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understanding fear in your life

Occasionally recurring riddles emerge in my life. I call them personal koans. The word koan (approximately pronounced ko-ahn) is Japanese and its meaning is something like ‘case study’. Koans were historically used by Zen masters as life puzzles for their students to ponder and, eventually, to gain insight into the nature of life and into themselves. An old but fairly well known koan is this one: “Show me your original face before your mother and father were born.” To some extent, such puzzles demonstrate the inadequacy of strictly logical thinking. Logical thinking also fails at understanding fear in your life

Understanding Yourself

overcoming fear

We all have personal riddles and being attentive to them is illuminating. One such riddle is dread. I notice with interest the activities I dread and those I don’t. The difference in these two categories isn’t necessarily obvious. For example, I don’t dread emptying the dishwasher nor balancing the bank account, even when cash flow is tight. After all, I know where the dishes go and I’ve always been good at arithmetic. I am also a Homeowners Association Board member and I dread dealing with irate homeowners which is not too surprising. However, I also dread my dance and piano lessons, both taken up by choice, for fun.

So what’s going on here? Why stress about extracurricular activities? Even the Board membership is voluntary and taken on to benefit the community. However, apprehension and distress are the emotions of the child consciousness, that forever-young aspect of my personality who is convinced, “I can’t do this. It’s too much. I’m going to fail.”

feeling vulnerable

In fairness to myself, I don’t know that I’m incompetent in the face of an irate homeowner, nor do I know that I can’t play piano well or dance without looking awkward. It really doesn’t make any difference. I just do the best I can in the moment. Occasionally I may even be inspired or graceful.

What I fear is what every child fears, the judgment of failure. Of course, as children we do fail, because we are learning. Yet, we put together an image of ‘how I ought to be’ and we were bound to fall short. Add a fit-of-frustration temper tantrum and we got a clear message from the adults around us about how we were disappointing them.

We created an idealized self-image, what we should be like, and we learned to fear being ourselves. “Whoever I am isn’t adequate.” The koan is fear and the fear is ‘not good enough’ and sometimes it shows up as dread.

When Does Fear Show Up?

how to remove fear from mind

Fear comes when we feel vulnerable, powerless, or helpless. If we were taught that we shouldn’t be afraid, then we learned to suppress the fear. Like an unmentionable corpse-in-the-corner of the room, we step around the feeling and the suppressed emotion drives our lives: what we will do, what we will not take on. When it is unacknowledged it controls our lifestyle, work and relationships.

Many compulsive, urgent behaviors are fear in disguise. As an example, recently my husband discovered signs of termites in the hall. We arranged for a pesticide treatment. In the middle of the night I woke up distraught that we had made a terrible mistake and it was too late to stop the scheduled treatment. Of course, it wasn’t too late though 2 am wasn’t the moment to do anything. More important, my midnight terror was just the fear of making a bad choice when all that was needed were answers to a few questions.

So back to the dance lessons. I thought about getting friends to join us in a group class. Add four people and I can fade into the background unnoticed. (I come from a large family so this is a proven technique to avoid being judged.)

Opportunities within Fear

how to overcome fear of failure

In the meantime, I noticed the dread and though he didn’t say anything I suspected my husband felt the same. We kept going anyway. I enjoyed the time with my husband. We weren’t very good but we had fun. A few weeks ago, I noticed I was looking forward to our lesson. It isn’t a matter of becoming a better dancer.

Fear provides an opportunity to identify where self-judgment limits our lives. This presents us with choices. We may choose to stay put and we may choose to challenge our fear. Either way, the practice is living consciously: aware without judgment.


If you’re looking for Scottsdale AZ spiritual healer, reach out and contact Dr. Sandra Egli at Center of Intention to start your holistic journey. Call (480) 860-0400 today!

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Meditation: Sandra Egli
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The wisdom of a thousand generations guides you today. Only listen. Without a sound their voices reverberate in your cells. Settle within and choose your path.

All of us come from strength, fortitude, perseverance. No matter how difficult their lives, our ancestors made it through and passed on life for the next generation. Over and over, until it came to you. The intelligence that guided them has also come to you.

To Thine own Self be true.

If I could present you with a single blessing, it would be the gift of Mindfulness. Awareness of yourself: body, emotions, and self-talk, all the time. Our immediate experience is the ultimate exploration that only grows richer with time. What we do or don't do, and the roots of our behavior, are accessible with the simple practice of noticing immediate experience. It is this practice that makes it possible to know and be true to ourselves.


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