On fear, hope, dreams & waves! 🌊
A few years ago, a friend shared with me this story about the two waves:
There are two waves drifting along in the ocean, one a bit bigger than the other. The bigger wave suddenly becomes very sad and upset. The smaller wave asks what's wrong. "You don't want to know," the bigger wave says. "What is it?" the small wave asks.
"No - really - it's too terrible. If you knew what I knew, you'd never be happy." The small wave persists. Finally the big wave explains: "You can't see it, but I can see that, not too far from here, all of the waves are crashing on the shore. We are going to disappear."
The small wave says, "I can make you happy with just six words, but you have to listen to them very carefully." The big wave doesn't believe it -- what does the small wave know that he doesn't -- but he's desperate. After a while of doubting and mocking the small wave, the big wave finally gives in, and asks the small wave to tell him.
And so the small wave says: "You're not a wave, you're water.”
When he first shared this story, I thought it's another story about the fear of death. But the more I sat with this story, the more I realised it’s not about the fear of death. It’s about the fear of the unknown.
The fear of the unknown is perhaps the root of one of our biggest life paradoxes -- we are terrified of change because we are so afraid of the unknown, yet the thought of staying exactly the same can be really depressing.
Which keeps us in that space of indecision and inaction.
If we are lucky enough, the fear of staying in the same place (aka not going after our dreams and desires) becomes greater than the fear of the unknown (aka fear of failure, rejection, making the wrong decision, judgment, etc).
Each of us has fears. Some fears, like closed spaces or heights, are very real. Some fears, like an undiagnosed disease, are a product of our imagination. Some fears, like pursuing a new career, are a sign that we’re on the edge of growth.
Each of us fears something different. Sometimes our fears drive us crazy, sometimes they hold us back and sometimes they make us feel inadequate, incapable of doing anything in the offset of fear.
There’s an old Buddhist parable of a man walking home one evening. In the half-light he sees on the path a snake crossing in front of him. He panics, his heart’s beating fast and he starts running for his life. As he returns along the same path in the morning, he finds a coiled rope on the ground.
The moral of the story? All too often, the things we’re afraid of are either an illusion of our mind or simply aren’t that bad. Living with this awareness, puts things into perspective.
We all fear something. It’s not bad. It’s part of what makes us human.
The question is, how can we find a way to reframe our fears and to live in a way that allows us to live with hope and trust? How can we reframe the snake with a rope?
On my hard days, when fear kicks in, I remind myself that I am water. When I remember that, I lean into trust, instead of being paralysed by my desire to control the outcome.
It also reminds me that in any situation where we may find ourselves afraid, we often have a choice as to how to confront it.
We can CHOOSE to be a wave or we can CHOOSE to be water. We can look into the distance and fear ourselves crashing on the shore, or we can look into the distance and embrace the overwhelming feeling (one that’s based in awe) that shows up when we’re taking the leap and stepping into the unknown.
Choosing to be water, allows us to live with a growth mindset, to see, dream, hope and strive towards possibilities. It makes us realize how we are part of a much greater whole.
But what if we are too stuck in our own fear? What new approach might we take to get us up in the morning, to allow us to face each day with hope, purpose and expansiveness?
You can feel fear but you don’t have to become it.
Sit still, ground your sit bones, hands on your knees, spine straight, open chest, head looking forward. Sitting still allows you to ground yourself and to collect yourself.
Once you are sitting still, you can begin to see. Intentionally sitting still isn’t passive, it’s an action. It’s a state where we are completely present. It's a state of non-reactiveness which creates space to listen.
When the chatter of the world and our minds quiets down we can hear the still quiet voice. The whisper that wells up from within, calling us to move. And the action you’re to take becomes utterly clear. You know it in your bones.
After weeks or months of trying to come up with a solution by force of will, we stop trying and start listening.
What are you being called to do, not without the fear, but in spite of the fear?