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We all have fears
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Stream crossing in Oregon on the Pacific Crest Trail

Maybe you have a commonly held fear -- such as of spiders or snakes -- that undoubtedly has been passed down in our genes from ancestors that wanted to survive. Perhaps you are terrified -- as many, if not most people are -- of public speaking. Quite possibly you are anxious or tense about terrorists threats. Whatever you are afraid of -- whether a real or imagined threat -- you have surely felt the paralyzing effects. 

As a long-distance hiker and backpacker, most of my fears over the years have involved physical challenges -- bears, rattlesnakes, steep slopes, roaring streams or rivers to cross, forest fires, lightning... Each time that I have had to face one of these potentially risky situations, I've had to deal with my fear in order to move ahead.

This last Christmas I decided to put all of my notes from my Pacific Crest Trail hikes -- 2,200 miles worth -- into book form as a present to my husband (who almost always hikes with me). One of the things that struck me as I was consolidating my journal entries was the number of times that I had worried about upcoming trips and the obstacles we might face. Not only did I fret during the trip itself, but many a time I worried for months before the event that I might drown, fall, get bitten, or in some other way get injured or die.

At the same time that I realized that time after time I had worried, I also realized that none of the things that I had ever worried about had come to pass. How much wasted energy! While it is true that I've had to shoo away a couple of bears, I've had to ford rivers that were scary, and I've had to maneuver around a few rattlesnakes, I've never been injured. 

From this realization has come a plan -- to bring the "live in the moment" philosophy more deeply into my life. I don't expect to instantly transform into a heedless risk taker, but I do plan to pay more attention to the reality and less to the paralyzing fears. This can be done by gathering information about the "threat," preparing for contingencies, and having confidence in my ability to make a good decision about whether to proceed or to turn back when faced with obstacles.

Having the fears is one thing, but giving them too much power robs us of living our best life!