On one of my first walks on the Camino, I got horribly lost during a thunderstorm in the Pyrenees mountains. As darkness set in I was confronted with the most powerful of human emotions – fear.
The typical scenario in such situations is that the human mind gets caught in a trajectory of worst-case scenarios, like falling off a cliff in the darkness or dying from the cold in subzero temperatures.
My choice at that moment was to just keep on walking and reframing in my mind the mantra: Let Go, Let God. The universe always has answers. At some point, I noticed a faint glimmer of light through the trees which finally led me to the next village and safety.
Fear is one of the most powerful obstacles that prevents you from moving forward to new experience, and a happier more purpose-filled life.
It is that which prevents you from leaving a dysfunctional relationship, a job in which you are unhappy or doing the pilgrimage walk because your mind is already on fast-track mode in painting pictures of all the bad things that could happen.
The tragedy is that if you continue to feed toxic emotions such as fear, the bigger the monster gets. It can trigger a state of paralysis and the typical self-destructive mantra: “Can’t change it. Can’t do anything about it.”
A changed mindset would be the mantra: “Everything that has happened to me up to this point has a reason and is pointing me in the direction I must go.”
Fear is in the mind
The only solution is to look fear into the eye. Have I had similar fears in the past? Did these fears really materialize? You will then probably find that in 90 percent of the cases the fears were all in the mind. It does not mean that you need to throw all caution to the wind but getting a more realistic perspective of the situation and changing the mindset. The opposite of fear is courage. But courage does not come without fear.
Reframing fear into courage
On a physical level, fear expresses itself through a quicker heartbeat and a shorter breath. You can literally feel your head getting hot under the collar and your feet losing their hold to the ground. So an excellent way of reframing the mind is by focusing and concentrating on deep in and out-breaths. In this way, you will start calming the mind and body. Fear and stress cause tunnel vision where you will fail to see the solutions offered by the universe often lying right in front of you. When the mind is calm the solution to a problem comes almost by itself. “Now why didn’t I think of that before,” you might say.
If you are dealing with a vexing life issue and don’t know a way out, I really recommend a soul or pilgrimage walk. It is the best way to detox your mind and body, especially if you can find a time-out of several weeks from the daily treadmill.
Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant