Step out of the darkness and into the light. I am here with you. Fear can make you feel small. And like a seed without enough space to grow, Your potential cannot fully bloom. Step out of the darkness and into the light. Your authentic voice and story need to be told. Liberate yourself from the binds that hold you back. I am here with you. Do not look outside yourself for validation of Who you were meant to be. It is safe to shine your light. Give yourself permission to bloom. It was always yours for the taking. Step out of the darkness and into the light.
Who understands me but me when I say this is beautiful. When the path looks crooked and torn with rocks, stumps, roots and uneven ground. I take the first step. They say I should be afraid and not wander out too far, not go out of my comfort zone: the safety net that has become a leash tethering me to this spot training me to be okay with this small plot. They say I am reckless, foolish and asking for trouble. I lace on my sneakers and head out the door. The sunlight streams through the tree branches A lighted beam pointed toward freedom: Freedom from thinking small Lighting the path to discovering my own voice and inner strength. They say the path is dangerous. Its twists and turns unknown to an untrained eye. I do not need a compass in my pocket to show me the way. I have always known this journey. I may return to it again and again Reminding myself of my true worth. My true north is an innate part of me. It cannot be scared, beaten or numbed away. I will always resurface and be a companion and a guide to my own suffering and fears of being lost, Filled with doubt or shame, Guilty for taking the first step. I am in my corner. They say it is for my own good. It is uncomfortable to go against the grain. I show up again and again Not only to prove them wrong But to show up for me. I am on my own side and free to be me.
Obstacles can be my own worst fears, An upward climb Real or perceived. My mind is already made up Affirming that is the case Before I can even take action. My fears are the worst-case scenario Already a done deal And I’m closed off to options, Another path or way, Detoured from inspiration And optimism. The struggle feels real And I’m stuck. How do I make progress to overcome it? Just going through the motions some days My morning routine framework: Getting out my yoga mat Choosing a video and pressing play. Leaving my journal open With a pen at the ready. Lacing up my sneakers to Go outside for a walk. Knowing that there’s always One more thing to do And being okay with what is. Often it’s the first step that Creates the momentum. My focus has shifted. I’m more connected to my body and not so stuck in the mind. I can access that inspiration, inner wisdom and confidence that is always just under the surface. If I look around me, outside in nature or just through the window, I see the world is much bigger than my fears. The big blue spacious sky has more than enough capacity to contain and hold my fears as well as my dreams. I can temporarily give up the struggle and trust that I, too, am held. And that gives me strength to carry on with purpose and intention, to feel the joy, and appreciate the life lessons as gifts to my future self.
What do we do when we feel discomfort? Do we run away? Do we distract ourselves? Do we ignore and pretend A doubting of reality? Where do the feelings go when they are repressed and not fully expressed? Do we digest them through our pores and with our breath? Do they alchemize into Our cells, our inner makeup Only to resurface again later? Am I okay if I sit here With the fear, the doubt, the unknown? Will I somehow lose myself and be completely consumed and transformed by it, as fear would tell? What if I sit here for 10 seconds? Surely, I can do anything for just 10 seconds. No big deal, I tell fear after the time’s run out. And, well, I’ll be. I’m still me. I didn’t fall of the cliff. The earth didn’t cease to rotate because I sat with the doubt or uncertainty. Still the earth rotates on its axis and I became one with the fear and found my way to the other side, To home. Confidence in myself, My self-worth, My inner being was strengthened as a result of just getting still And being with the discomfort. For just a moment in time Heaven moved with the earth And I came out unscathed At having faced it, Just for today.
The moon greeted me this morning. The upper half was overhanging and slant in the blue sky. What does she balance on above that empty space? Pure magic Pure belief that she is held and so am I. There is no doubt Only trust. I too want to feel that blind leap of faith that an invisible net will catch me before the fall. The lure of the illusion of groundlessness is strong And I try as I might to truly believe like the magic of sea water in a glass. The salt settles only if it is absolutely still. Then it can embody its true nature. There is only one way and that is to act. It is a mean trick that fear plays; that I’ll appear a fool, hurt myself or others. I want to let the magic kiss me on the cheek and be that darling I know I am. There is only a door that is blocking out the light and the night. There is no view or glimpse of what beholds on the other side. I can grab ahold of the doorknob pry it open as the hinges squeak and creak adding to the mystery. Now all I have to do is step over the threshold of my mind and take that leap. To be moon’s darling in day and night. We dance as one in our exuberant embrace. There is no separation no fear to interfere with this serene space
The shadow is my constant companion. We are connected at the “sole.” We are together on this journey called life. My shadow warps and changes shape in response to the light. She may grow as long as a tree or seem to disappear beneath my feet. But nonetheless we are tethered whether I like it or not.
We all have a shadow side. So why do we collectively try to snuff out the darker parts of ourselves? My shadow is forever patient and steady. I may ignore her and go about my day or pretend she’s not there and distract myself from her message. She is ready even when I am not.
