There’s a lot of fear and uncertainty coursing through our systems these days. For those of you who have been committed to inner work for a while, you’ve probably been relying on your well-practiced tools and are managing the current state of the world with a fair amount of acceptance. In fact, what I’m seeing among my clients, course members and readers is that, because we’re all on the anxious-sensitive-creative/spiritual spectrum, this isn’t uncharted territory for us. We’re deeply familiar with anxiety. We’ve danced with fear and panic countless times. We’ve been aware of the uncertain nature of our human existence since childhood. Illusions of certainty? Those were shattered long ago. Becoming aware that life and love include risk? Oh yes, we’ve been aware of that for years.
But there will always be moments when fear grabs hold and won’t let go. Fear is an essential survival response to a real-and-present threat, and it’s designed to wake us up so that we take necessary actions and precautions. But once we receive the message and do what we can do, we need a way to move the fear through us so that it doesn’t take up residence and morph into anxiety. The more we loosen fear’s paralyzing grip, the more space we open up for love, which is exactly what’s needed right now, both individually and collectively.
One powerful way to meet fear is through visualization. I’m going to guide you through a visualization that you can use anytime you notice fear or uncertainty rising up, and of course this applies to any time in our lives, not just during a global pandemic. I’m sharing a longer version that will help you access your own calming images and words and a shorter version that you can turn to when you need a “quick fix” for a fear spike. The more you practice the longer version the more effective the shorter version will be. As always, when we create a full inner well through longer practice we can dip into that well at other checkpoints throughout the day.
The following is the written version. At the bottom you’ll find an audio version and later I’ll share a video of the shortened version so you can see the hand gestures that invite a somatically healing experience. This visualization touches on all four realms of self: physical by making contact with your body, emotional by being with your feelings, cognitive by bringing in soothing thoughts, and soul by turning to your imagination. If you’re familiar with my work, you know that the most effective way to work with anxiety is when we attend to all four realms of self. This visualization does just that.
Let’s get started.
A Calming Visualization in a Time of Fear and Uncertainty
Take a few moments now to arrive in your body. Find a comfortable position. Close your eyes if that’s a way for you turn inward. Following your breath on the inhale and exhale, do your best to arrive in the present moment. Take your time. There’s no rush. For now, watch your breath on the inhale… and the exhale… as you come into the present moment.
We’re going to walk through four stages for how to meet your fear and uncertainty.
First, when you’re feeling scared, when you notice that your body has sent you the message that fear is coursing through you, place your hands on where you feel the fear in your body, imagining that your own inner loving parent is making contact with young you, and say out loud,
“I am here.”
Next, imagine that the most loving being in the world in the world is coming to meet you as they place their arms around you to hold your fear with you. These might be the arms of a departed relative or ancestor, a spiritual figure, an animal, a mentor or guide – or all of the above. See them holding you, allow yourself to feel completely held, as you say out loud,
“I am held.”
Now imagine that your body is a leaf and you are laying yourself onto a warm and gentle stream. As your body becomes defenseless, as it lets go of resistance and control, as it allows itself to be buoyed by the water and surrender to its flow you say out loud,
“I am being carried”
as you open your arms to your sides as if you’re on the water.
Lastly, when you emerge from the water you see that you are being wrapped in a fluffy, white robe, and as you sit down on the grassy banks, surrounded by wildflowers, you find a beautiful picnic spread out just for you with your favorite foods, clear, sparkly water, and beauty all around. You say out loud,
“I am protected and nourished”
as you reach your hands up to the sky and bring them down your body as if they’re a waterfall of light.
Simply say, with the hand gestures:
“I am here.” (Hands on where you feel the fear in your body).
“I am held.” (Holding yourself as you imagine loving beings holding you.)
“I am being carried.” (Arms outstretched by your sides, as if you’re floating on water.)
“I am protected and nourished.” (Arms overhead then down the front of your body.)
Keep in mind that the intention is not to get rid of fear. Rather, it’s to be with fear, to tend to it like a scared child and remind ourselves through the power of imagery, metaphor, and words that we are being held, carried, protected, and nourished. As you practice the visualization, notice what shifts occur internally. You might not feel an immediate release from fear’s grip; that’s not the point. But over time and with consistent practice, you will notice space opening up inside, and you’ll notice that you feel more inclined to fill that space with love: to act from love, to give love, to show up with love.
