The Joy of Fear: Sensation and the Spin Cycle

Who knew that fear has so much to play with?  A couple of thoughts as we wrap up our week of sensing the Joy of Fear.

In his fun-tabulous workshop last night, James Yates (, pointed out that the brain is an anticipation machine.  It is constantly looking ahead and filling in the future.  As a life-long (and really quite accomplished, if I do say so my own self) worrier, I know this is true.  My brain is always projecting forward and very often is painting a pretty grim picture.  I’m getting ready to go to the Grand Canyon with my husband and my brain worries that my feet will hurt and I won’t be able to hike in one of the most beautiful places on Earth and the trip will be ruined!  I’m having friends for dinner and I’m making a new recipe and my brain worries that it won’t come out well and will be all gummy and the evening will be ruined!  I’m preparing for an Athletic Nia workshop and my brain worries that I’ll over do and hurt myself and I won’t be able to dance and my life will be ruined!

We know this.  Fear generates a tsunami of energy.  The whole fight or flight thing is about fear energy.  And that energy must be released somehow.  The invitation of Nia (or any mindful movement or practice) is to focus our attention on body sensations to let that energy move.  When we worry and “figure it out,” our mind spins… and spins and spins.  If I’m swirling in the spin cycle, getting stuck is almost inevitable.

The mind runs, but sensation shifts, evolves, changes.  If we stay in our worrying, thinking mind, on that spinning hamster wheel we will stay. And if we rest our attention instead on the physical sensations of the moment, they will inevitably and necessarily shift, allowing the energy to move.

The next time you find yourself stewing or worrying or afraid of something, experiment with allowing your awareness to gently rest on sensation.  Let yourself become curious about the sensation:  where is it exactly? what is the quality (tight, dense, heavy, cold, etc.)? how intense is it (mild, moderate, acute)?  As our attention rests on sensation, the mind will do its best to lure us away back into the spin cycle.  Of course it will.  That is what the mind does.  And the practice, the practice my dear friends, is to notice that the mind has drawn us away and come back (again and again and again) to sensation.

I come from a long line of worriers.  I am good at it.  And I’d love to get out of the spin cycle.  So this is my practice.  I will keep coming back, getting into my body and letting the experience shift.  And I’d love to hear how it goes for you.  Do tell.

  1. Lisa K. said:

    Great discussion. I come from a long line of worriers also
    and I must say getting into the sensation is a practice that
    really works and cultivation is the key! Love the shift…

  2. I just used the practice this morning. I was angryangryangry and spinning in my head and then just a minute or two of focusing on sensation and it shifted. Ah!

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