Fear is as Real as You Let It Be
by Kristin Armstrong
Illustration by Heather Sundquist
YOU’VE PROBABLY HAD THE BIZARRE experience of randomly thinking of a forgotten friend and not long afterwards they call you out of the blue. Or you noodle over a seemingly impossible problem or something you can’t remember, and you let it go and do something entirely different. Maybe go for a walk or take a long drive. Then BAM, out of thin air, the answer appears—like your brain is some mainframe computer, chugging algorithms on every circuit, and suddenly spits it out. Or perhaps the universe just throws you a bone. The answer you were searching for, hovering just beyond your consciousness, is now available.
All these things involve energy. We talk about energy in different ways, even referring to people or situations as having good or bad energy, as in “I got a good vibe.” I may be a California native, but my heart has lived here long enough to feel Southern. I am more apt to do a Bible study than buy crystals or dreamcatchers. I used to write off all of these things—energy, yoga and meditation—as woo-woo and new-agey. Until one day I didn’t.
Okay, it probably didn’t happen in a single day, but I definitely shifted from a more black-and-white perspective on growth and spirituality and started to see shades and hues. It started with meditation. I began to see it as a silent form of praying and connecting and centering rather than a weird thing that weird people do. I began to do more yoga, recognizing yoga as a spiritual practice rather than a rest day to stretch between workouts. I grew to understand that the voice in my head, the “chatty roommate” as I call her, because she never shuts up and is always on my case, isn’t the real me because I can tell her to be quiet. I started to realize that I could change all kinds of things in my life simply by changing the way I think about them. This is energy. This is real power. This is transformative.
The author Michael Singer has one of my all time favorite quotes, and I dispense it like Pez to anyone who needs something sweet: “Everything will be okay as soon as you are okay with everything.”
The question becomes: How do you get okay?
There was a time about a year ago where I felt stuck. Blocked, like the changes I wanted to make in my life were thwarted by detour signs and traffic jams. Like my heart was constipated and it couldn’t get enough fiber. Like I had writer’s block when I wasn’t even writing.I tried to talk it out in therapy. I tried to sweat it out by running. I tried to spell it out in my writing. I tried to let it go through meditation. Still, I was stuck.
A couple of my dear friends, highly intelligent open-minded fellow sojourners on the spiritual highway, decided to generously share a resource with me: a woman who has helped them get unstuck. This woman calls herself an Integrated Healer. I call her amazing.
I went to Fran Bell’s office one afternoon, not at all sure about this. Whatever this was. Was I becoming one of those people? Whoever they are. I did something I rarely do, especially in new or uncomfortable situations. I let my guard down completely.
I sat with her, in her cozy tree house of an office, and opened my heart and mind to possibility. I believe what she did is called energy work, but since I don’t really understand what that means yet, I will call it simply “healing.” In our session we discovered my block. It was a tumor-like invisible blob of fear stuck somewhere between my heart and my head, lodged near my throat. It was segregating my thoughts and feelings, and clogging my ability to speak my deepest truths. The more she talked about it, the more I could barely swallow my own spit. Fear is as real as you let it be.
I didn’t realize I was crying until she handed me a tissue.
By the time she finished with me, I could breathe in a way I couldn’t before. Something had shifted.
“So, you’re smart, which can be problematic,” she said.
“What the hell does that mean?” I was intrigued; I’d always considered my brain my finest asset.
“You’re intelligent enough to think you can solve everything. The thing is, you can’t. You need to get out of your head, and start living from your heart. Create a staircase and use it.” She made zigzag motions with her finger down the front of me, from my forehead to my sternum.
I over-hugged her goodbye, clinging to her with gratitude, like she was my grandmother, my priest, my sister, my mother, my therapist, my guide, my travel agent, my masseuse and my friend all rolled into one being.
Now whenever I start to feel stuck, I tell myself to go downstairs.
My heart usually knows what to do next.