Playing With Fear

I have been bouldering a lot lately. Simplified, it’s basically climbing without being roped. The things I like most about it is that I can go up or sideways and I don’t have to fuss with a rope and harness. I have been doing it at an indoor climbing gym and love the simple way I can use my whole body and my mind together. Both bouldering and climbing have a very satisfying puzzle aspect, as well, which I really love.

Bouldering is also a great way to play with fear.

I never thought I had a fear of heights until I started climbing. But, it often happens that as soon as I climb to a certain height, suddenly I am afraid to go any higher. The fear is both rational and irrational. I really might fall, but I would be falling on super cushy mats.IMG_20140607_115349

The reality is that I am completely safe. Bouldering creates a perfect contradiction for feelings to come up and be examined.

Here is how I utilize bouldering to tackle fear:  When I get to that spot where I am afraid to go any higher, the first thing I do is feel it in my body and just sit with it. I let my body know that I am aware it’s afraid. We stop and take stock of the situation. Together, my mind and my body work together, letting the fear guide but not control my actions. Sometimes I make a decision to keep going higher, sometimes I climb back down. I let myself feel everything during the whole process and sometimes even start shaking.

This is not about pushing ruthlessly past the fear, but about sitting with it and gaining information about what it tells me. The real value goes way beyond the gym, because it creates a relationship between my body and mind that can transfer to other situations where fear comes up. I’m not as likely to let fear stop me from doing things that push my edge. In a way, fear has become my friend. When I get scared, I am able to notice the fear, feel it and still think clearly and respond appropriately.

My friend Ian.
My friend Ian. Yes, he really is climbing sideways.

I think most fears are irrational and have nothing to do with the present moment. Fear encourages us to live small, comfortable lives. I have never been happy with giving fear control over my life.

Do you have a place in your life where you can play with fear? I have a friend who is in a memoir writing class and she plays with fear whenever she shares her writing with the group. I know not everyone is as excited about being afraid as I am, but try something and use my suggestions. You might be surprised at how it can create big shifts in your life.




2 Responses

  1. Mandy

    I love this post, Teresa.
    It takes a lot of courage to work with fear-but it can be kind of fun and exciting-life affirming.

    • sweetveg

      Thank you, Mandy! Are you still in Seattle? I would meet you at Stone Gardens sometime if you are interested! 🙂