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Three Healthy Fears that Make for Lousy Habits

When you want to go back to something you set aside for a while, or take a leap of faith towards something you haven’t really done before, it feels like “Where do I begin?”.

There’s a sense of strangeness, perhaps even the overwhelm of trying to capture this big space with a single breath.

I feel a bit like that now, writing to you after almost three months of silence.

The short version is: I got the flu. Then I got the spicy flu. I moved house. And since the end of December I’m on a long path of recovery.

I can tell you about the physical pain and the breathless days and nights, the non-stop vomiting or the inability to eat and drink for days. But, as you probably know me some by now, I want to tell you about the river beneath the river. The roots that grew deeper underneath the hail and tsunami that hit my earth.

Perhaps the biggest deepening I see in the spiritual transformation I’ve been going through over the past months has to do with clarity over fears that keep us trapped in the illusion of the struggle, effort and push that we believe is needed in order to find community, belonging, appreciation, livelihood and love.

There’s a seed of healthy potential in every fear which turns into a toxic weed if we make it a habit.

The fear of missing out

There’s a healthy part to the fear that if you’re not going to take an action you’ll miss out on something important. This fear alerts us to the need to be part of this world. To take care of our role in the community.

As I lay in bed for the first two weeks, wasted with exhaustion and sleep, I felt totally at peace. There was nothing that felt more important than getting well.

Now, when I ask myself — what will bring me most alive? What makes me feel alive? — if the answer brings up stress I know that my mind is pulling me into a trance of effort to prove something. This will suck up the life in me very quickly.

You might need to keep asking this question, even with decisions already taken, and be ready to change course if you want the sense of liveliness to be the driving force in your life.

The fear of what people will say

Most of us have been raised to fit in. We send out little snail antennas to try and figure out what kind of persona would fit in and which “faults” we’ll need to put into what Robert Bly called “the long black bag”.

No matter what you were taught — fitting in is not the same as belonging.

Over the past two years I found myself more and more on the path less taken. During my days of sickness I somehow lost the capacity to worry. With it came this clarity :

People talk. They will always talk. And you have a choice whether to keep listening to those who say you’re mad, you’ve lost it, you’ll be sorry for it…. OR start listening to those who make sense to your heart.

Inner sovereignty, no matter the polarisation political voices create, starts and ends with trusting and listening to your heart’s wisdom.

We need to belong instead of fitting in. Perhaps when you were a child you just had no choice. I know many people, myself and many of my clients, who needed to find ways to fit into their family as a matter of survival.

But don’t forget that now, now you have a choice.

The fear of making a mistake

Ironically my last letter to you was about success and why sometimes it can feel like a failure. And it’s the biggest irony from a Buddhist perspective.

When I was first hit by the virus we had to call an ambulance to give medication to stop the vomiting. When they wanted to take me to the hospital I refused. I’m aware that you might not know the underdog side of me so I’ll keep this email somehow tease-free and won’