Cultivating Strength From The Power of Fear

Consciousness | 0 comments

“If you can’t cross over alive, how can you cross when you’re dead?”- Kabir

I’m sure we’ve all experienced moments where things seem to fall apart, leaving us bewildered and wondering what just happened. That happened to me recently following a diagnostic test when the doctor told me I needed open-heart surgery-as in now. “Say what?” You could’ve knocked me over with a feather. Apparently, my coronary arteries had calcified from my radiation therapy sixteen years earlier and my body was telling me that was no longer tolerable. Who knew?
When it comes to our physical safety, our amygdala reacts faster than anything else, and our instinctive response is to take control of the situation. Even after years of experience in recognizing how fear affects me, and learning how to stay present, there are still some challenges. I suppose that’s why it’s called practice.
I know myself well enough to recognize when fear sets up shop in or around me. My rational self was watching the show wondering what was next. Instead of telling my fear to sit quietly so I could figure this out; I went one better: I sent it a personal invitation to dive in. After all, isn’t that how we return to safety? Don that cape and fly in for the rescue.
Confronting the unknowns inherent in our mortality is when fear looms big.
As someone familiar with death, dying, and grief, both personally and professionally, I’ve witnessed fear manifest in myriad ways. It’s not necessarily death itself that terrifies us, but rather the uncertainty of what lies between the life we are living and death—the unresolved questions about how one will die, family, missing important milestones, disposition of personal belongings, the transition itself, and more.
It wasn’t lost on me that open heart surgery, while generally very successful, had its downsides. Yup, death is one of them. The surgical consent form was clear. I was grateful that I had organized all the household paperwork earlier in preparation for our deaths.
Where is that bloody cape, anyway?
Now what? Old habits die hard, and as a registered nurse, I knew enough to be dangerous to myself, so to speak. My heightened radar directs me to clinical research statistics and resources, access the portal to track my lab and test results, connect with my healthcare colleagues, investigate insurance, confirm my proxies know my wishes, and so on. My amygdala and I were fast becoming BFFs. I even had an earworm from “Fight Song” looping in my head…LOL!
Night falls, and I am alone in my hospital room. My bones and brain are tired, and I ruminate about all the ‘what ifs,’ scaring myself to death. It’s time to show up for myself and allow an unfolding.
Breathe. Pause. Repeat.
I ask my fear for some insight. It doesn’t disappoint—there are no surprises. I thank it and guide it to a nice comfy chair in the corner. I am then reminded of my pastor’s advice following my husband’s death on how to bypass all the fears and pain, she wisely responded, “There is no way around; there is only through.” Nothing has changed. There are no shortcuts.
Mind, body, and spirit – each has a unique role to play.
I shift to the old chestnuts in my toolkit that ground me and help me embody safety: meditation, energy work, havening, visualization, imagery, music, self-compassion, and prayers. I gather my tribe, present and past. I ask for what I need. I offer thanks and love.
Breathe. Pause. Repeat.
It is there, in the midst of the chaos, that we can discover the truth and love that are indestructible. -Pema Chödrön. 
At every turn, the efforts of my tribe embraced me, my husband, my children, and my grandchildren. My heart overflowed with love and gratitude for the support we received from family and friends. The power of love and connectedness was profound. Thank you.
My repeated practice of interactive guided imagery allowed my fears to surface. I was acutely aware that while the surgeons and their teams are highly skilled in executing these brilliant medical innovations, I, too, play a critical role. I didn’t want my fear of surgery to create resistance for the surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other team members. I needed to lay down that struggle.
Breathe. Pause. Repeat.
I envisioned the anesthesiologist administering anesthetics, inserting all the required lines and tubes while surgeons made the necessary incisions, retracted the sternum, located needed veins, and placed sutures. I had a vision of the bypass team overseeing the flow of my blood. I visualized my skin, muscles, fascia, blood vessels, sternum, and more, becoming soft and supple throughout the procedure. I saw myself being extubated shortly after surgery and getting up to walk. I communicate energetically to every cell of my body my trust in my team and my ability to achieve a successful outcome.
Breathe. Pause. Repeat.
Additionally, I received some loving distant Reiki healing before surgery, which guided my body to embrace its capacity for powerful physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. I had to trust that in whatever ways my heart was asking for healing, I could be in the spirit of that healing. I was grateful for the opportunity and thanked my body and soul for trusting me to do so. That insight continues to percolate throughout my recovery. Thank you.
The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. -Aristotle
As I await a date for surgery and navigate through preoperative tests and consultations, I find myself surrounded by a multitude of new souls caring for me. From doctors and nurses to technicians and housekeeping staff, with each encounter, there is a flow of mutual reciprocity over the next ten days. Some seek something from me, while others generously offer what I need. I realize I don’t know their stories. In my vulnerability, I am eager to connect, sharing my fears of potential disability or even death. They listen. In return, I inquire about their ‘why’—what inspires them in their work, what led them to this moment, and where they find joy or fear. Their responses are sincere, honest, and infused with compassion, reflecting a shared humanity that transcends roles.
Our conversations cultivate trust and soften my fears, weaving a tapestry of connection. To my new compadres, I am profoundly grateful. Thank you.
I continued to feel grace at every turn reinforcing my readiness. On the morning of my surgery, as I waited in the preoperative area, the universe placed a nurse in my path who knew my daughter. Her words were so comforting as she shared her ‘why’ with me. She graciously agreed to keep my daughter abreast of my progress. Thank you.
Shortly before surgery, Luke, the technical assistant to the anesthesiologist, was placed at my bedside. When I asked Luke what he loved about his job, he told me two things that got him up each day. The human innovation that brings the technology to the operating room fascinates him. And two, the awe he felt for the skill of the people who execute those innovations to restore health to so many hearts.
At that moment, I felt the full gift of the divine. My goosebumps were in overdrive. The free will of brilliant minds to create surgical innovations matched with the destiny of the skilled team present on this day. A power far greater than mine curated the alignment of people, skills, technology, and more required for this journey.
Whatever was left for me to surrender to the struggle could rest. 
As Luke wheeled me into the operating room and introduced me to the team, it was palpable I had entered a room filled with cherished friends. A wave of healing energy enveloped me, creating a protective bubble filled with light and love. The hands of the medical team, my tribe of supporters, angels, spirit guides, heavenly guides, archangels, and ancestors were in perfect alignment, physically and spiritually, to cradle me in this sacred space.
At that moment, my body felt weightless, as if floating. Each gentle touch from all those present carried a loving, healing energy. The words of a favorite hymn came to mind, “Surely the presence of the Lord was truly in this place.”
As I closed my eyes, surrendering to the energy of the room—and soon, to the anesthesia—I found solace in the spirit of healing that surrounded me.
Cultivating trust in others and myself for this journey transformed my fear into a source of strength, guiding me through new challenges with courage and graceful surrender.
In love and peace,
P.S. I would like to share my gratitude to St. Peter’s Cardiothoracic Program and all the staff for their skill and expertise in guiding me to a successful outcome and recovery. Namaste.

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