Not too long ago, I decided to start a habit.
I decided to find something that made me feel uncomfortable or scared and then embrace it. Jump into the fear. I wanted to find out why the fear was there and how I could get rid of it.
You could say a man who fell from the sky was the reason for all of this madness.
Felix Baumgartner, the Austrian sky diver that partook in the Red Bull Stratos skydive last year, was one of my biggest inspirations for this daily habit. He said in an interview somewhere, and I am paraphrasing here, that he learned to become friends with his fear. What? Friends with fear? Questions of why and how ran through my head when I heard this.
You must understand that my deep respect and admiration for this man is akin to the love that young, hormone filled teenage girls have felt towards groups like One Direction, or back in my hormone filled teenage years, the Back Street Boys and N’Sync.
He has broken so many records, from highest point of sky dive and fastest freefall in history. This man has broken the speed of sound. And this motherfucker still feels fear? Are you kidding me??
But he not only feels fear, he embraces fear as a warm friend, or a guiding essence letting him know where he needs to go next.
Damn this dude is cool…
So I started looking at fear as a sign post – “Go in this direction” my fear would say to me. And I would follow.
Starting out, my fears were big and obvious. These were the kind of things you are consciously scared of. The kind of fears that when someone asks “what scares you?” the answer comes out quicker than gluten out of both the ends of someone with Celiac disease.
These were big fears, so I took some big action to face them head on. These actions ranged from giving a speech while standing barefoot in a bag of ice to jumping in and taking a picture with the one and only Arnold Schwartzenegger and some models ..
(to the dismay of his security guards, of course)
I hosted a dance competition for the Indian Student Association at my school and made some jokes about Indian people and Indian culture that garnered a few laughs and a few offended Indian parents. I traveled across the world. Performed an a capella version of ‘Handlebars’ to a group of strangers in a bar in downtown Jerusalem, Israel.
Asked out girls I was scared to talk to. Made a blog. Talked about said girls in the blog. All of this scared the shit out of me. But I kept on going. Life had suddenly become a laboratory for me. And I was having fun pushing my limits. (In a couple weeks, a few friends and I will be facing a rather large fear of mine; jumping into a freezing cold body of water at the Polar Plunge to raise funds for the Special Olympics Organization of New York)
But as the actions got bigger and bigger I found myself thinking less and less about those big fears. Something about them was fading. The nerves and anxiety I originally felt weren’t so strong anymore. Had I gotten rid of my fear? Was I fearless now? Where did my dark friend go?
Oh my fear was still there. But it had become much more subtle and insidious. It wasn’t hiding. It was out in the open but it was controlling me in a way that I could have never guessed. I think it took the sensitivity to my inner body that I gained from my recent experience with the Vipassana meditation for me to finally realize it.
My subtle fear was there when there was a growing feeling of tension, anxiety and slight anger when I was laying in bed with a beautiful girl and there was nothing to do, nowhere to be but just BE. I had to open myself up and that made me uncomfortable.
My subtle fear was there when I would become incredibly agitated at the thought that the people I care for (or don’t care for) might not consider me funny, successful, smart, good looking or the best god damn human being around.
My subtle fear was there when I realized that while keeping conversations I wasn’t REALLY looking into people’s eyes. Eye contact was there, but I wasn’t seeing the person behind the eyes; I wasn’t seeing their essence. It was as though an opaque screen was stopping me from really sharing myself and understanding the other. This was a startling revelation. I started to make it a point to really look and see the people behind the eyes. Something started opening up when this happened. Like a small knife opening up a part of my body inside that hasn’t seen light in a long time. Such discomfort arose with such great speed, my body tensed up quicker than our poor celiac prone friend eating gluten again. Why was I so uncomfortable?
Maybe it was because I was finally really seeing these people and showing myself, my real self, in order to do it. Openness can be very uncomfortable.
I still have the big, crazy fears that garner massive amounts of attention for the humans that conquer them (Felix and his dive), but my attention now is geared mainly towards the subtle fears that disrupts my life, ruins my relationships and connections and creates cycles of self destructive behaviors. Opening up is not fun most of the time; it can be quite uncomfortable and leave you feeling very vulnerable.
But I think it is time to start treating our fear as a sign post, a guiding alarm that tells you where you need to go. Embrace it and make it your friend. No need to delve into your personal history and find out why it is there; we all have scarred pasts. Just stay awake, aware and jump in, my friend.
End Note: As I mentioned earlier in the post, my friends and I will be partaking in a Polar Plunge event on February 9th, which also happens to be my birthday. As part of registration, my team and I must raise some moo-lah for the Special Olympics Organization and we have almost reached our goal! It would mean a lot to myself and my friends if you would donate some money to this wonderful organization so that the Special Olympics can keep on kicking ass. You can do that by just clicking here.
The small amount of cash that you might spend on getting a coffee or placing a bet on a cock fight can seriously add to the experience of the Special Olympics for the kids. Also, if you donate I promise to send you a picture of my frozen ass with a big smile on my face after I jump into the water to your personal email! Just make sure to add your name and info to the donation page. Cheers !