"Just the other morning I looked one of my fears in the eye. Well not exactly the eye - that is a little too brave for me in this instance. Let’s just say I slowed down long enough to face my fear, instead of allowing it to trigger my knee-jerk default reaction."Support the show
Just the other morning I looked one of my fears in the eye. Well not exactly the eye - that is a little too brave for me in this instance. Let’s just say I slowed down long enough to face my fear, instead of allowing it to trigger my knee-jerk default reaction. It wasn’t exactly easy, and I wouldn’t go so far as to say I have “conquered” my fear but I can safely say that I learned something about fear, and for that I am grateful.
Like many people I am afraid of snakes. I suppose you might even be able to divide people pretty neatly into two groups: fearless and downright terrified of snakes but I’m starting to discover that fear isn’t so binary as it seems.
In my research I learned that years of experiments by psychologists have found that the widespread fear of snakes stems from a perceptual bias. Perceptual biases are errors that disrupt and distort tour perceptual process, and lead to faulty judgements. These occur because we, as humans, attempt to create shortcuts of understanding. Interesting…
On the day in question, I was sitting outside on a glorious spring morning, drinking my coffee and reading my book. I had just returned from my maiden kayak voyage on the lake and was feeling pretty content and sure that in that moment I was living my best life. Then, something in my peripheral caught my attention and interrupted my flow.
I turned my head to see a pretty long snake in the grass.
Without thinking, my first instinct was to bolt or maybe jump up on my chair and freeze…But instead, I coached myself to try and find the gift and opportunity in that moment (aka practice what I preach) and I decided to do neither. I wish I could report that I am so enlightened that I noticed the snake and then just went on reading- but Instead, I stopped reading entirely, and slowly put my book down; hoping the snake wouldn’t see me.
As I write this I laugh at myself. Funny how, especially in fear, we think of ourselves as the very center of the universe. Turns out snakes have infamously poor eyesight, which is why they resort to stick out their tongues all the time to get a sense of their surroundings.
It was taking absolutely no notice of me and instead was gently slithering through the grass looking for grubs and (with all of the predators around) probably had some pretty valid fears of its own. I took a breath and remarked on how long it was and noticed two yellow stripes down its back its forked tongue flickering…I actually felt somehow peaceful for a moment in its company. I felt my brain trying to hijack my thoughts with images of Indiana Jones and the snake pit - conjuring up all sorts of horrors in my mind… but I gently guided myself back to the moment. Just then the snake stopped. Not far from where I was sitting to bask in the sun- just as I had been doing and it occurred to me that we were sharing an experience - the same sun, the same earth, the same moment in time.
Afterward, I did my due diligence to find out what kind of a snake it was - just to make sure it wasn’t dangerous- and I discovered that the garter snake is considered a gardener’s best friend and harmless to humans. I’m still wary of snakes and I’m not gonna lie, I’m more inclined to wear shoes in the garden than I was before but when I look at the plants and flowers bloom in my garden, I will be reminded of the snake and how had I simply ran away, I wouldn’t have learned how much he’s part of me and I am part of him.