In Leigh Bardugo’s marvelous novel, Six of Crows, the protagonist Inej reminds herself, “When there is fear, something is about to happen.” In this way, she trains herself to pay attention, act in the moment, and escape death over and over again. The future is yet to be written, but the present cannot be denied.
Now is a moment of profound uncertainty in our country and in our world. Our present is indeed a disturbing situation. A deadly virus, radicalized white supremacy groups, and a corrupt, authoritarian federal administration. There is reason to feel fear. But fear is energy like any other emotion. It cannot be destroyed, but it can be transformed.
A skillful fighter, spy, and acrobat, Bardugo’s character Inej uses her fear as a tool to sharpen her senses and to make incredible, surprising, and life-saving choices that propel the narrative forward. In her awareness, she transforms fear into courage.
Accepting the sensations that fear provokes does not mean that we give up. Rather, it means we accept reality as it is in the moment. This is an essential phase in the transformation process. Only in this kind of open-eyed acceptance of what is really happening can we shift our energy and summon the power to respond with adequate force and ingenuity.
If you are feeling fear or anxiety right now, try this simple practice to deepen your level of acceptance of the present moment, even when it feels scary. Transformation always takes place in the now.
- Stay in your body. The quickest way to panic is to disassociate from your felt sense of your physical self. Focus on your breath, on the sensation of your weight dropping through your feet or, if you’re sitting, through your seat. Name the sensations mentally: Tension, Tightness, Buzzing, Trembling, Constriction, Sinking, Hollowness, Emptiness, Numbness, Heaviness. Any words you can find to describe what you are feeling are useful.
- Invite the sensation(s) to expand to their fullest within you. In a way, this is the opposite of fear. In fear, we resist, deny, and hide. In acceptance, we allow, see, and know. Permit the sensations to exist and observe them. Feel the courage it takes to do even this much. Notice any changes to your sensations.
- As the sensations shift, name them again. Release, Softness, Space, Stretch, Expansion, Light, Openness. Any tiny shift is significant. Invite the new sensation to expand within you. Where does it go? Where does it get stuck? Shift your body to accommodate the change and increase your comfort and ease.
- Finally, recall what sparked your fear. Now that you have shifted the energy around it, what is the next logical step for you, in relation to that situation? Choose something you can complete today, no matter how small it is, and commit to it.
Acceptance is a receiving practice, a yin practice, a followership practice. When we’re feeling uncomfortable, we are conditioned to skip the feeling part and go straight to action, but action without awareness can dump us right back into fear, or worse. Sometimes it’s better to wait, go deeper into acceptance of what is, and act when we feel more centered, even if it takes longer. The more we accept what is, even amidst feelings of fear, the more courage we find to act. We turn inward in order to project outward. We step back in order to leap forward.