These past few months, since I quit my job in publishing to return my attention fully to my business, I’ve experienced moments of fear. The kind of fear that wakes me at night, heart pounding. Wondering what the future will bring.
Doing what I love most, and making a living at it, has launched me away from the comfort and safety of the shore and out onto uncharted seas.
Fear’s hot breath sometimes stings my cheek as I stand at the helm of my life, navigating by heart.
So many of us are launching forth in this way into unknown seas, with few maps to guide us. What helps us make the journey safely?
1. Build a sturdy boat
Making a big change in your life draws heavily on your resources of time, energy, money, resilience and heart, among other things. Build safety by keeping everything else in your life as simple and as stable as possible.
If you’re starting a new business, leaving a job, writing a book, or ending a marriage, don’t make any other major decisions for a while. This is not the time to move to a new home, get a nose job, or join the circus.
Your body is your best friend and most necessary ally. Take care of it. Eat healthfully-nourishing meals, prepared with love, will help you feel grounded and balanced. Move in ways that delight you-do yoga, or run, or swim or dance–each day. Draw on your body’s experience of strength, flexibility, resilience and joy to give you the qualities you need for safe passage.
When so much else is unpredictable, routines are reassuring. They help you feel a sense of order, calm and necessary containment. They provide structure and boundaries. Get to bed and wake up at the same times each day. Snuggle on the couch with a blanket and your favorite movie every Tuesday night (or Wednesday afternoon!). Invite your closest friends over for Friday night potluck dinners.
Receive and give loving touch. Hug your dog, cuddle your sweetheart, make time for regular massages or bodywork. Nourish your senses with smells that comfort and uplift you, music that transports you into realms of joy, of wonder. Your senses bring you into the present moment, into the peace of everyday things.
Nature heals. Find ways to be outdoors whenever you can. Look to the stars for perspective. And to the earth for grounding, support, and provision.
Find ways to create some financial stability. Simplify your life so you have what you need, and let go of the rest. Work part-time, at a good-enough job that pays the bills while you provision your boat for the long journey. Or find freelance or contract work that you can do from home. It’s much easier to arrive at your One True Thing when your basic needs are met.
2. Prepare for emotional weather
You may find yourself feeling more emotionally vulnerable, riding fierce storms of fear, rage, or despair. This heavy weather will probably be interspersed with calm seas and sunny skies-you feel clear and certain one moment, scared, overwhelmed and downing a gallon of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey the next.
No, you’re not crazy. Emotions are communications from your selves to your self. From crew to captain. And your selves will tell you about their experience of reality in vivid, sometimes gory detail.
There are parts of you that are fluid, that dance easily with change. These will make your heart flutter with excitement, will delight in setting sail for the sunset and discovering what’s on the other side of that flaming horizon.
Other parts of you are convinced that any change portends a lingering, painful death at the hands of a particularly sadistic tribe of cannibals who will boil you alive and eat you for breakfast. These parts of you will hang out right beside your ear, shrieking: You want to do WHAT? Are you crazy? No-one in your family/circle of friends/the entire universe has EVER done that. Or if they did we never heard about it because they got eaten by cannibals. You want to raise aardvarks in the Arctic? What are you, out of your mind?! Aaaaaarrrgghh! And so on.
So what do you do when one moment you feel like you’ve just made the biggest mistake of your life by pushing off from shore, and the next moment you’re convinced you’re raising the rainbow?
It helps to understand the language of emotions.
Emotions are energy, and they’re fluid. Like all energy, if they’re allowed to flow, they will naturally dissolve and transform into something else-into another emotion, or simply into a feeling of spaciousness and freedom.
You can meet your emotions with loving attention, curiosity, openness, and a willingness to learn, to be surprised.
You can give your emotions room to be, without getting swallowed up by them or pushing them away.
Here’s one way to do this. Begin by grounding and bringing your awareness into the center of your head. Think of an emotion that makes you uncomfortably squirmy–we can start with fear, if you like. Tune into the energy of fear in your belly. Feel what it feels like, what it smells and tastes and looks like. Then simply invite that energy to flow, through the core of your body and up and out the top of your head. As it flows, notice what it feels like, where it flows easily, where it’s stuck or blocked or constricted.
Ask the energy of fear to wash away anything that’s blocking its flow, up and out the top of your head. Keep letting the energy of fear flow, simply paying attention to how it feels. Without judging, clinging or pushing it away. Just allowing it to be, to flow.
Most people experience a great sense of relief, once fear flows freely. It may feel very different from your idea of fear. Energy that’s flowing in its pure form is always liberating.
Eventually, you’ll feel the energy change. Just notice the change. Again, without clinging to it, analyzing it, or labeling it. Let the new feeling flow too.
Rinse and repeat.
(We’ll continue with this series on Sailing the Unknown Sea. Meanwhile, let’s talk. When you’re embarking on something new, how do you prepare for your journey? What supports you? Who or what sustains you?)