Fear is a filter that distorts our view of the world. When in a fear state, the fear determines what you see and what stimuli you ignore. This is enormously helpful when your life is at risk. Your body will automatically focus on the variables in the situation which will give you the greatest chance of survival.
Chronic states of fear and anxiety inadvertently create a worldview full of perils, distrust, and potential hazards. In that chronic state, it is common to try to project into future possible scenarios and imagine ways to escape difficulties. These projections cause the body to step into those scenarios fully. The body is then filled with the biochemical markers of fear; cortisol and adrenaline. When the body is activated chemically, it does not realize that the difficult is just imagined. This process is what many people believe is coping ahead. By preparing yourself for the worst case scenario, individuals believe that they will be prepared. In actuality, they are living in a state of constant of fear and anxiety.
“I have had a lot of worries in my life, most of which has never happened.” Mark Twain
I was swimming past the break of surfers this morning, and talking with my ocean swim coach. We were discussing potential conditions and how to respond. As we were talking, I noticed my fear level beginning to rise. My heart rate increased and my breathing rate changed. He noticed and we paused.
In order to solve any problem, you must have access to accurate data. The only way to access this data is to be in the present moment. In a fear state it is easy to let your mind go to the past, and pick apart old decision making. However, those variables are not the same as the present. It is also easy to imagine forward, if I did this . . . this would happen. In this situation, our fear could limit our ability to notice variables and hence interfere with complete data collection.
My coach said, the best thing for you to do in the ocean is be in the moment. Feel the water, the wind, the waves, and allow yourself to join the rhythms that are present. In fear, we have a tendency to separate and distance ourselves. It is normal to try to anticipate and preemptively react. This is dangerous in the ocean. It is important to feel the current, to allow yourself to join the momentum, and use the forces of the ocean to bring you back to shore. If you fight the momentum of the ocean, you will only tire. If you are aware, you can use the ocean to increase your safety.
This lesson applies to all aspects of life. When we are present in the moment, we have the opportunity to read the relevant data in order to make the best decision possible. The best way to arrive safely back to shore is to follow the momentum of the currents. My coach and I floated in the ocean. I noticed the birds, the sun shining on my face, and the rhythm of the waves. I calmed my breathe . . . enjoyed my buoyancy, and found my way back to the shore.