TWO SEPTEMBERS AGO I got caught on my surfboard in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. After making it out of a set of seven overhead whitewater waves, I discovered my will to survive is very, very strong.
This past weekend I had the unique opportunity to join a dear friend in York, ME to celebrate her 60th birthday. On Sunday morning I drove back to Newburyport to teach only to return to York Harbor to take advantage of the fun surf.
I knew subconsciously this was my chance to prove to myself I could get back on my board. I tried for my first wave and missed. As the second whitewater wave approached, I began to feel my heart pound and my body disorient from the present moment. Reluctantly, I paddled back onto shore.
I sat on the rocky beach for what felt like an hour of judgement and defeat. Instead of further beating myself up, I decided to soften and sit with whatever lay beneath. And what came up was a real and intense fear.
Was this fear justifiable? Yes. I went through a traumatic experience one year ago in which I thought I might die. And what stemmed from this softening ultimately led me back out into the water: Self-compassion.
As I navigated my way through the first break I could feel my body again move into fight/ flight mode, but instead I took a deep breath and reminded myself that I was safe; I had done this successfully many times before.
Although I caught no waves during the two hours I spent in the water, I felt a sense of confidence build as I paddled through the waves straight toward fear.
Because of our prefrontal cortex, we are the only mammals able to name our fear and choose our response. We often see the mind as a master manipulator instead of the powerful servant it can be. We can use our minds to overcome physical responses to trauma.
Fear is a real thing. It is not a bad thing, either. Fear alerts us to danger and helps to create healthy boundaries in our lives. But it can also keep us from taking healthy risk and pursuing what is in our heart of hearts.
As we transition from summer to fall you might ask yourself how fear is holding you back. Where are you getting caught in the waves? How might you use the power of the mind to notice fear and then connect to a deeper place… where breath resides… where you have a choice as to how you respond?