Calling on Fear with Tara MohrBy:
Women’s leadership expert Tara Mohr explains to Chantal Pierrat how fear can help bring your soul’s calling to life in this excerpt from Emerging Women's Grace&Fire podcast. You can listen to the full conversation, Playing Big: The Work of Our Time, on the Emerging Women website.
Chantal Pierrat: If I’m a woman and I’m “playing big,” showing up big in my life and making choices that align with my true potential, it brings up a lot of fear. Fear can be a huge stumbling block. How are we supposed to manage it?
Tara Mohr: I really believe we all need a fear toolkit--not just women who want to play big, but also all of humanity. If there’s one thing we could do to create a more sane and peaceful world, it would be for each human being to have their tools for quieting and managing fear. Everything we do that’s destructive or self-destructive comes out of fear at some level.
There are lots of practices that can help us reduce fear. Some are more somatic-based, such as activating the parasympathetic nervous system through breathing exercises or different kinds of movement. Some of them are more cognitive, like giving a color to your fear and then picking an opposite color that has a really different vibe for you and connecting into that color. These are handy tricks because ultimately fear is a physiological response, and it doesn’t have to be hard to change that up in the moment.
CP: Is there a way for us to reframe that fear so that we can change it up more readily?
TM: One of my favorite teachings on fear is an insight from a contemporary rabbi named Alan Lew. He wrote about the two different words for fear used in the Hebrew Bible. The word pahad means our over-reactive and irrational fear, typically spoken about today as “lizard brain fear.” Sometimes people might call it our ego-based fear. This the very over-reactive, hyper, catastrophizing kind of fear we’re all quite familiar with.
But he explores a second word that’s used in the Old Testament, and that word is yirah. It’s defined as the fear-like feeling that overcomes us when we’re inhabiting a larger space than we’re used to, or when we’re suddenly in possession of more energy than we’re used to having. Or, in the third part of the definition, it’s when we’re standing on holy ground.
I find that when any of us are stepping into our real voices, our true aspirations for our life, our true “playing big,” we feel yirah. It can feel a bit uncomfortable because it is a tingling, high-energy, out-of-our-comfort-zone sensation. But if we can say, “Wait, this isn’t ‘I’m scared,’” then we don’t have to go into that panic. We can say, “This is actually yirah. This is happening because I’m touching my holy ground--my soul’s calling. I’m stepping into a larger space and I’m going to savor this and make friends with it.” Then we can start to live with and welcome it in our lives in a very different way.
CP: When you start playing big, when you’ve finally found your soul’s calling, I find there can often be an accompanying worry that you’re going to let the calling down.
TM: One of the telltale signs of a soul’s calling is that we feel we do not yet have what we need—resources, skills, so on. Secondly, we do not feel we are who we need to be to do it. Typically, when we’re first getting a calling, there is a “Who, me?” feeling, and we think, “I’m not the one qualified for that. That must be somebody else’s job. Someone with a PhD in that specific subject who has practiced doing something similar three times over. I’m not up for that.”
Having these thoughts is not a reason to abandon the calling—it’s actually more of a calling indicator! The calling is there to grow you into that new person. We are not who we need to be at the outset of our callings to do them. We look at the calling, and we think, “I know that would take more courage, more patience—whatever’s on the list for us—than I currently have.” In some sense, that’s always true, because the calling is there to grow you into that person. And you will get there on the journey, but you will only get there on the journey. Not before you start.
Alma Tassi is the Digital Content Director for Spirituality & Health. Over the years she has worked for several magazines, edited books on spirituality, personal growth and women's issues, and is now happily living in Hawaii with her family.