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"Melissa, tell me a short story of time you felt nervous, anxious or were faced with the unknown and the feelings you experienced."
All too often, these days, I find myself processing fear.
Whether it is trying to alchemize the onslaught of daily news, or setting sail to work with youth in a war torn country, or showing up to lead a dance event with an unfamiliar group of people… it is common for me to experience the rushing reality of fear moving through my body.
I have learned what that all too familiar buzzing and burning feeling inside me is saying.
Sitting with the sensations,I first listen inside. Sometimes, allI can do is allow the intensity to inform me that I must make a change immediately, move away from a situation if I can.
Other times,I simply ride it, recognizing that actually danger is not afoot.
By breathing into the intensity, the fear can naturally transform into excitement.
I am able to see that what I am afraid of is sometimes exactly what I want the most.
What are 3 concrete specific ways that you soothe yourself so you can enjoy the experience you are creating?
1) Moment by moment,
I am either dancing or contracting. I am either in flow or in flight, in fight, or in freeze.
In order to find my fluid being in the face of fear, often all I have to do is watch and track my body.
With that said, if I am out of my body or shut down in my body, I generally do not have the capacity to see my body. Often I must begin by working from the outside in.
Can I smell the spicy food cooking downstairs? What does my skin feel like when I gently touch my arms, my legs, my cheeks? I focus my gaze on something beautiful to me, landing me back into contact with something in the here and now. As I then begin to orient, I can track myself more clearly. Is my breath shallow? My shoulder curled in? My knees knocking, literally?
Moving from the outside in, I can then begin to find my ground in my sensations. Note what is happening inside my body at this very moment.
Can I feel anything? If so, where? What does it feel like? Sensations? Colors? Patterns of movement? Contracted and frozen? No sensation? Burning? Pulsing? Racing? Twitching? Itching? Throbbing? It is mild? Intense? What is the quality of my breath. Shallow? Fast? Upper torso only?
Just being with this rich inner landscape is a way to begin to shift my focus from being overwhelmed by fear to simply just being here with whatever is really happening.
2) Once connected with this ground of being, I let myself fully honor the fear, listen deeply to it’s reality.
What feels unsafe? What is scaring me? No judgement, just true open space to be freely and fully afraid. With curiosity and kindness, I hang out intimately with myself in this state. I befriend fear. It is my ally. What is it telling me? I offer myself enormous empathy, no matter what the nature of the fear.
3) From there, I slow everything down and observe what is really going on outside myself. I orient towards safety, if possible, moving away from the danger, whether real or fabricated.
I may ask for help if too much to see clearly. Above all, I pray. I resource through connecting with nature, dancing, writing, singing, and more prayer.
This whole process can happen in a few seconds or over a long period of time. I continue to listen from within, noticing how my energy shifts as inner and outer resourcing happens. I continue to make choices in my outer moves that respect the fear without letting it compulsively create contraction in my life.
How you can connect with Melissa and her powerful work:
Check out her blog on fear.
Melissa Michaels, Ed.D., guides individuals and communities through major life transitions. As a “soul midwife” and mentor to emerging leaders around the world, she has created Surfing The Creative, a rite of passage process that links somatics, youth development, and peace-building.
Her newly released book, Youth On Fire shares the story of this life-changing work as it has unfolded in diverse settings ranging from inner city schools to college campuses, and from refugee settlements to the United Nations.
Melissa is also the founder of GoldenBridge, a nonprofit organization dedicated to our collective renewal through the liberation of the creative Spirit.
Join her moving community every Sunday in Boulder for Movement Mass.
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