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Mindful Leadership

Mindful Leadership in Action – Tip of the Week – Think of Fear as Just Another Flavour of Body Sensation

When we experience fear it can be all consuming.  But we can see fear for what it is – just another flavour of body sensation.  Certainly it may be that accompanying the fear experience are images of what happened in the past or what you think might happen in the future. It may also be that you experience internal talk that can be very disturbing which may be reinforcing the image or images.  But neither image nor talk will last for long if there are no accompanying bodily sensations of fear.  The sensations in the body are like a battery.  If they go unchecked and you allow them to escalate, the battery will keep running and charging, i.e. the fear will keep running.  And as it does this the images and talk will potentially go out of control.

It is “feel”, the bodily sensations associated with any emotion and in this example fear, that generally goes unnoticed and as a result this “feel” will drive your behaviour.  I can not emphasize what a powerful force “feel” in the body can be if it goes unrecognized.  It can literally rule your world.

This applies to any kind of fear whether it is about the markets, your health, your professional life, your relationships or even about remembering a painful experience in the past.

But fear is just a body sensation, no different than joy.  Fear and joy carry with them body sensations.  The difference is the flavour, one is unpleasant, the other pleasant.

The good news is that we use the same technique, regardless of the type of fear, to loosen the grip and eventually dissolve the fear.  The first step is to become aware of where you experience these sensations of fear (or indeed any emotion) in your body.  It can literally be anywhere.  A common place is the stomach area or solar plexus.  I use this merely as an example and it is by no means limited to this location in the body.  So when you first notice that you may be experiencing fear, get into the habit of looking to the body to see where you experience it in the body.  And that is sufficient as a first step.  You can do that for a couple of days or weeks.  Just notice; become familiar with the language of the body.

Once you are more familiar with the body sensations the next step is to track them.  See what the sensations do; do they move, shift, deepen, subside, intensify, etc.  And as you do this, pour your concentration into the sensations.  As you do this, apply equanimity, i.e. allow the sensation to arise unimpeded.  As scary and counterintuitive as this may first seem, it is actually this “allowing” that liberates you. You will notice that with practice you will actually be able to dissolve the sensations, thereby loosening their grip on your behaviour and your life.

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2 Responses to Mindful Leadership in Action – Tip of the Week – Think of Fear as Just Another Flavour of Body Sensation

  1. Meg Mitchell says:

    What a great idea! …. this is something worth trying. We all have these moments that we try to ignore.

  2. John Carbone says:

    Given the prevalence of subtle fear/anxiety that pervades our modern life this is a very timely and useful topic. It’s interesting- I can imagine that the prospect of being free of fear/worry/anxiety might in itself be anxiety provoking (as someone might say- “Well, if I wasn’t afraid of what would happen if I stepped in front of this speeding truck- what would stop me from doing so?” The beauty of mindfulnes is that having clarity and equanimity with the experience of fear doesn’t diminish any common-sense message of this important evolutionary emotion- but it does allow us to be “motivated and directed” in our response, rather than “driven and distorted”, as our teacher might say! Great essay!