s edge to lie in the sun, feet playing with the cascading water, I felt remarkably accomplished.

The goal is to meet our creative depths and swim, and if a trout passes by and tickles our ankle then all the better!

4. Get dirty

The next day I looked forward to our afternoon outing to the river, this time swimming out to the middle of a clear pea green pool.

We held onto the top of a large granite rock, half of our bodies dangling off, and gently paddled our legs with the soft current as we talked for an hour. I was no longer afraid. (Only once did I look under the boulder for a river monster…)

I could feel the sand kicking up between my toes. My wet hair was pleasantly grungy, and my skin felt surprisingly silky from the minerals in the water. I was meeting the earth with presence.

With everything we do, any fear we meet face on, the trick is to let go into the wild abandon and meet whatever arises with presence, even if it means getting a little dirty.

5. Relish in the delight of it all.

What we get from meeting our fears is 100% freedom. The rush, the excitement, the pleasure this brings is worth it all.

Whatever that thing is that makes you afraid, it’s asking you to meet it only because it knows the incredible bliss that will come with it.

So let’s get free together by remembering that true freedom comes when we go with the river and relish in the delight of it all.

Photo by pdejordy

Avatar of Lynn Newman

About Lynn Newman

Lynn Newman’s (aka Lynn Zavaro) book and card deck set, The Game of You™- An Interactive Way To Know Yourself, Create The Life You Want offers a powerful, profound and FUN experience of self-discovery and transformation. Her board game, The Game of Insight comes out soon. She has currently finished her memoir. Visit her at gameofyou.com.

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  • http://pukkalists.wordpress.com Joy

    I’ve been working on my fear a lot lately! I have a fear of loud banging noises (like in suspense movies or, more importantly, thunderstorms). This past weekend I pushed myself to stand outside in a thunderstorm (under an overhang, of course!) and wouldn’t let myself put my hands up to block my ears. I was terrified, but I survived! 

    I’m hoping it keeps getting easier. I am confident, however, that my small steps to take my daily life back from the clutches of my fear will pay off!

  • Lynnzavaro

    How wonderful Joy!!

  • Marelotus

    Be brave, wear an armour of faith, hold a sword of strength, shield yourself with courage, then, face fear and “know” you will be able to do that which you were afraid of.  How freeing it is to face fear with courage. Your life will change for the better by getting rid of fear.

  • linnaeab

    Lynn,

    Such beautifully written descriptions of the sights, sounds, and feelings of your journey.
    Delicious!

    linnaea

  • linnaeab

    Joy,

    It does get easier, and eventually you may even relish the excitement of thunder, streaks and sheets of lightening.

    As a child I was terrified when lightning storms filled the sky in the dark early Midwest mornings. Once, remembering I was safe in my bedroom, I got out of bed, went to the window and opened the shutters. The lighting lit the whole sky as almost simultaneous claps of thunder pierced my ears. The storm was directly on top of us. I was shaking. But as I stood there for an hour or more, the fear turned into fascination. My mind’s terror transformed to exuberance.

    In the Midwest, there are signs of approaching storms. The air smells different, it feels alive. The  wind starts to blow. At this point I would climb a tree in the yard and sway with the branches. Even as the first rain hit, I wouldn’t let go of the tree. It was so enlifting! But when the lightening started, I ran inside to participate from the safety of home, glued to a window. 

    Since then I love storms, even hurricanes approaching the East Coast are exhilarating. But tornadoes are over the top.

    linnaea
     

  • http://www.rachelernst.org Aurorae

    Really beautiful post today!  I just jumped into launching my own life coaching business (www.rachelernst.org), so I’m been working through the joy, the fear, the wanting to run away, the fear of “nakedness.”  This post spoke to me as I dive into another week of this new adventure!

  • Lita5555

    Thank you kindly Linnea! xoxo Lynn

  • Lynnzavaro

    I love this: ” how freeing it is to dace fear with courage.” thank you! Lynn

  • Lynnzavaro

    YAY! Congrats and wishing you and your new business great success! Lynn

  • Adele Uddo

    Boy this makes me miss my earthy roots in Northern California! Ahh, you
    describe this experience so beautifully Lynn. I hope I’ll get to visit
    Grass Valley someday and swim until I’m gloriously messy!

