Fear In The Present Moment

by Dian Reid-Jancic· Follow Dian on

I went to the beach after my therapeutic massage to sit. I wanted just three minutes to sit and be silent. Even on an empty beach, there is no silence. I wasn’t expecting the beach to be silent, I was simply enticing my being into silence. It worked. Kind of.

I pulled a towel from the back seat. Jackson’s towel; the one I keep back there so he doesn’t get my seats dirty. As if a towel could keep that boy from getting anything dirty. It ends up crumpled up in the corner or on the floor because he paws from one side of the back seat to the other, head out the window behind me on the driver’s side for a moment, then off to the passenger side to get a whiff of what’s happening over there. And then back forth, again and again, until we reach our destination. But on that day, Jackson was, no doubt, fast asleep on the edge of the couch, waiting for me to come home. So I took his barely used towel, shook it out and headed to the shoreline.

I headed towards one spot, and then decided it wasn’t close enough. Then to another only to decide that there was too much debris. To another and another and another—I felt like I was one of the three bears, searching for my just right spot. By the time I actually placed the towel on the sand, I was about three feet from the water’s afternoon tide line. I wanted to be close enough to feel its presence, but not close enough to feel its presence.

I set an alarm for ten minutes. Three minutes seemed like an awful short time after all the driving, the toweling, the sitting, the beaching involved in the preparation. So, ten minutes.

I closed my eyes. I focused on my breath. Slow breath in, slow breath out. Deep breath in, quiet breath out. And then I heard the ocean. The waves in Long Beach are subdued due to the breaker wall, so they’re just little pitterings that brush up against the shore. Those little pitterings sounded close. I opened my eyes to peek, just to make sure I wasn’t about to feel the ocean’s presence. I wasn’t. I closed my eyes again. And seconds later, I had to open my eyes to check again. I did this no less than five times before I got a hold of myself.

Dian Marie Reid. You did not come to the ocean to worry about getting wet, you came to the ocean to be silent. Now close your eyes—pretty, pretty please—and silence your mind already.

And before I knew it, the alarm on my phone rang softly, gently pulling my out of my own silence. “If the elephants had past lives,” sang Rachael Yamagata, “yet are destined to always remember…” (I always use my own ring-tones rather than the grating tones that come with the phone). I opened my eyes and dismissed the alarm notification. I was thankful for having set it for ten minutes, rather than just three.

Later that day I thought about my experience at the beach. About the towel. About the water. About the three minutes. About the open eyes. About the silence. What was in that silence? …destined to always remember…

Fear doesn’t always come because I’m really afraid. Sometimes fear comes because I’m uncomfortable. Sometimes it comes because I’m not ready to move forward. Sometimes it comes because I’m ready to move forward and I just don’t know what moving forward will feel like. And sometimes it comes because I just don’t want to get wet at the beach in my jeans. And really, what’s the worst that can happen if my jeans get wet?

I dry off with the towel. I go home and change jeans. Maybe I even put some comfy pants on. Maybe I get myself a hot cup of tea and wrap my cold hands around it to warm up. And then a thought hits me like a wave:

Fear comes when I’m not fully in the present moment.

At least, the kind of fear that won’t matter in the end. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t care if my jeans get wet at the beach; it means I get a fresh pair of pants and maybe a hot cup of tea. I don’t care if I’m uncomfortable; it means I’m ready to grow and I just don’t know it yet. I don’t care of I don’t know what moving forward will feel like; I won’t know until I do it.

I read Kate Temple-West’s post on fear the other day, where she made note that living in the present moment is one of the hardest things to do, even when you’re conscious of how powerful and important and beautiful it is to do so. This resonates, and I can relate. I can also practice.

How do you come back around to being in your present moment after allowing yourself to be pulled away from it? When does fear find you?

Photo by Alison Turner. She Rocks. Go check her out.

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February.9.2010 at 1.01 pm


Julie February.9.2010 at 6.36 pm

Love this, Diane. I come around to the present moment when I do. I gave up a while back of trying to do it. I just noticed that i did it…at some point I always came back. As I quit trying, I found I was here more often. That being said, sometimes I come back when I feel the yucky feeling in my body that comes when I over-think. I can feel the intensity of the thoughts coagulating in my belly, chest and head. Then, I'm back. Voila. Or, I realize I;m really enjoying a luscious emotional binge, but also realize it's not so luscious…then, I'm back. Here. Now. And, realize, I never really left. I just thought I did.

ronnadetrick February.9.2010 at 6.40 pm

Mmmm, Dian: so, so beautiful. The kind of silence that's good, beautiful, life-giving, transformative, restorative. So grateful for your words. Indeed, fear melts away. Thank you.

heatherplett February.9.2010 at 6.51 pm

Beautifully said.

Last year, I chose “fearless” as my word for the year. I was surprised when the fears I really had to struggle with were the little ones that hardly felt like fears at all.

heatherplett February.9.2010 at 6.51 pm

Beautifully said.

Last year, I chose “fearless” as my word for the year. I was surprised when the fears I really had to struggle with were the little ones that hardly felt like fears at all.

nazimaali February.9.2010 at 7.32 pm

Beautifully said, I've been trying to meditate on a regular basis lately and embracing the silence is the hardest part. 'Being present', will keep on working at it. Thanks for this.

emma February.9.2010 at 8.42 pm

I love this post, Dian, and I laughed at the compulsion to keep opening your eyes just to ensure you weren't getting wet. I've done that so many times, in so many circumstances – not trusting the moment, not trusting that I'm just fine where I am.

In answer to your question, fear comes to me most often when I'm THINKING rather than DOING. Any time I'm actually in action, the fear gets muted or, sometimes, even disappears. But that damn brain of mine, it frequently mistakes fear as its soul mate.

Ambrosia February.9.2010 at 10.01 pm

Coming back to the present can be slow. For me, I often wake up from a nap with dread. I wanted just 2 more hours of sleep. 2 more hours of escape from everyday demands.

Once I wake up and jump into parenting, those thoughts disappear. I remember how much I love being a mom and love being a wife. I remember how much fun my two kids are.

But, I still would like to have 2 more hours of uninterrupted sleep.

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