The first time I felt paralyzing fear was one evening after dinner, my mother and father left our apartment and went upstairs to take care of grandma. I was left with my brother, who was 7. I was five years-old.
We were in the kitchen area that was illuminated by a single light-bulb, sitting on a bench against the wall. The rest of the house was dark and it was very quiet. We looked at each other and crunched. It was the fear of the unknown, of what could happened, of feeling unprotected and unsafe. I held tightly onto my brothers’ arm, clenching my jaw and crunching my belly until my parents came back.
I felt fear many times growing up in a household with older brothers who thought waking me up in the middle of the night and holding a white sheet over their heads as they made ghost sounds was ‘funny.”
I used to lie awake until the sun came out. But, at just thirteen years old, I experienced another kind of fear. I was walking to school as I usually did one morning when I saw a solider with his gun in hand standing fearfully on the corner of the school.
Since 1974 the military army had taken over the government in Argentina and declared a “Dirty War” against terrorism. Every time I saw the soldiers I avoided them and took another street. I knew that I could get in trouble. I didn’t have an ID and I had heard that without an ID you could get detention. I also knew that many innocent students and teachers had been arrested and then “disappeared.”
I slowed down my steps and took another street, away from the school. I figured that I could go around the entire block and get to school from the opposite corner, where there were no soldiers.
The moment the soldier was out of his sight I started running as fast as I could. I didn’t want to be late for school. I did not want to go to the principal’s office.
I made it to school on time and sat down at my desk in the classroom. My classmates were looking at me silently. I didn’t notice that I was soaked from head to toe with sweat. Not only was my hair and my face wet, my entire body was drenched. I was pale, wet and fearful.
From my childhood experiences in Argentina, I learned that I can overcome the paralyzing effect of fear. That there is a strong force in me, a voice that guides me to find the best solutions and the way out when I am in danger or in distress. I learned that I can trust myself, in spite of the terror around me.
And this is what I am still doing. Cultivating and nurturing this inner force of confidence and alignment in me that guides me to make smart, healthy decisions.
As a mind-body movement educator, I share these tools and practices with my classes. I teach people how to be in tune with their bodies and use the movements I learned from Carlos Castaneda to channel their inner strength, connect with their heart, and move past whatever is holding them back in their lives.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with fear in your life, try these simple steps to ground yourself. The good news is, we can overcome fear in our lives and with practice, we can train ourselves to push past fear and into our freedom.
When we feel scared, our heart sometimes feels like it’s pounding out of our chest. Suddenly we’re breathing heavier, faster or even holding our breath. When you feel your body reacting in this way, stop what you’re doing and breathe. Close your eyes. Take several deep breaths, filling your lungs with air and the slowly releasing it. Do this several times, counting your breaths until you feel your heart rate start to slow down and you begin to feel calm. Our breath is one of our most powerful tools. Learning to use breathing to check-in with your body and return to a calm state is a valuable tool you can use in many situations.
Look around and take in your surroundings
Once you’ve taken several deep breaths, open your eyes and notice your surroundings. Notice what’s in your external environment that’s contributing to your fear. Take note of anything in your external environment that’s soothing your fear. Paying attention to where you are can give you discernment about what to do next. Often times, we may be overcome with fear but when we take in our surroundings, we realize we are safe. Other times, our surroundings enhance our fear and we need to seek a safe physical place before we can move on to the next steps.
Questions your fears, questions your thoughts
Sometimes, when we’re scared, it feels like our thoughts are going a mile a minute. But, we must take control and question our thoughts. When we do this, we can figure out the root cause of our fear. Ask yourself, what am I thinking about and why does it make me feel fearful?
Be in the present moment
Mindfulness is about bringing your mind, body and consciousness into the present moment. When we bring ourselves back into the present moment, sometimes we realize that we have nothing to fear. We don’t have to be paralyzed. We can keep moving forward and trust ourselves to be able to overcome any obstacle that comes our way. The present is a beautiful place to be.
October 26th-29th we will be working on overcoming fear and unlocking the seven gates to dreaming together in Schweibenalp, Switzerland. We’ve all been paralyzed by fear at some point of our lives. Working through it and growing together with a community of people from around the world is an amazing and inspiring experience. Learn more about what to expect and how to join us here.