Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway

JenClimbing, FearLeave a Comment

Do you ever feel like you’re standing on the edge of something big but can’t physically will yourself to jump? Justified excuses. Playing small. You busy yourself with the whirlwind of other “non-priority emergencies” from the fire hose of life. It can feel scary and overwhelming… all evidence that seemingly confirms the areas where we perceive we’re not enough… it is UNCOMFORTABLE in every way and hanging out on these kind of cliff edges in this way seems insane.

When I feel the voice of fear yell loudly, my habitual reaction is to look for something to take the edge off, a distraction or some kind of comfortable to hide out until the storm blows over. This well-trodden path is deeply grooved in my brain, and when I’m scared and looping in this way, it’s f’ing hard to get my reptile brain (master of the fight, flight or freeze) to focus on the facts or do anything other than the disconnect behaviors listed above.

I had always rationalized this type of risk aversion as the kind of thing “responsible” people did to make smart choices and not put themselves in vulnerable situations. I hadn’t really considered another approach until one of my NOLS climbing instructors talked about pausing to listen to the voice of fear as a way to actually move through it, instead of being ruled by it.

Before that time, fear knee-jerked me into flight mode so fast I barely had time to see the space in-between stimulus and response. This voice told me to get the hell out of there, wave off, don’t try at all if there was even a remote chance of failure. It was really effective in some important ways early on, but as I moved farther away from those kind of situations, I also noticed my day to day experience seriously lacked the juice of a life well-lived. It was safe, but was I really living? So when John offered the opportunity to have a more meaningful exchange with this voice, I was definitely curious.

“Hear it out… heed any legitimate threats to life and limb (generally wise advice while climbing!) AND then lovingly say to it. ‘I’ve heard you. Thank you. I’ve taken appropriate actions where I can, and now I’m going to set you in my chalk bag and do it anyway.'”

“…heed any legitimate threats to life and limb AND then lovingly say to it. ‘I’ve heard you. Thank you. I’ve taken appropriate actions where I can, and now I’m going to set you in my chalk bag and do it anyway.'”

This was the first time I related to fear in this way and I was astonished to see/feel the difference in my body. I didn’t shove it down and pretend it didn’t exist, my body didn’t tremble with anxiety when it flooded my system – this was a healthy relationship that worked. I started to attempt and actually successfully climb things I never believed I was capable of. I was scared, but I was doing it anyway and instead of feeling paralyzed or numb, I felt ALIVE like I never had before. As I began to apply that same kind of wisdom to other areas of my life, I was amazed to see how well this technique applied across the board.

Where would the adventure of life lead me if I didn’t jump off the train at the first sign of trouble?

What could I actually accomplish if I didn’t quit when it got tough?

What would it feel like to actually be at ease in my body while making important decisions?

Where would the adventure of life lead me if I didn’t jump off the train at the first sign of trouble?

Rumbling with these kinds of questions has been a big part of my inner/outer work over the past decade. Although I’ve spent a lot of that time far from climbing walls, I feel a sense of deep gratitude for the way this “climbing wisdom” has without a doubt made my life more rich and meaningful. I’ve stayed the course, leaned into the edge, and taken considerable risk with fear in my back pocket as a trusted ally instead of a ruthless saboteur. This learning orientation to life is still a work in progress, but it is juicy and magical and WAY more fun than constantly sitting on the cliff edge trying to look away and pretend I was satisfied while secretly wishing I had enough courage to be one of “those” people out there getting after it.

We moved back to San Diego this past year and as I’ve slowly found my bearings, I’ve also found myself drawn back into the climbing classroom. Although I still enjoy top roping with friends, I’ve also felt a deep soul nudge to consider lead climbing again. I reconnected with my old friend and climbing mentor, Kat Heldman, and in reminiscing about a few of my failed attempts at lead climbing, I started to get really curious about what would happen if I applied this same kind of approach to leading.

What if instead of letting fear run the show by playing it safe, we created a learning environment that would actually support me in taking my climbing to the next level in a big way? What would it feel like to be lovingly supported as I went out on the sharp end of the rope and experimented with living a life way beyond what I thought was possible?

These questions inspired brave conversations with the instructors at Mesa Rim Climbing and Fitness Center and together we’ve crafted a beautiful, inspired and totally amazing curriculum that is going to do just that. In 19 days we’re launching Lead DAREfully… a lead climbing adventure for women (just like me!) who want to learn how to lead climb AND do it in a way that provides an experiential path to relating to fear and our preconceived limitations in a new way.

I’m excited and scared and doing it anyway… and WOW… it feels amazing.

Curious to learn more?

If this lights you up in the way it does for me, I would love to hear from you. There are spaces for only a few more ladies to join in the fun, so if you think this might be you, please don’t delay! Call me at (858) 413-7034 or email jen@seektruenorth.com to connect and explore this possibility together.

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