Red Rock Lesson

“Courage, contrary to popular belief, is not the absence of fear. Courage is the wisdom to act in spite of fear.” —John-Roger and Peter McWilliams

As part of my personal journey and commitment to live a fulfilled life I embarked on a spiritual pilgrimage to deepen my self-understanding and to seek answers to questions I was having about my life.  I traveled to Sedona Arizona to connect with the desert and amazing red rock formations.

After visiting a number of powerful sites I felt drawn to a beautiful mountain. Standing in front of this breathtaking prominence, I wanted to get to the top. Now, let me share that I am no mountain climber. I was raised in suburbia. I love nature and hiking and usually stick to the trails.  I was afraid and yet, I knew that I had to face my fear and climb to the top of this formidable rock. It was a rainy February day late in the afternoon when I started my ascent.

When I got to about three quarters of the way up the craggy side of the face I hit my own internal wall. It was a wall of fear; actually, terror. My first impulse was to turn around and retreat back down where I felt safe but something inside me urged me on.

There, alone on the side of this mountain I felt vulnerable to the elements and became acutely aware of the potential physical danger I could have been in.   I knew I had a choice and yet I also knew if I didn’t seize this opportunity I would be disappointed in myself.

I carefully chose my next steps inching my way higher. Through my tears I began to watch my mind as it ran through an endless litany of self-doubt, limitation and my fear of death. I was hard on myself and didn’t want to leave my “comfort zone”. I knew I must.

As I stood there precariously I became aware of how this climb was a metaphor for my life.  I noticed where I resist pushing myself to move past my fears and step into unknown territory. Although I felt successful and accomplished, I thought about how I hold back and don’t completely go for what I want in my life.

I thought about why I was climbing that rock in the first place. I was in search of freedom; I was looking for a higher perspective and to appreciate the view. I wanted to feel the exhilaration of achieving something beyond what was safe and comfortable yet why did it feel like I had to risk my personal safety and face death in order to get to there?

What I learned was; finding the courage to look at and face your fear can be a very empowering act.

What are your fears and how are they preventing you from reaching your dreams? By listing or naming your fears you can bring them into the light thereby reducing their powerful charge. Here are some tips and perspectives for looking at fear and turn it into an opportunity for growth and action:

  1. Is your fear to move forward based on what has happened in the past or what could happen in the future? A wise teacher of mine Byron Katie says, “ The worst that can happen to us (now) is a thought”.  Most of what we fear never actually happens. If you really think about it It’s our thoughts about what we experience that causes us the most pain.
  2. Negative events can truly become the catalyst for positive change and learning. Try reframing your negative experience into a powerful learning opportunity. See if you can find the “gift” or silver lining in a situation that has been difficult.
  3. Watch your inner dialogue. What are you telling yourself? Try keeping a journal for a day on all the fearful or negative thoughts you have. At the end of the day, look at each thought and ask yourself if these thoughts are even true. Then remind yourself of what IS true.
  4. Check out the book “Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway” by Susan Jeffers. The idea is to turn fear and indecision into confidence and action. You can’t eliminate fear but you can turn it into an ally. Learn the territory of fear. Make friends with it. Teach yourself to breathe deeply and move from victim hood to being the champion of your life.

Getting back to my story, I continued to wind my way up to the top of the mountain. I made it. Through my tears and fear I found a strength deep inside me that taught me a very powerful lesson. As I took my final steps up to the summit the sun broke through the clouds and a hawk flew overhead. I looked out over the gorgeous red rock landscape and for the first time in my life I fully enjoyed the view.

It’s your life…imagine the possibilities!

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