I’m always surprised when a famous person gets connected to a news story that I didn’t think connected. I was watching ABC World News with Diane Sawyer and the “Person of the Week” was a mountain climber who was an amputee. He didn’t have the money to climb to the summit of the mountain, but the money appeared. The money came through Cher, or one of the organizations under the umbrella of her life. She provides funding for cases just like this; someone with a tremendous challenge who doesn’t have the means to take this huge leap toward overcoming some very difficult challenge.
What surprised me even more was when they showed a short interview with Cher to explain why she provided the funding. She said, “Going to the top of the mountain is important. Going to the top of your fear mountain is more important.” That’s an incredible philosophy and truthfully I was surprised at how profound Cher came across; she embodied the Buddha in that moment.
How does this apply to your life? Following the diagnosis of a chronic or life-threatening illness the “fear mountain” is often huge. The unknown is the catalyst for that fear and if not curbed it can become bigger and bigger over time. It’s not like the “fear factor” is going to subside on its own; it needs to be subdued like bull at the rodeo. It needs to be overtaken and put in its place; that can be a daunting task, but it has to be done.
The next step is to identify what it is you’re afraid of, aside from the obvious. Everyone has death anxiety at least according to Irvin Yalom, as stated in his brilliant book, Staring At the Sun, so let’s take that out of the running. Personally I can tell you that my biggest fear is about pain and suffering. Having done this work for so many years and encountered death as much as I have the idea of “not being” isn’t terrifying. I’ve identified my fear so my next step is to figure out how I’m going to decrease any and all opportunities for pain and suffering to show its ugly head.
In order to conquer my fear I need to be go into my resource list and identify those things that will help prevent or reduce what I’m afraid of so I maintain a certain level of control over my own life. It may mean insuring I get enough rest or exercise. I may make a point of spending more time in my art studio because when I’m in “the zone” my body is ultimately engaged in something pleasurable preventing the other stuff from creeping in to my life. All of these became punctuated after reading Norman Cousins, Anatomy of an Illness, where Cousins used laughter to offset his severe bouts with pain.
Cher is right; you have to make it to the summit of your “fear mountain”, plant your flag at the top, and know that you have the capacity to stand tall and make informed decisions about your life!