With all that is happening as a result of the global pandemic—lockdowns and isolation, social distancing, falling financial markets, loss of income and jobs, medical supply shortages, businesses and restaurants closed, uncertainty about how long this will go on and what the world will look like on the other side—it’s completely normal to experience moments of fear and anxiety. Feeling and acknowledging fear is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of honesty.
No one likes to be caught up in fear. The good news is that when you engage your fear and choose where you will put your focus, you can learn how to navigate the current tumultuous circumstances in productive and constructive ways. It’s a practice that will take diligence—it’s like building a muscle. Yet it’s a practice that will pay off.
One of the ancient wisdom principles that form the foundation of the Transformational Presence approach says, “Energy cannot be created or destroyed; it can only be transformed.” In practical terms, this means that we can’t get rid of our fear, yet we can transform it. We can learn to walk with it. We can learn to take big steps even in the face of fear. The key lies in developing the discipline to choose where we will focus our attention.
Choosing where to put your focus does not mean to deny any part of what is happening or of what you feel. On the contrary, it means to be aware of everything that is present, and then consciously choose where to put your attention right now. Some specific questions can help.
Three Questions to Help You Choose
In the face of fear, there are three questions that can serve you no matter what is happening.
- What is important to pay attention to right now?
- What is the situation asking me to learn in this moment?
- With this awareness, where do I choose to put my focus?
The Lebanese-American writer and philosopher Kahlil Gibran wrote:
Your pain is the breaking of the shell
that encloses your understanding.
Within the context of our discussion, we could easily substitute the words fear or anxiety for the word pain in Gibran’s statement. By being willing to be fully present with what is happening—to sit with it, feel it fully, and not run away—and asking these three questions, we can learn to step beyond fear, anxiety, or pain into greater understanding about what is happening.
A Simple Yet Powerful 5-Step Process
So let’s expand this into a simple yet powerful five-step process. Sit comfortably with your back straight or stand in a full upright position, and breathe deeply into your low belly below your navel. If you have difficulty taking deep breaths, bend over as if you are going to touch your toes, and then breathe. Your breath will drop deeper into your body. Then slowly return to an upright position and continue taking deep belly breaths. Imagine your breath also going to the soles of your feet and the palms of your hands.
Step 1—Allow yourself to be present with everything that is happening and everything that you feel. What is happening and your feelings associated with it are important information. When you shift your perspective to view it all as information rather than strong feelings and emotions, it can become easier to be present with what is here. You can choose whether or not to allow your circumstance and your emotions to define you. Allow yourself to stay with this first step long enough for the energy to begin softening, even if only a bit. If you find this challenging, my article, “From Fear to Love, Head to Heart, Start in the Belly,” may help. And remember, it may take some practice.
Step 2—Continue breathing deep into your lower belly. From your belly, sense what is important to pay attention to right now.
Step 3—Staying with your belly, sense what this moment is asking you to learn.
Step 4—From this awareness, where will it serve the most put your focus right now?
Step 5—Going forward, discipline your thought and action to keep that focus until it becomes clear that it’s time to shift to something else.
In the End, Just One Question
In the end, it comes down to one question: Where do you choose to put your focus?
Will you focus on your fear or use this process to find your next step? Will you focus on your pain or on the understanding that is available to you if you are willing to be fully present with all that is happening?
In the unfolding of this global pandemic, there are countless numbers of things that are not working. Yet there are also amazing things happening. The air is getting cleaner and waterways are getting clearer. Noise levels in our cities and towns are decreasing. Creativity and innovation are coming alive in extraordinary ways. Communities are coming together. Neighbors are reaching out to support one another. New leaders are emerging. Although we may have to practice social distancing for a while longer, social solidarity is on the rise.
There is abundant evidence of human suffering every day. Yet there is also great evidence that the human spirit is blossoming in response. We can choose where we put our focus—on all that is not working, or on the ever-present invitations to create new forms, new structures, and new pathways forward.
With discipline and practice, you can navigate these challenging times. It may not come easily at first, yet with practice, you can do it. The key is to be fully present with whatever is happening in any moment; to be honest with yourself about your thoughts, feelings, and emotions; and then to choose decisively where you will focus your attention.
Where will it serve you to put your focus today?
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Related Blog Posts:
- From Fear to Love, Head to Heart, Start in the Belly
- Navigating Uncertainty, Doubt, and Fear – Choosing Where To Put Your Focus
- This Time In Your Life – What’s It Really About?
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