A short while ago, the cutest little white bunny turned up unexpectedly in my life – or more precisely in my front yard. Friendly enough to have been somebody’s pet at some stage, he liked company, offerings of flowers ,(dandelions!) and skritches around the ears. He didn’t much like being picked up, and even though we repeatedly invited him into our back yard he preferred as most wild creatures do, freedom and open space.

When we listen, life talks to us in many different ways. Having happened upon my furry friend, I decided to look into the spirit medicine of the rabbit; I found that they traditionally represent sensitivity, abundance, fertility, desire, creativity and anxiety. Some Native Americans refer to the rabbit as the fear caller. “Fear sends out a certain vibrational energy that may attract the very thing we fear,” writes Ina Woolcott. “Fearful thoughts reproduce (like rabbits) and manifest what we fear.”

Perhaps I need to be careful, or at least more creative about what I fear….

Much like we all do, at times I find myself falling down the rabbit hole of fear: will I have enough? Am I doing enough? Do enough people like me (or my posts on Facebook?).

Once you’re in it, fear can seem more like a multi-headed, multidimensional monster than a cute little fluffy bunny, but if I’ve learnt anything from the 1984 hit movie Gremlins, it’s that sometimes the distance between cute and trouble is Just add water.

mogwai-just-add-water-close

Conventional wisdom suggests we face our fears head on, but an interesting thing has been happening for me over the last few weeks as I’ve tried this approach. I’ve discovered that different – often deeper and more interesting – fears lie hidden beneath the first layer. The fear of what is happening to our planet ecologically, economically and politically, for instance. The fear of living a life based on fear rather than passion. The fear of stepping beyond my own security into a bigger and more connected story.

 

Personal growth often comes with a price, or a sacrifice – it comes with danger. Like our bunny who prefers his dangerous freedom to life in a cage, freedom comes with risks. Can I also allow myself this risky freedom rather than resigning myself to the cages imposed  by the expectations of others? Am I willing to sacrifice my own comfort and personal safety for the calling of a wild and beautiful freedom? Do I have the courage to go for what I really want rather than what I’m told I should want?

Fluffy bunnies, those seemingly innocent and soft creatures, not only survive in a world full of predators, they are known for their capacity to thrive. They do this not by sophisticated methods of attack and defence, but through awareness, heightened reflex and intuition – and an uncontainable passion for living. It seems maybe my friend has quite a lot to teach me!

So instead of facing my fears, I’m learning to dance with them. Instead of this ideal of an absolute state of fearlessness, I’m simply looking to fear less. When I catch myself in fearful thinking I shift my focus to my breathing, to this intimate, continuous moment to moment conversation with life itself. This involves both give and take, fullness and emptiness, between these two fulcrums life itself turns.

Fear is not a useless experience – being able to anticipate and avoid danger is both necessary and useful. It can be a creative exercise in imagination, a story we tell. But we need to be discerning in the stories we choose to believe, and like all good stories, the drama of our worst fears need to be tempered by the cool voices of hope and reason.

Karen Thompson Walker: What fear can teach us

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