I am scared. After a year of good growth, my new coaching practice is not gaining clients as quickly as I had hoped. The holidays are over and things are not picking up. In addition, my difficult-to-raise stepson, now 19, has moved back home after a year on his own.
This is all relative fear. Fear of my business failing. Fear of being a failure as a coach. Fear that the time and energy to actively raise my son will drain me again and he won't thrive. While these particular fears may be unique to this time and place, they are well-worn paths in my psyche.
When I feel this way, I go look at savings, do revenue projections, talk to my wife about cutting monthly expenses, see about selling the rental property, etc... Even after I have done that, I still think about it over and over again.
At this point, these activities serve to distract me from Fear. In watching my mind lately I realize that 95%+ of its activity is to keep me from feeling afraid. Activities like worrying about my son smoking too much pot, being concerned about the bill to fix the well, reminiscing about a fun holiday party, taking a mental inventory of my DeFi protocol positions… and on and on it goes.
All this activity is predominately useless. But it does have a use, doesn't it? Its use is to distract me from Fear, to keep me from being afraid. In the eyes of all this mental activity, its use even has a positive frame - to keep me safe.
But I just listed off all these things I'm afraid of, so how is it that all this mental activity is distracting me from fear? The difference is fear vs. Fear. Little fear is mostly in the range of worry and concern. These are the types of things that we need to be aware of, but to effectively deal with them does not require the frequency (how often) nor the amplitude (how intense) of our conscious energy they usually consume.
Big Fear is being afraid that nothing is certain, that no matter how much we plan and mitigate anything can happen, and that one day we and everyone we love will die. It's being afraid of uncertainty. Every time I’ve read and heard about this Fear, from teachers such as Thich Nhat Hahn and Adyashanti, I’ve always said to myself "that's not me. I am not afraid like that.”
I've been quite good at acknowledging and recognizing my shame and guilt, which are deep-seated emotions. I used that to say that I am not a fear-based person. But here's the trick- we are all fear-based people! Everyone has fear and everyone has Fear. And if you think you don't, as I did my whole life, you are wrong.
And now it's hitting me with the full force of 52 years of distraction and denial. What's hitting me is not Fear, but how much my mind machinates in order to avoid it. Even as this awareness awakens, I still can't seem to get through the mental activity to what is beneath. And the issue is right there in the previous sentence- "I" will never cut through it. It can only be moved through by a higher power, the moving through itself!
Where does this leave me? Since “I" can do nothing about Fear, I need to diligently watch my mind and call it out when distracted. Then allow what happens next, which will likely be another distraction. Then call that out. Rinse and repeat.
To keep at it can be exhausting. And when I give up, I find myself in quite a foul mood. I usually think the foulness is caused by whatever worry/concern is currently consuming my conscious energy. It's not. The foul mood is caused by the context of consumption itself- by the act of distracting. It has nothing to do with the content- with whatever story I have on repeat.
And eventually, when I keep at it, it’s so exhausting that I can’t even hold onto the content any longer. At that point, I find just a little space. Perhaps an insight. A little freedom. And sometimes the slightest hint of big Freedom.