Fear is the villain and practice is the shero.

I’ve been doing a lot of things for the first time in the last year as part of running my business. Last week I did two things that scared the heck out of me and yet, I felt this pull like a wave to the shore that compelled me to do them. Here’s the thing — I wish I felt less afraid during the process!

Travel Learning: Lesson 10 of 10

The swimming hole.

Lesson 10 of 10: fear

From the moment we said aloud, "We're riding our motorcycles to the tip of South America," fear has never been far away.

Before we left, I was afraid of leaving my awesome job, having no income, renting out our house, and lots more. Almost every time we told someone of our plans, I could sense the fear in them. And now, it's there when we're choosing roads to ride, and places to eat, sleep, and visit. You name the decision, and I can describe a way that fear is influencing the outcome. Recently, it accompanied me to a swimming hole and I ended up writing a poem about it, which is not a normal occurrence for me.

Outside the tiny, mountain village of Santa Fe, Panama, I walked by myself from our hostel, to a swimming hole a mile or two away. I was scared during my walk. When I settled down on a rock, with my feet in the water, to write in my journal, this poem tumbled out.

Fear or Gremlin

A view from the isolated roadside. I love these Brahman cattle.

I almost turned around,

almost thought I was going the wrong way,

almost didn’t see this river, swimming hole, Panamanian countryside.

I would have missed the cool sensation of dangling my feet in the water,

wondering if I should go all the way in,

wondering if the air is warm enough, and the water not too cold.

How many times has fear won?

My first glimpse of the swimming hole.

Or, perhaps, fear has saved me.

It’s hard to know.

Hard to know when fear is warranted,

a savior, a signal, a true warning,

Riverside writing.

that danger is nearby.

But sometimes,

times like this,

fear strikes falsely.

Fear blocks me from joy,

runs so quickly through my body that I freeze,

fills me with doubt and terrifying headlines.

I can’t banish fear,

anymore than a dieter can stop eating food.

How can fear become my ally?

What’s the difference between fear and my inner gremlins?

Fear isn’t always trying to stamp me down.

Perhaps that’s it.

Fear that’s holding me down,

isn’t fear at all.

It’s an inner gremlin dressed up as well-meaning fear.

Fear calmly says, “Stop for a moment. Let’s think about this.”

Fear works in facts and intuition.

Adrenalin-filled inner gremlins shout, “Oh shit! Did you hear that?!”

And, “that,” turns out to be a leaf falling to the ground.

Facts are useless to gremlins.

It’s time to forge a new relationship with fear,

to notice when fear is speaking,

and when inner gremlins are jumping up and down with declarations,

It’s time to respect fear,

And yet sometimes, we have to feel the fear and do it anyway!

honor it,

even love it if I can.

After all, fear wants to keep me alive.

by Jalene Case

This poem was written on the banks of the Santa Maria River in Santa Fe, Panama.


In the spirit of learning,


P.S. In case you're wondering, "Yes, I went all the way into the water!"

Travel Learning: Lesson 3 of 10

Lesson 3 of 10: Stray dogs aren’t out to get me.

I love dogs. But I know, based on having a sweet, protective Red Australian Cattle Dog, they can turn in a blink.

Mexico has lots of stray dogs and every darn time I see one, I freak out. My fear hormone spikes and I know that the dog senses I’m afraid of it. I think the dog is going to attack me when I least expect it because my dog liked to shock the hell out of people by suddenly jumping up to herd them and nipping at their heels. Consequently, my heart pounds as the Mexican dog(s) and I pass each other. Really, I have to get over this one. I’m learning that the poor, scrawny dogs want nothing to do with me. 

It's interesting to notice when automatic fear reactions from the past show up in places they don't belong. Not once has a dog in Mexico tried to bite me but they still scare me. I don't think it's wise to pet them and I'll give them a wide berth, but there's no need to be afraid. 

I got curious about this fear reaction and realized that fear from past experiences shows up in other ways, too. Take writing for example. It scares me. Mainly, I’m afraid I’ll mess up the grammar, miss making my point, or not be interesting enough. I’ve had some tough critics in the past, although extremely helpful so I’m grateful to them. The thing is, I have stuff I want to share and I know it makes no logical sense to let fear from the past stop me. I also know that when we practice, we improve, and every writer needs a good editor. (Thank you Keith!)

So for now, I'll try to notice when unwarranted fears from the past pop-up and not let them stick around to shape my future.

In the spirit of learning,


Fear as a Guide

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do. Eleanor Roosevelt

Why is it that our inner voice tells us things we often deny before we finally admit that that voice not only scares the hell out of us but simultaneously excites us? It’s big. It requires change. It commands you to leap out of your comfort zone. I’m not talking about something harmful or illegal, but rather something that takes guts to do. Something that is fear-inducing.

I’m always in awe at the complexity of our inner selves. Living consciously is more satisfying but definitely not easier. When you fear what your inner self is guiding you toward, consider these thoughts.

  • Confirm that it’s your inner wisdom speaking and not some other voice, such as society saying you should have a high-paying, stressful job that doesn’t excite you.
  • Remember a time when what you are doing now sounded scary. Appreciate that all new experiences come with a dose of fear.
  • Your wise inner self won’t pressure you into making irrational, terrifying changes.
  • After looking at the situation from different angles, if you feel strongly that the guidance is from your wise, calm, inner self and you’re still afraid, it may be time to accept the fear and do it anyway.

I ask myself these questions when I feel afraid: “Is this the wrong thing to do? Or is this the right thing to do and I’m just scared to do it?” When I answer these questions in my mind, I pay attention to how I feel the answers in my body. I know it’s the right thing to do when I feel butterflies of excitement in my belly. It’s time to feel the fear and do it anyway.

Get Curious

Write in your journal using the prompts below or respond to them in a visual way such as painting or cutting images from magazines.

I am afraid to know...

(Blank) scares me because...

If I could orchestrate my dream outcome, it would look like...

My dream outcome would feel like...

Go Deeper

What did you learn about your interaction with fear?

What situation terrifies and exhilarates you now?

How might that fear be guiding you toward something exciting and worthwhile?