On Fear: An Excercise in Personal Power

A funny thing happens when I receive love, appreciation, support: I freak out. An intense fear permeates the whole body. From the outside, I probably appear calm (unless you’re standing right next to me, in which case you’ll notice my face growing red and sweaty). But on the inside, I experience a frenetic energy that muddles my thinking and tightens my breathing. Curious how fear shows up for us sometimes, isn’t it?

image of tarantulaPut me in the midst of interpersonal turmoil, and I’ll sail through it with total clarity and confidence. Talk someone out of stabbing another person? Hold my mental own against a very strong man on an alcohol-induced rampage? I’ve done both with zero hesitation or fear. I used to wobble at the sight of the standard house spider. I now live with jungle for a backyard, and tarantulas bigger than my hand occasionally sneak into my casita, and I mindfully relocate them. But place me in an intimate social setting, and the survival instincts trip false alarms; I habitually go haywire. What do you experience when fear snags you?

While I may be fearless in shaky physical situations, I can nevertheless get rocked off center by feelings of unworthiness, the emotional expression of fearing connection. The inner child’s voice tells me not to trust closeness. “Don’t go there,” she warns. “It’s unreliable, and it’ll lead to hurt and humiliation.”

At Metta Center, we tend to put being before doing. Our staff and board meetings typically open with the sharing of personal revelations—in short, the nurturing of loving, appreciative and supportive connections. This revealing places me squarely in my discomfort zone. My voice quivers, I rush through words and forget important points. During my first board meeting, joined by phone, fearful feelings jolted me with adrenaline. The flight mechanism kicked into high gear, but of course there was nothing to run from—or to. While sitting in my chair with the phone muted, I found release in a burst of tears. Good, I thought. Let the tensity rise. Let it rise!

Transformation, individual as well as societal, depends on the arising and dissolving of unreleased tensions. It can be discomforting to reveal who we really are—in so doing, we go against the grain of superficial interactions. What a risky feat in a culture that claims we’re empty-headed consumers on an insatiable quest for material pleasure and in a never-ending race to the top (wherever that is). Revealing who we are, then, is an obstructive rejection of separation and a constructive reappropriation of our physical, mental and spiritual energies.

A couple of weeks ago, Metta Center asked me to join their staff as Director of Communications. I’m both honored and humbled to contribute my love for creative communications in a meaningful way. The world needs stories that elevate the understanding of our inherent human worth and potential, and I’m ready to help bring those stories into being. image of keyThe members of Metta Center’s team are my collaborators and spiritual teachers rolled into one. By inviting me to join the staff, they’ve graced me with a golden key to my svadharma, what our founder and president Michael Nagler calls “the articulation of your capacities with the needs of the world in which you find yourself.”

Work that offers us no chance to practice, develop and maintain peace and harmony for ourselves and the people we share our everyday lives with is work humanity no longer needs. May we all find and live our svadharma.

If anything I’ve shared in this post resonates with you, you may be interested in a day-long retreat on personal power hosted by Michael Nagler, Stephanie Van Hook and Linda Sartor. Scheduled for December 7, the retreat is called “Turning Fear Into Power.” If you’ll be in the Santa Rosa, CA area, you can register for it here.

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