“How can I take a leap when I don’t know what waits on the other side?” So many of my clients wrestle with this question. It has been a question I have wrestled with my whole life as well. Although, by the looks of the many things I have done in my life, especially the last several years, one would not know that without asking. But yes, this fear-based question has lived within me since I can remember. As a matter of fact, fear has lived within me since I can remember. The fear of the unknown; the fear to take a leap to what is next when you don’t know what’s next and the fear to take a chance when there are no guarantees. A client of mine recently asked, “did you know what would be next each time you made a decision to do the things you did?” The answer is a big NO!

Not only did I not know, but I was also filled with fear. I still am. Every time I speak to an audience and teach what I love to teach I get butterflies in my stomach, my heart races, my mind goes a little blank. In all these years I have not learned how to get rid of fear, rather I have learned how to soften it and live with it. I have learned to feel my feet on the ground, turn my presence to my breath, and most importantly, to remind myself of my faith and belief in what is important to me. The big realization that I came to many years ago was that, fear may be present, but so am I! This self-acceptance and self-compassionate understanding about myself and my relationship with fear did not happen overnight. It took time and patience and more importantly, practice!

It took lots of practice of soothing the fear, both on a physical level, such as grounding my body and slowing down my breath, and on a mind level, such as working with thoughts of self-doubt and criticism through self-compassionate words. Hard work, over and over again. Why? Because I was a child raised in fear. Fear was believed to be something that would protect me. Rather, it stifled me. Not only did it shut down my voice, and my needs, but it also led me to shut down and hide away all hopes and dreams and chances. It hid ME away. Behind every eating disorder is great fear. Fear of change; fear of a body changing; fear of a life changing. Many of your current behaviors are familiar and believed to be a security to you. However, the truth is it is not just a false security but an entrapment. Fear is the primary reason people get stuck in moving forward and leaving behaviors behind as they are too afraid of not knowing what will be without them. You know exactly what I mean. The fear of what’s next can and will be stifling and hold you in patterns that are no longer serving you. You can find a way to soothe and live with fear. If handled in a compassionate way we can actually use fear as part of the soothing and healing process!

In Chapter 6 of my book we explore how to use self-compassion as the skill base needed during these fearful moments. The following meditation practice is called Compassion for What Is Next:

Contemplate the question, “What is next for me?” Feel what that question does in your body. Can you feel the emotion that builds? Where do you feel it? Keep asking the question and notice how you feel. What does your body and your nervous system feel?

1. Take a release breath, inhale through your nose, and exhale through your mouth. Ground in your body. Feel the points of connection your body makes with the earth. Breathe from here.

2. Take a few more release breaths. Allow your body to soften and simply hold your head in your hands. Check in with how your body feels now, right in this moment. Maybe it has calmed down just a bit. Can you accept that you are just trying to understand? Just as a child is curious and wants to know what will happen next, you, too, wish for the same knowing, the same peace of mind. Can you hold compassion for the part of you that wants to know? Can you hold compassion for the fact that it can be scary to not know? Can you hold compassion for how hard it is to let go and let be with what you know right now? Allow yourself to fold over a little in your seat to rest into any emotion or sensation you feel. Use your breath to soften and release. Feel the softening and release.

Practice this embodied meditation whenever fear arises. For fear to take a back seat and allow YOU to come forward it must be softened and soothed. You cannot expect it to disappear without responding to it compassionately first.

Read more at: Befriending Your Body: A Self-Compassionate Approach to Freeing Yourself From Disordered Eating, Shambhala Publications