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March 12, 2017

How to Stop Feeding our Fears.

“Your dreams are as hungry as your demons. Make sure you’re feeding the right ones.” ~ Unknown

~

I’ve been thinking a lot about life: how short it is, how unbearably precious and fragile.

I think back to the years I wasted putting little checks in boxes:

Go to college, check.

Make as much money as I can, check.

Get married, check. 

And it’s not that those things weren’t worthwhile. I think about how much time we spend watching the clock and wishing for something else, or doing the things we feel like we need to instead of doing the things that nurture our souls. While I’ve learned a lot from my experiences, I wonder sometimes how much I would have learned if I had followed my dreams instead and done the things I wanted to rather than what was expected.

Yes, hindsight is perfect.

I don’t know how my life will look in the future either. In the last couple of years, I’ve experienced divorce, single parenting, job changes, and relationship challenges. If there’s anything I’m sure of, it’s that I’m not really sure of anything. And I’m learning how to embrace the flow of life and all of its changes.

Part of embracing change is learning from the past while choosing to live in the present. I don’t want a life that’s filled with obligation. I want a life for myself and my children that is filled with joy, adventure, beauty, and magic—with a heart that is always open. I know that if I want to live mindfully and joyfully in the present moment, then I need to make the choices that lead to this life.

Which means I need to make some changes.

I keep coming across this quote: “Please do not feed the fears.”

It occurs to me, that I often direct my thoughts in negative channels. I do, in fact, feed the fears. Sometimes it even feels like an indulgence, a terrible habit that is surprisingly tough to break. In every imagined scenario, I see the worst possible outcomes.

Over the last year, I’ve set the intention to use a few minutes every day to dream without limitations. I imagine the possibilities without allowing fear or so-called realities to cloud them. To make these few minutes possible, it takes all of my energy to drown out the voice of fear, worry, and doubt.

Yet I persist because I believe that dreams are possible, although we often allow our fears to get in our way. We’re afraid of success every bit as much as we are afraid of failure, so we keep protecting ourselves with excuses about why we cannot achieve our dreams.

If I want to be happy and at peace, I have to stop feeding the fears.

I have spent too many years worrying and wondering. I can’t waste any more precious hours borrowing trouble about imagined scenarios, rather than experiencing the present moment, free from worry about the future or past.

How will I stop feeding these fears when I’ve grown so accustomed to the practice? Interestingly, I’ve decided to take an unusual approach. In order to stop feeding fear, I’ve decided to instead feed a few positive areas of my life with this energy.

This week I planted my first garden: with fruit, vegetables, flowers, and herbs. Although I’ve been talking about it for years, I somehow never quite got it started. But I’m determined to try. It’s an ambitious project, on a small piece of land that’s mine to use at my apartment. I’ll be cultivating my own little victory garden while also intentionally developing my own soul. I’ve set up a water feature and planted several herbs, which smell divine. It’s a full sensory experience, and it provides a serene space for me and my children to enjoy, which helps keep me centered and present.

Planting a garden gives me the opportunity to spend more time in nature and to directly participate in the process of growing, tending, and harvesting some of the food I consume. I plan on using this time to reflect about how I grow, tend, and harvest in my own life.

What kind of life am I growing?

How am I tending to myself and the people I love?

Am I nurturing myself and others gently and with balance?

What types of results am I harvesting?

Am I receiving love and blessings in return, or am I harvesting anxiety and lost opportunities?

Another positive addition to my life has been making an effort to learn something new every day. I have an art app that provides a bitesize daily art history. I listen to podcasts and TED talks to learn about new ways of perceiving the world. I’m making an effort to enrich my life, with a focus on learning more about the world while taking time to appreciate its beauty.

There are many ways to add a little mindfulness to our lives.

A fellow ele-writer shared her experience with French baths (a dry bath, not a rushed wash). This is another way I’ve added care and intention to my life. I take French baths in addition to long, luxurious bubble baths. I exercise and eat well. I give myself facials and hair treatments. I’m modeling self-care for my children while taking care of them with the same intention. With each positive choice to care for myself and others and with each healthy addition to my life, I enrich the present moment, allowing my focus to rest there.

Sometimes it’s much easier to feed the fear than to feel the joy. It’s much easier to do what we think we should, never turning down a new obligation and suffering all the while for our busy schedules and imbalanced lives.

When I lived this way before, I thought it was the only way to live. I didn’t know that there were many different choices.

I’ve honed my financial management skills, so I can do a lot with just a little, and money doesn’t have to be the main concern. I’ve learned to focus on relationships that add value to my life and not the ones that only bring drama. I’ve incorporated beauty, mindfulness, and adventure into my family routines, so I can continually touch base with what matters to me.

And this might be different than what matters to you.

Change is challenging. It’s exhausting and often painful. When we realize how brief our lives are, we see what truly matters, and we begin to do the work to create the lives we want. We stop feeding our fears and start feeding our dreams instead. We put our energy into what we want instead of what we fear, and slowly our lives and our dreams become one in the same.

~

Author: Crystal Jackson

Image: Max Pixel 

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock 

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