My last semester in college I needed to fulfill my final credits and, as so many college students do, chose the course that was famed as being an easy A. With senioritis hitting hard and graduation on my mind, a class that I could coast through seemed pretty perfect.
It wasn’t until the end of the semester that I realized just how perfect it was, though.
The course: Consciousness, Meaning and Life Purpose. In class we examined scientific evidence about states of consciousness and were given the opportunity to participate in experiences and reflections about the personal impact of our states of consciousness on how we find meaningful direction for using our talents. From meditation and dream analysis to the stress-reduction and creativity-enhancement effects of visualization in our final project Vision Quests; it was nothing short of eye-opening. Sure, it sounds like one of those liberal arts classes worthy of eye rolls and accusations that you’re just a stoner or hippie, but it turned out to be one of the most informative and life altering courses of my college career. Hell, of all my schooling in general.
The reason being? It gave me the foundation to overcome my fears. You know, those super shitty feelings that make us want to constrict and cling to whatever is familiar; those thoughts and feelings that can make your heart race and spur a panic attack at any moment. Yeah, you know the ones.
Well, I remember reading an article that we were assigned about mindfulness and the difference of living out of fear or love. With the simple instruction to ask yourself “am I acting this way out of fear or love?” whenever you’re faced with a difficult decision or you’re feeling close-minded or agitated or negative or anything of the sort—my perspective of the world and my contribution to it began to change.
You see, for a very long time fear—no matter how big or small—has had a strong hold in my life. From relationships and friendships where I’m constantly apologizing whether or not I’ve done something wrong simply because I’m in fear of losing someone or letting them down, to adventurous food choices and walking alone at night; it’s always been there. That final semester of college though I was finally given the basic tools to progress and live fearlessly. And although it’s not been a perfect journey, it’s certainly been strides in the right direction—steps away from constriction and towards open arms and a mind in search of new adventures; towards letting go and enlightenment.
And how did that happen? By choosing love.
Here’s how it works y’all: once we notice that we are in fear, we can make a conscious choice to act out of love instead. Love of people, places or things—the choice is ours. We have the power to decide to go with the flow, to trust that things will work out, to be compassionate and open, and to feel connected in such a way that we know we aren’t alone in this world—we’re not alone in our fears. Surely that seems so much easier said than done—and truthfully, it is. But if you really put the time and effort into your mindfulness, your mental capacity will astonish you. The trick with being mindful is learning to observe your emotions as they ebb and flow and just be okay with it. Don’t be self-loathing or judgmental; talk to yourself the way you’d talk to your best friend—think support, consolation, and an overly-excited “Yasssss” followed by the praise emoji. If you just stay in your head freaking out about a situation and your thoughts about it, it’s easy for the fear to keep on growing. But if you consciously take a step back based on trust and love and self-encouragement, towards what your end goals are—I promise you got this.
Look at it like this: we create our own realities. Shall it be based in fear or love? By definition, fear is a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined. Love on the other hand…that feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection. It doesn’t matter if it’s towards a friend, family member, significant other, pet or that delightful Black Velvet Sprinkles cupcake—love has a way of making the world a better place.
And on that note, and the beginning of your journey to a fearless life, just remember that, like Nelson Mandela said, it’s not so much about not having fears, but your triumph over them.
So, fear or love?
Choose love. Every day. Always.