What a time we find ourselves in! With the coronavirus galloping the globe, businesses closing and workers sent home, ‘social distancing’, self imposed or mandated quarantines and an abundance of ‘alternative facts’ we are swimming in a tide of collective anxiety. Covid 19 is leaving its mark on each and every one of us whether or not we ever contract it ourselves. It evokes our fear for our wellbeing on every level, it drives us to an even deeper sense of isolation as we separate ourselves from each other and, if we are really listening, it asks us to contemplate the larger context of imbalance that has brought us all to this point.
Fear, isolation and imbalance are all signatures of our culture in this era. In personal healing we sometimes experience a ‘healing crisis’ that intensifies all our symptoms before they resolve and heal. What would it be like to relate to coronavirus in this way? What if we broaden the context to recognize this situation as a reflection of a larger picture of imbalance that we are being called to address? Perhaps we can reframe our view from waging a war on the enemy-virus to hearing the siren for us to contemplate the nature or our relationships; with our Self, with each other and, very importantly, with the living world around us.
Of course, right now, in the midst of the crisis, we might not have the bandwidth to look at this larger context. We are trying to work out how to care for our children and elderly, pay all our bills, attend to our own wellbeing and manage the cascade of emotions washing through us, both our own and others’. Stress, fear, sorrow, irritation and outrage abound and we can get caught in a kind of “anxiety trance.” Certainly our concern is warranted however we can descend into a downward spiral of mind-magnified anxiety that undermines our vitality, suppresses our immunity and clouds our balanced perspective.
So we can begin by making the potent and beneficial offering of attending to our own inner environment: to bring awareness to the inner narratives we feed, to offer acceptance and compassion to whatever we are feeling, to engage our heart and its inherent courage to face whatever life presents. By embodying this we sustain and uplift ourselves and all those around us, both human and other-than-human. When we break the anxiety trance we see things more clearly, we make grounded decisions and take action from a place of heart-connected courage rather than fear-driven reactivity.
Courage is the antidote to this mind-generated fear.
Let’s distinguish between anxiety and balanced, responsive fear. Healthy fear tells us when we are in present danger and impels us to freeze, flee or fight. We need the caution offered by a mind that is entrained to the heart and attuned to the present moment. However, when our mind becomes untethered from the heart it will tend to magnify our innate caution into a panoply of potentially devastating outcomes. Add to that our ability to feel the emotional weather brewing in the communal field around us and we can get lost in the trance of anxiety.
However we have the antidote. The word courage derives from the Latin “cor” and the French “coeur”, both meaning “heart.” When we connect to the presence of Heart, we also gain access to our courage. The experience of courage is not the absence of fear but the feeling that we have the heart-connected inner resources to engage with whatever we are facing.
How do we access our heart-connected Courage in the face of Fear?
Here is a simple 3-step process to attend to our anxiety and fear…
and reclaim our courage. You might also like to take a look below at all the resources, both free and affordable, that I’m offering to be of support at this time.
This might seem deceptively simple but it works so try it before you dismiss it
- Notice what you are feeling with acceptance.
- Feel the feeling, rather than think about it.
- Engage the heart with love and compassion and access your courage.
Notice what you are feeling with acceptance.
Pause a moment. Take a few breaths and ask yourself “What am I feeling right now?” “What am I really feeling, underneath all the mental chatter and busyness?” Bring your awareness to whatever you are felling with acceptance and kindness. Even if it feels uncomfortable, or even painful, see if you can lean into it rather than pushing it away.
Much of the time we make our way through the day, oblivious to our feelings, even as they drive our behavior and perspective. We’ve been conditioned to privilege happiness and spurn ‘negative’ emotions so why would we want to acknowledge those feelings like anxiety or fear? We find innumerable ways to ignore them, anesthetize them or distract ourselves from them. However, as long as we are unaware of our underlying anxiety it will drive our mind like wind propelling a turbine, generating endless scenarios of potential doom. We get lost in the anxiety trance.
We’ve been trained to think about our emotions rather than feel them.
The first step in breaking this trance is to become aware of what we are feeling without characterizing it as negative or pushing it away. We can accept it as a natural, albeit uncomfortable, part of being human in the face of uncertainty.
Feel it, rather than think about it.
Take the help of your breath to draw your attention away from the mind’s preoccupation with the object of fear (the predicted fearful outcome) and bring it instead to the sensation of fear itself: as a physical experience. Where do you feel the fear or anxiety in your body? What is the sensation like? Is it stuck or moving? Does it have color or sound? Gently disentangle the feeling from the mind’s attempts to analyze, understand, fix or distract. Keep using your breath to guide your awareness into your body to feel the pure, raw energy of the emotion.
We’ve been trained to think about our emotions rather than feel them. However a vital step in shifting our anxiety is to bring our mind into the present moment. Our emotions are always felt in our body in the present. The cognitive mind, stirred by fear, becomes preoccupied with the future. It wants to look for solutions in order to control the environment and maintain our safety and security. However, when our mind becomes un-tethered from the heart, it only becomes more concerned about the inherently unpredictable nature of life. Of course bringing our mind into the present can be like trying to capture a herd of wild horses. Yet when we manage to distract it from its imaginings, we break the anxiety trance.
So we gently but persistently keep drawing our awareness back to the direct experience of the fear, in our body, in this present moment. But don’t worry – you won’t get stuck here. Uncomfortable as this may be, help is on the way!
Engage the Heart
Take the help of your breath once again to connect to your heart. You might imagine breathing in and out through your heart. You might imagine how you would treat a small child or an animal who feels the fear that you are experiencing. You can also imagine how a beloved grandparent, teacher, friend or deity would feel towards you in this state and allow their love and care into your being. Bring this heart-connected compassion and tenderness to the experience of fear itself. Allow the healing presence of heart-connected love and compassion to wash through you
Our mind-generated fear really needs to be offered compassion and kindness. Remember, this is not the healthy fear that compels you to run when you are about to be mugged. This fear comes from the untethered fantasies of the mind. It needs to be soothed and reassured with love and care.
As we connect in this way, we gain access to the courage, the wisdom and the guidance of our heart. Our mind naturally entrains to the heart and gains greater clarity and perspective. We can return our focus to the situations at hand with the sense that we have the inner resources and the capacity to face them.
This process will help us on many levels. Offering love and compassion to ourselves is a powerful immune booster, while our anxiety is an immune suppressant. It will uplift all those around us because we tend to treat them in the way we treat ourselves. As we embody the heart-connected qualities or courage, love and compassion we will offer those into the fraught environment around us. Perhaps we can take the extra time this situation is enforcing upon us and use it to slow down, to contemplate a little, to connect with the divine, natural forces at play around us. Perhaps we might find the courage to take a look at the role we all have to play, however large or small, in returning to balance and sustainability.
I know doing a practice like this can be difficult on our own and it can be very helpful to have an experience of this process rather than simply reading about it. So here are a couple of resources. You can click here to listen for free to a guided audio of this process called Finding Courage in the Face of Fear on my website. If you would like even more support in navigating our personal and collective anxiety with courage you might like to join me for the upcoming teleclass on “Finding Our Courage in a Climate of Fear.”