The other day I said to a friend, “I woke up with a brick of fear in my chest.”
She replied, “Yes, I guess we are all going to be dealing with that brick of fear – putting it down for a while, then picking it up, then putting it down again.”
I loved this sentiment, the twist on the metaphor, the reminder that we aren’t trying to put down the brick once and for all, but for an interval of time, with acceptance that we will very likely pick up the fear brick again, when our thoughts or our circumstances cause us to.
We need to put the fear brick down temporarily to give ourselves – and our nervous systems – breaks. We put it down because, as psychotherapist Andrea Wachter teaches, sometimes fear is coming from a “what if…” thought even as a “what is” moment exists for the savoring, right in front of us. We put the fear brick down because there are people for whom we want to show up with calm and generativity (and one of those people is ourself!).
So how do we put down the fear for a while? Breaks from news and social media really help. Grounding in the sensory – through cooking or dance or music or a creative pursuit – really helps.
There is another powerful way to put down the brick I want to talk about today. In 12-Step programs, it is called “turning it over” – turning over a concern, or dilemma, or problem to a power greater than oneself. Hang in there with me, even if this is the kind of idea that inspires eye-rolling or a scoff for you right now.
That power might be named the Universe, the Intelligence of Life, Mother Earth. Or for some of us that power might be something more secular – the larger power of the scientific community, or your local leaders, or simply the other human beings out there who can carry the worry for a while, while you take a break. Just as you can carry the worry for them when they take a break. When we turn it over we say, “I can’t keep carrying this question/fear/load in this way. I am turning it over to something larger. I am asking for help.”
I recently heard Jack Kornfield talk about this idea of “turning it over” a little differently, as “putting it on the altar” – putting a fear or concern up on the altar – giving it over, for a while, to a power greater than your limited mind or self.
Now, let me make something very clear. We don’t want to abnegate our personal responsibility. No spiritual bypass. But there is tremendous relief that comes when we recognize we are each finite, limited, human beings meant to do our powerful work in the world by humbly connecting with the larger force of love and good and letting it infuse and guide our actions. We are meant to stay aware of our limitations, our deep finitude, so that we keep collaborating with other beings and energies greater than ourselves.
Powerful action starts from deep humility and requests for help – help from what’s tangible and from what is not.
When the worry or fear gets overwhelming, or the uncertainty feels like too much, you can say, “I’m putting this up on the altar for a while. I’m turning it over to a larger force for help.” We put it up. Then we listen for the inspirations, the leaning, the answers that come in quiet and surprising ways over the hours or days or weeks that follow.
We put something on the altar not to avoid taking action, but to let a deeper wisdom about what action to take come to us. And that wisdom will come – because we didn’t try to do it all, carry it all, alone. We surrendered. We asked for help. We turned it over. And then we waited to see what life showed us, whispered to us, next.
Photo by Jude Beck