Dropping In: Facing Fears
My relationship to fear has greatly developed from my connection to the outdoors. From my interactions with others it doesn’t seem very common, except for in the extreme sport community. My path took me into a world that fear was an experience almost every day. For almost two decades my life has revolved around dreaming up fearful situations in order to push through them. I not only find joy in it happening to me, I manifest it into existence. I would dream it into my future, and discover it in the moment.
Fear is defined as “A feeling induced by perceived danger or threat, which causes a change in metabolic and organ functions and ultimately a change in behavior, such as fleeing, hiding, or freezing from perceived traumatic events. Fear in human beings may occur in response to a specific stimulus occurring in the present, or in anticipation or expectation of a future threat perceived as a risk to body or life.”
As humans when we feel fear we almost instantly switch to fight, flight or freeze. It is an evolutionary reaction in our chemical make up for strength, agility, and speed. This response triggers our bodies to be ready to take action; heart rate accelerates, the breath becomes shallow, and adrenaline flows through us. In moments of fear I often feel my body heat rise and my muscles tense for what ever I must do to survive. In the common world this is an over whelming feeling that many do their best to avoid. In the outdoors community it seems to be something we search for. For the most part fear in our minds is only of imagined danger, of future experiences that will most likely never happen. Anxiety is a common side effect from a residual feeling of fear. The mind un managed can create fear over anything imaginable. Phobia is defined as an irrational fear or aversion to something. Often phobias are to do with something that won’t most likely cause harm. Hydrophobia- fear of water. Astraphobia- fear of thunder or lightening. Hemophobia- fear of blood. Zoophobia- fear of animals. Phobias are extreme examples of what the mind is capable of when the human being feeling them has lost control. Most of our fears are in anticipation of something that will never happen. This animal instinct can leave some in a helpless place. Human beings typically structure their lives in a “safe” way to avoid the risk of feeling fear.
Through out the many years all over the world as an avid backcountry snowboarder and commercial fisherman, I’ve found myself in countless situations that induce fear. Some of those experiences were result of conscious decisions, and others were unexpected surprises. To stretch my boundaries and reach outside of my comfort zones is how I manifest growth. Through repetition I began to find comfort in these feelings. Being raised in the steep mountain terrain of the PNW has provided me many opportunities to experience that growth. In those opportunities of expansion, in order to push through fear, I had to connect intimately with the moment at hand. There is no room for concerns about future dreams, or thoughts of past experiences. All energy and focus must be utilized for that present moment. For a long time I hadn’t realized these experiences were providing an opportunity to exist in a truer sense of the word “reality”. The hustle and bustle of the mind checking off the daily to do list can not exist when you are clung to a steep snow wall with calculated moves needing to be made. It is imperative that you focus on the task at hand as you are about to launch off a cliff with trees all around on a high speed run out. The worries of paying rent, ‘who said what’- gossip, or the dislike of your job, will find no space in the mind of one about to drop into a run that could easily end up in the loss of their life. In these daily dances with death I was slowly creating an anchor that bound me to life.
In those moments of facing fear I was not only connecting to myself but to all life as well. In many outdoor sports we make the decision to place ourselves in situations that bring up fear. In learning to move through that fear we cultivate courage. A person from the outside can give many reasons to why what we are doing is risky. The truth of the matter is life in its essence is dangerous. Existence in its self is filled with vulnerability. The next moment is never guaranteed. The next breath is not insured. Tomorrow is not ascertained. So when we learn to step into this exposure with a clear mind we are learning how to exist in our conscious power. We are saying yes to the essence of life, flowing with the river of living, instead of against it. We learn to optimize the mind as a useful tool rather than an obstacle. These fearful moments open a space in my mind to observe my inner world, connect me to the world around me, and bond me with the people in my life. This trifecta is a dance with creation itself- inner, outer, and everywhere between. This is the essence of dropping in. How outdoor adventures draw us inward. Training, strengthening our abilities, and adapting to the many feelings that arise from our interactions with the surrounding world. Do you see the connection in your own life? How have your outdoor adventures impacted how you experience life itself?
Photographer: Jordan Ingmire