  • http://www.comedykarma.blogspot.com Sarahtsaraht

    This is so great. Several years ago, I was working quite deeply with my fears and I remember having a dream where I swam across a lake filled with snakes. In the dream, I stayed focused on getting to the other side and surrendered to the choice I had made. I knew that meeting the snake filled lake with surrender and peace would bring me far less suffering than if I kicked and screamed my way to the other side, caught in a tidepool of panic as I flailed about. What is it about our fears and water?!

    I love the humor you’ve injected in to this…and the personal story. More, more, more! xo

  • Lynnzavaro

    Hi Sarah! Thank you for sharing your story. It has been said that water represents our unconscious, the depths within us that we cannot see. Carl Jung calls this the shadow but not to be confused with “darkness”. Basically, an area where light is blocked. When we “unblock” ourselves when facing a fear we discover our light, what radiates within and this is how we come to know our bliss. Xoxoxo Lynn

  • Lynnzavaro

    Thank you Adele!

  • Deborah

    I absolutely love the photo – I hope that is you in the water!

  • Lynnzavaro

    No, not me – but Lori did a nice job of picking the photo! Beautiful!

  • love letters

    This is brilliant. It’s so true that “what we fear most is fear itself”. As soon as I remind myself that my fear is put back into perspective. Keep the great posts coming I love every one of them :)

  • http://pukkalists.wordpress.com Joy

    I’ve never had to experience tornadoes or hurricanes. Living in northern New England, my ordeal with weather has obviously involved snow and lots of it!

    When I first started trying to find ways to work with my fear, I did a search of “afraid of thunderstorms.” A few years ago, all I could find were articles relating to small dogs and other pets that became uncontrollable messes during storms. The other articles I found helped people (hey, at least they covered people) deal with their fear; the one and major difference was that these folks were afraid of thunderstorms because they heralded tornadoes. 

    I was just afraid of them because I was afraid of loud noises. I also hate the sound of balloons popping or gunshots (not like I actually hear those in person, but I don’t even like them in movies).

    It has taken me a long time to get over the shame of my fear. Feeling ridiculous about what you’re afraid of takes you farther and farther away from the source of your fear to begin with. 

    Thanks for your story! I don’t know if I’ll ever sit in a tree while a storm approaches, but I’m taking baby steps to be okay with the whole ordeal. 

  • http://pukkalists.wordpress.com Joy

    I’ve never had to experience tornadoes or hurricanes. Living in northern New England, my ordeal with weather has obviously involved snow and lots of it!

    When I first started trying to find ways to work with my fear, I did a search of “afraid of thunderstorms.” A few years ago, all I could find were articles relating to small dogs and other pets that became uncontrollable messes during storms. The other articles I found helped people (hey, at least they covered people) deal with their fear; the one and major difference was that these folks were afraid of thunderstorms because they heralded tornadoes. 

    I was just afraid of them because I was afraid of loud noises. I also hate the sound of balloons popping or gunshots (not like I actually hear those in person, but I don’t even like them in movies).

    It has taken me a long time to get over the shame of my fear. Feeling ridiculous about what you’re afraid of takes you farther and farther away from the source of your fear to begin with. 

    Thanks for your story! I don’t know if I’ll ever sit in a tree while a storm approaches, but I’m taking baby steps to be okay with the whole ordeal. 

  • Lynn Zavaro

    It was Franklin D Roosevelt who said “What we fear most is fear itself.” xoxo Lynn

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  • Jeff

    Lynn,
    Great job letting go of some of your fears.  I hope you post at some not-to-distant time that you have gone swimming naked.  It’s quite wonderful.  I haven’t done it in years, but would relish the opportunity to do so again… any opportunity.

    Jeff

  • Lynn

    jeff-this is quite funny! one day, i promise i will! thankyou!! xoxo lynn

  • Depressedmindnsoul

    hi,
    i’m in a very depressed state of mind and its getting worse and worrying me as well. I’m a qualified post graduate engineer who once was at a very high in life enjoying the success and did well with a business start up, but have been off work for the past 9 months due to pile up of anxiety, frustration, fear and depression and just cant get my life back on track. My wife and parents are getting worried for me as well.
    I’ve always fought head on with life and succeeded despite many failures but just cant come out of it this time. Its begun to sink in me that I can’t perform or fight back from this point and it all seems over for me. The fighting spirit is dead.
    Prayers to god, motivating thoughts, insipirational articles, etc,,, all the positive stuff doesnt seem to have any impact on my condition..
    all i want to do is reinstate my belief that am still worth something and that god has sent me here with some purpose which is yet to be fulfilled.
    Can someone please guide and help me.
    Eagerly awaiting help

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  • James

    Incredible article! Thanks!