We all carry fears within us. Often they are not even ours as we are so intimately interconnected. Yet, it is how we react to the fear that can open possibility or shut us down into contraction, narrow spaces of being and old identities that feel safe and well tested.
These fears can be real or imagined with physical, emotional or spiritual impacts.
Decades ago when I was in my late 30”s I found myself on the Napali Coast of Kauai hiking 11 miles of the original Hawaiian trail down to Kalalau beach. The image at the top of this post shows mile 7 that had me terrorized even before I arrived having read about it in a guide book.
Our group took two days to get to our destination at Kalalau so we stayed overnight at a point just before this 7-mile narrow portion of the trail with no real hand holds, a vertical drop over the edge to the ocean below and a 90-degree turn with wind blowing and a pack on our backs. It didn’t help that I had read about numerous deaths at this point of people falling onto the rocks off the edge and into the churning ocean below. Well, you get the picture!
Hardly sleeping the night before we were to finish the rest of the trail, I was crying with fear. In the most terrifying moments, as I went over all the dangers in my mind, I realized something. Up to this point I had been the last one in line of the 4 of us preferring to have my space and go as slowly as I wanted to take in the beauty of the area we were traveling through without agendas or too much talking .
That morning I was dressed, had my pack on and was ready to go before anyone else and took off ahead of the group. My inner guidance told me that the only way to conquer this very embodied fear was to go by myself before the rest of the group and have my experience whatever it was to be. If I got stuck then they were coming behind me.
At the most crucial point of the 90-degree turn, with a significant wind blowing, I turned to my breathing and rooted down through the soles of my feet into the dirt and rock beneath, hugged the vertical rock cliff to my left, did not look down at the ocean and most importantly completely focused on one step and one breath at a time.
Upon making it past the turn there was a short portion of the trail before it widened and turned off in another direction. It was here that I broke down completely and allowed the fear to dissolve through tears and immense gratitude for coming safely through this dangerous portion of the trail. When the rest of our group approached I simply let them go around me as I took time to integrate this powerful life changing experience.
To this day this experience is embodied within me and the lessons it taught me about being grounded, making my own assessments and not relying on others opinions (or fears), and the importance of taking one step at a time when confronting any challenge to come. I am now able to see fears as potential friends who have a message for me.
An important message.
It was up to me to take the fear apart and find my own guidance by staying embodied and present to the moment. The cautions of others experiences were important enough to take into consideration, but then I was forced to surrender to the possibilities that unfolded when I engaged with the fear out of curiosity instead of fight, flight, numbing out…or even abandoning my progress forward on the trail which would have been a different type of lesson.
This particular fear once engaged with gifted me with Kalalau Beach at the end of the hike in – where our shower each morning was a waterfall, prawns in the streams and fresh fruit on the trees, a gazillion stars out every night and the sunsets so stunning they left you in complete awe.
The few people that made their way down there, and we engaged with, were all in life transitions. I am willing to bet the trail, and any fears they may have had hiking it – physical, emotional or spiritual – somehow became their allies and brought clarity and an expanded awareness about their next steps along the pathway of their own lives. I know it did for me!
The courage to live a fully embodied life, realizing our potential along the way and finding that light within… is not always easy.
That “perfect” offering you thought you were obligated to bring, or risk before you, can show up in the most unexpected ways. It often does not resemble or show up as how you have identified yourself your entire life, but instead arises from the depths of those hidden spaces inside that yearn to express and explore without any expectations or rules.
Fear allows you to crack open and invite the wildness of your untamed and unexplored expression. Rather like the artistry of aging!
Now what do you think my experience was on the same portion of trail on the way back? I’m not sharing mine as I am more interested in what yours would be……
Below is a short video spotlighting two elder women artists who speak to the presence of fear and failure in their lives and how they befriended it and were then able to listen to the messages it brought. .