Acknowledge Your Fears, Don’t Cultivate Them!

acknowledge fears don't cultivate them{This article first appeared here, on Tues, 1 July 2014.}
Let’s face it, if a tiger is about to pounce, we’re not concerned about composing a symphony, we want an instant decision on whether to fight, fly, or freeze. The sympathetic nervous system creates this quick mode at the expense of intelligence, creativity, digestion, and immunity among others. This state has both mental and physical consequences, and in our stress-filled modern world we go into it quite often since our body-mind doesn’t know the difference between a tiger and a deadline.

Because we go into this mode so often, it can become a habit. We can begin making decisions in this limited state without even realizing it. We can find ourselves unconsciously saying “no” to things without even thinking about them. We might push people away, refuse growth opportunities, get angry or impatient, or feel blame or guilt when none of this is warranted.

Eventually, if we begin to notice that something is awry, and we decide to change this pattern, to break this fear-based habit of saying “no” to life, it’s helpful to understand the difference between acknowledging it, becoming fully conscious of it, and cultivating it, making it bigger, stronger, and more intense. Or as I like to say, noticing versus wallowing.

Acknowledging What’s Already There Isn’t Cultivating

One thing I’ve seen over and over, is that as we’re changing a habit and becoming more aware of it, there is a point where we start to wonder if in becoming conscious of it we’re actually making it worse. This is because as we become aware of it, we start to see how big it really is, and it seems like suddenly we have a big problem where there was none. When we weren’t noticing it, it was not there, and now that we’re noticing it, it’s huge. We wanted the pattern to go away, and now it’s bigger. We begin to wonder if it is the fault of the noticing.

Of course, the pattern was there all along, we just weren’t aware of the full extent of it.  Now we are. Becoming aware isn’t the issue. The pattern is the issue, and that can feel daunting.

This is a point to be kind to ourselves, to be patient and to call up our courage and self-compassion. If we choose to go unconscious again we won’t be able to make any changes to our unconscious pattern. If we can stay conscious of it, we can do something about it. If we can be brave enough to face what is happening, to face our pattern, we can change it.

Choosing Patience versus Cultivating

The second place where we often get confused about the difference between acknowledging and cultivating is in how we respond to a pattern as it is happening. We can start by acknowledging the pattern as it is happening, noticing it in order to truly see it, and then start adding to the pattern by feeling bad about it. We shift to making it bigger, stronger, more intense. Now we’re cultivating it. Often we add guilt, shame, blame, anger, impatience, or contraction.

It works something like this:

I notice that I have a fear-based pattern of getting angry when I feel out of control. I don’t like this pattern, so I’m motivated to change it. So far so good.

Then, when I notice that the pattern is happening I get disgusted and say things to myself like, “I can’t believe I’m doing this! This is so stupid! Why is this happening to me?!”  Now I’m adding to the pattern by layering on more fear-based thoughts and emotions.

Fortunately, as soon as I see myself saying things like this, I can make a new choice. I can realize that this is the fear talking, this is me continuing the pattern, and instead choose something else like being patient with myself knowing that changing a pattern takes time. With that kind thought, I’ve moved away from making the pattern bigger and back into acknowledging, into noticing what is happening.

Adding to the habit is somewhat inevitable in the beginning, and as long as we see that is what we’re doing, we can choose to notice that too, and patiently shift back to acknowledging. The trick is to realize that turning the fear onto yourself, thinking and feeling fearful things, is part of the pattern. Remember that you aren’t stupid, bad or wrong, terminally contracted, broken, or whatever your pattern throws at you. That is just the pattern talking. Make a firm decision to choose something else, and keep reaffirming that decision as often as the choice comes up.

You are perfect.

The next time that paper tiger is about to pounce, smile at yourself and know that you have the power to change any habit you have. You have the power to choose. Soon, with a little patience, courage, and self-compassion, you and that tiger will be prancing around together singing a resounding “YES”!
Elena offers quick and easy meditations at and welcomes your feedback to this article. Please share your experiences below.

Broken to Joy: Mind Games

(video) Sometimes we’ve just got to go for it and let our heart speak.
Here is my heart speaking to yours about a topic we all love: how we’re becoming better people through spirituality, through working with our lovely minds… And how that gets in our way sometimes.
This is the second video where I challenged myself to let my heart speak with out mental preparation and to drop back into heart whenever I noticed my mind talking… the mind to heart pauses can be annoying if you want a fast pace!
You are welcome, for your own sanity, to use the pauses to sink deeper into your own heart.
I’d love to know how this experiment goes for you!

Broken to Joy: Moving from Head to Heart?

(video) This video was a personal challenge… to be in my heart!

First, to speak from the heart with no preparation other than to have the intention to talk about something useful that we can all relate to. Second, whenever I start talking from my mind to pause… and drop back into heart space.

So, the pauses in this video are just that: me moving from head to heart. This is the first time I’ve done this on video so it is a slow process…
This could be annoying to watch!

Maybe if you take the challenge yourself, and every time I get quiet you drop as deeply into yourself as you can, then it might be as fun to watch as it was to make! Who knows?!

It would be really cool to hear how this experiment went for you!


Broken to Joy: How to Recognize Resistance & Make Friends With It

(video) Resistance can be tricky to recognize… if it is working properly it is designed to distract you from the pain underneath it. How can you recognize resistance and how can you deal with it once you do? This video shows you one way that I’ve found works well.

What’s your experience with resistance and making friends with it?


Broken to Joy: How to Let Go, Part 2

(video) Once we’re ready to quit the cycle of denial and reliving our pain, we can acknowledge it and let it go… Oh happy day!
Here’s one technique that I use with clients for acknowledging pain – without denying or reliving.

What’s your experience?


Broken to Joy: How to Let Go, Part 1

(video) We tend to do a mixture of two things when we’re faced with something that we don’t like: we deny it and we relive it in our heads over and over. Neither of these are terribly helpful for letting go of the pain.

What’s your experience with these things?