From this place of increased calm and clarity, we can ask what is needed. We act then not from fear but from calm. As those of you who have worked closely with fear well know, fear constricts; when you look through fear-eyes you will only see fear. When you feel safer and more protected, you open, and from this place you can see possibility and abundance. From the place of expansiveness, we can be more present with ourselves, our children, our partners, our friends, our community, and our world. And this is what is needed. This is the great call and invitation that is being presented to us now. As Mark Nepo so beautifully shared on Instagram today:
“Since the beginning, light has met dark, not in the battle of good and evil but in the torque of life-force that keeps the Universe going. And so, love must move as quickly as fear. It is no accident that we are being forced to be still, as there has never been anywhere to run, though we have run for centuries.
“The times are hard and unexpected. They always are. But the river of being that carries us is always life-giving, if we can reach it. This requires diving where we are, not running from what is. We must be brave and must beware, mostly of ourselves. For the mind is like a spider. It will weave many webs. But the heart is like an arrow of light. It will pierce a hole in the dark that life will fill. Along the way stumble in the dark. Our fierce and tender honesty and love, the lamp we swing between us.”
Music: Solo Acoustic Guitar by Jason Shaw
Thank you Sheryl. Im a healthcare worker who works in a hospital in NYC and the fear going to work has been paralyzing. Ive even wondered if I should write my will and obituary. Thank you for your article, especially he quote of not to get rid of fear, but to be with the fear. That helps as Ive been fighting fear and it has perpetuated the anxiety.
Priscilla: Thank you so much for doing the work that you’re doing. Please listen to the MP3 and see if it brings you some comfort and guidance.
Thank you, Priscilla. You are a hero to all you serve & an inspiration to everyone. May you be safe from all harm & know all of you amazing healthcare workers & other essential personnel are in the prayers of millions.
Thank you for such an amazing practice during this time Sheryl.
I did this meditation in the bathtub, at night, and it was so lovely. Being hugged by my beloved soul-friend Nick in my mind, brought tears to my eyes. I think I’ll have this on repeat as I traverse this anxious period. THANK YOU Sheryl.
I’m so glad it was helpful. x
The visualisation was sweet and lovely – thank you sooooo very much…
How can I share that? There is so much fear out there right now, I am sharing humour and kind gestures like this …
Thank you for your generosity xx
You can share the blog post link.
Thank you for this post, Sheryl and for being guiding light through this scary time.
I will admit, I’ve been holding a lot of guilt lately because I’m seeing the majority of people around me responding with a lot of positive energy. I have been a hot mess and have been crying almost daily for the last week and a half.
To my defense, I’m 3.5 weeks out of shoulder surgery, am not going to be able to go up to Eagle County for my in-person follow-up with my doctor, and my post surgical rehab may soon be turned virtual (which is certainly no where near as good as in-person). I’m scared that I won’t heal properly from this surgery without in-person support.
On top of that, we went under contract on a home a week after I got out of surgery, but right before the stock market tanked (where we were intending to pull our down payment from). So we’ve been frantically working to find a new source for the down payment so we don’t pull money out of the stock market when it is so far in the tank. We’re so grateful that our jobs are okay at this point, but this turmoil has us spooked and worried about committing to a new mortgage in the middle of all of this. Meanwhile I keep getting signs that this is the next step for us, so I’m trying to trust those. We’re VERY VERY risk averse, so that’s a tall order for us.
It’s just been a lot of stress at a time that, in and of itself, would be inherently overwhelming. I had thought my tools around fear and anxiety were stronger, but this is showing me that I have a great deal of work to do yet. And for that, I feel embarrased and sad. I thought I was stronger than I’m proving to be in such a challenging time. I would love to be a pillar of support and strength for others right now, but instead I’m the one needing to be talked off the ledge nearly daily. SO… apparently I need to work on self love too while I’m at it so I can quite beating myself up for not being perfect! lol
Oh, dear one: Please be kind to yourself. We’re all doing the best we can during this unbelievably challenging time. And you’ve been hit on all ends, from health to finances, which makes it even harder to access that place of trust and security. I’m sending you so much love. I encourage you to practice the visualization. It will help.
Thank you Sheryl for such a beautiful visualisation – your work has never been more important than now. I told my counsellor about your work & hope she finds comfort from this too. Hope you & your family stay safe xxx
Wow, my heart did a thing when i looked at the photograph of the bird. So beautiful!!
My son took that photo :).