What is the light? It’s who I project myself to be. It’s my high points, my bright genius side. I can wrap the light around me like a blanket or hold it close like a soothing cup of tea. I am held in its warm embrace.
But sometimes the light is too much. Blinding even and I fear I will lose my footing on the path. My shadow will always guide me back, shield my eyes, and give me that necessary reprieve to regroup. The shadow is my retreat from the spotlight.
We need both the light and the shadow. We can’t have a shadow side without a lighter one. And we need not fear one and idealize the other. They can both peacefully coexist with equanimity. And we can collectively accept both sides of the same coin, us.
Doubt is where the real inner work resides. We can take a breather, examine what’s worked, what lies underneath the surface, and uncover old fears and wounds. This is where Doubt lives. It makes us feel small and inconsequential. It belittles our triumphs as not a big deal or just a coincidence, chance or dumb luck. Not true.
What do we do when Doubt creeps in? Do we run and hide and choose not face what’s blocking our path?
Playing safe = playing small.
It’s our duty to share our gifts with the world: Our talents, our skillset, our voice, our words, our stories are desperately needed.
How can we overcome Doubt?
We can journal the uncomfortable feelings. Process our thoughts into words on the page. Or stop and simply get outside and take a walk in nature or do some other movement.
How do we get still and ready to confront Doubt?
My favorite is to sit still and do a visualization with Doubt. Ask Doubt what is she trying to protect us from? Imagine Doubt is an unexpected guest that needs tending and attention. Make a cup of tea. Help Doubt take off her wet raincoat and dry by the fire. Hand Doubt the warm mug. Start gently, where you are. Try not to get caught up in a shouting and pushing match. Accept Doubt. Listen calmly and openly to all the concerns and potential threats. See them as outside yourself. They are not your truth or your story or what will happen. There are no guarantees.
Assure Doubt that you are okay. You are strong. You are capable. You are ready to take the next bold step. That with uncertainty can come greatness, joy, and a life beyond imagination. Sit in silence together, sipping the warm tea that never seems to cool until the last drop is gone. Thank Doubt for her words and say goodbye.
What’s the payoff for playing small? It provides a safety net in a world that seems wrought with violence and fear. Doubt is natural and almost like reflexive, protective posturing. However, please remember that your dream, your talents, skills, story, words, and energy are not threatening.
When I sit with Doubt I uncover some more: FEAR. Fear of being vulnerable, being open to criticism or possible judgment. Or possibly overcoming Doubt will spark a movement, create momentum for inner growth and shared experience, and provide an accepting environment and community where we can all thrive and not only merely survive.
We are all connected. And the speed of information has advanced our society into a global community. You want to learn about X? What does Google say? Information is literally at your fingertips if you happen to own a smartphone. And knowledge is power.
Even though my family got rid of cable years ago, we still have access to the news from our phones and apps on our TV console. I love that we can choose what to watch when we want to. But we do channel surf through YouTube and you can’t escape the collective fear that is ever present. The recent tragic events and acts of violence have pulled at my heart.
I love working in Providence. It’s a city rich in history and I’m proud to be a native Rhode Islander. It’s a beautiful city to walk around: the Brown University campus, the financial and downtown districts, and historic Benefit Street. But I’m tired of living in fear. If a car comes racing by or a strange box truck is around, I tense up and anxiety takes control. My leisurely walk is interrupted and I’m terrified for a moment, especially if I’m around city hall or a federal building. It never used to be this way. Fear never played such a prominent role. I started working full-time a little over a year ago. And I loved the city. I drank in the architecture, the people on their way to work, students walking to class, and the waterfront. It was a welcome sight.
But over these last few months, the anxiety has been building. Yesterday as I was walking to the parking garage, a box truck stopped right in the middle of the street and began to back up. Normally this wouldn’t have been an issue. There’s construction everywhere and the street was a one-way. But the truck seemed to be backing up and keeping in pace with me as I walked. Cars behind the truck began to honk, and it seemed like the truck was going to back up regardless of traffic. This odd behavior made my anxiety soar. I started to run, and all I could hear was the incessant “beep, beep, beep” as it continued to reverse. I had the worst panic attack. I feared it was going to blow up right then and there next to the financial district. I had visions of me getting into the garage on the fifth floor and being toppled over by the above floors during the explosion. I couldn’t wait to get out of that garage.
Once I got behind the wheel and started to exit, I shouted, “I’m tired of being afraid! I’m tired of living in fear! I’m tired of freaking out over a truck! I just want to be able to walk in peace without feeling terrorized!”
I don’t have an answer during these crippling moments. I just try to deepen my breath. I remind myself that meditation helps ground me and I should meditate more and journal more. Events will happen that are beyond my control. And one thing I can control is my breath.
How do you bring calm when you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed?