Gazing into the dark ocean of fear

March 25, 2020

These past few weeks have been challenging haven’t they. For me, life has been something of a rollercoaster ride as I waited for the wave to hit and then felt myself drowning under a black ocean of information, misinformation, speculation, sensation, news, fake news and seductive social media notifications.

Even now I see quite a lot being said on social media about not being ‘in fear’ and while I get that fear can be debilitating I also know it’s not so easy to move away from. Saying to someone ‘don’t be scared’ is possibly not going to have the desired effect. It isn’t as simple as that is it.

And let’s face it, these are fearful times, scary times. I’d like to suggest it’s ok to acknowledge this rather than try to put a positive spin on everything. After all, fear has a purpose. It’s a symptom not a cause. I find a certain kind of relief when I allow myself to accept that these are fearful times. It's as if I'm witnessing my own authentic inner feelings and giving them voice.

Working with the fear

This is something that came up for discussion both in our Mystery School online journey circle and the Coaching Call over the last few days and we discussed how it is important to work with fear and to regain control of our own emotional response to our current situation, or indeed to any situation that provokes anxiety.

Fear is not an emotion that many of us have to cope with very often so it’s easy to forget what steps to take. This wasn’t the case with our distant ancestors who lived as hunter gatherers. The fight or flight response that fear invokes would help them prepare their next steps in an instant.

When fear strikes it causes an instantaneous rise in our adrenaline level which floods our body and causes all kinds of chemical changes. We may feel sharper, more responsive, time may seem to slow down and our strength increases. This all helped our distant forebears calculate how best to react to the predator they just bumped into or how to negotiate the mountain slope they suddenly found themselves trapped on. They would feel absolutely ‘on it’, in control and ready to fight or flee.

The key thing is that they would have an action as a reaction to a situation that was prompted and heightened by the fear. This is what we can lack today. After all, the third response to fear is to freeze which could also do our ancestors some good on occasion but won’t help us fight this current issue.

We need to become ‘fearless’. By this I don’t mean that we deny our fear and pretend it isn’t there or try to will it away with positive thoughts. This does come with a caveat that I will mention later though.

Fearlessness is borne out of fear.

Fearlessness comes as a result of doing the work prompted by fear. It’s not the opposite of fear, I think that particular title goes to blissful ignorance, complacency or naivety. Take the example of a mountaineer who is about to conquer an imposing peak. She would do the work of thorough preparation in response to her fear of death prompted by the mountain. She would train and perfect the techniques that would be needed to best ensure survival in that threatening environment. She’d most likely carry an oxygen supply and would certainly have the clothing and safety equipment that is essential to surmount such a climb.

Then she could be said to be fearless. She’d be ready, prepared and tooled up for practically any eventuality that could confront her. Yet when out on the mountain her fear would keep her sharp, strong and ultra focused on the task ahead.

Likewise we have to look to the root of the fear, to remember that the fear is a symptom that has risen to prepare us for something. If we look at this in an animistic way we may see the fear as a being with sentience and an agenda that we can work with. The only way to assuage the fear is to deal with the reason it’s swollen up within us in the first place.

Explore these reasons for your fear one by one.

It’s easy to think our fear is all about being scared of Coronavirus, which can rise up in front of us like a beast that we can’t even see let alone beat. So go deeper. Why are you afraid of the virus? Because it could kill my ageing parents… so do what you can to address that issue. Because it could break me financially… again do what you can to seek a solution. Because I could catch it… so follow the steps to minimise that.

By hearing the words that fear has to speak we can dig below it and address those issues that it’s in our power to deal with. And knowing we’ve done our best can help allay that sense of fear or helplessness. What fear remains could help keep us sharp and alert to any changes and adjustments we need make in order to stay one step ahead. Fear is an ally. However it can soon change into the very thing that eats us and that is what we need to take steps against.

In her book Big Magic Elizabeth Gilbert addresses the issue of fear in the context of being afraid of doing creative work. She recommends that we don’t ignore fear as it may have a habit of coming back to bite us. Rather we should take the steps necessary to alleviate it. She goes on to relate how she invites fear into her life, tells it that she has heard what it has to say but that it has to sit in the back seat of her life and that she’s not going to listen to it’s constant grumblings. She refuses to let it have either the steering wheel or the map as she navigates her way through life’s twists and turns.

Don't feed the fear

The one thing that we should not do with fear is feed it.

Don’t feed the fear is a mantra I’ve heard so many times, but how many folk right now are inviting fear to a banquet of delights from their waking moment right through to their fitful sleep at night! By constantly scrolling through news items and social media headlines we fatten up our fear until it absolutely consumes us. And then it can shapeshift into anxiety, panic, terror and hysteria. All of which are hugely detrimental to our ability to function, think straight and plan our life.

Can you imagine what would happen to the mindset of our mountaineer if she kept pulling her phone out on the mountain slopes and poring over images of mountain deaths and reading of all the recent fatalities and becoming fascinated with the details of frostbite, altitude sickness and such? I fell into anxiety over the virus not long ago.

It was necessary for Nicola and I to have a good handle on the growing situation as we had decisions to make that were impacted by the pandemic. So we had to be informed and ‘on point’ so to speak.

However fear proved to be so seductive and hypnotic that it got its tendrils into me and began to control me. I began to feel helpless, out of control and unable to do what I had to do. I kept reading the news on my devices. I became enchanted by its mystery.

A shamanic journey to my guides helped me straighten myself out and subsequent time out in nature taught me that I had to walk my talk and stop feeding the fear within me by cutting off the constant supply of news updates. As soon as I ring fenced a set time to check for updated information and kept the rest of my day coronavirus news free I began to settle. And now I’ve reached a place of balance where I feel I’m informed, up to date with what I need to know and able to continue to climb this mountain.

Like our mountaineer from earlier who knew she could still die in her attempt despite her best efforts I know I may be afflicted by this in one way or another. But I also know that I’m doing what I can to weaken its impact on me. I’ve become more fearless in the face of the virus and I can write again. Pretty soon I’ll be resilient, mindful and present enough to go out in my garden and take photos too.

This is all well and good I hear you say, but what do we do if we are gripped by fear? What if we are suffering the ‘rabbit in the headlights’ syndrome of freeze? Well first and foremost take positive steps to stop feeding the fear. Equip yourself with what you need to know but stop succumbing to the seduction of fear. Whenever it whispers into your ear and tries to beguile you back into its thorny embrace remember your resolve. Remember to wait until your allotted time to touch in with current developments that may inform you, and draw them from reliable, balanced sources that don’t pander to panic and sensationalism.

And breathe.

Take time out to get some air, some solace and some mental respite. I had a wander on the local moors where I sat for a while and felt myself begin to settle. I drummed long and steady, the beat resonating both outwards across the empty landscape and deep within to steady my racing heart and busy mind.

During my journey to my guides that I undertook while out there I received insights about taking time out in nature and then on my drive home an unusual bird flew alongside me close to our lane. It was a green woodpecker, the very first one I’ve seen near where we live. That was symbolic and significant.

Woodpecker Medicine

I knew there was a message within that visitation and I was reminded how Nicola said she was aware of a greater spotted woodpecker drumming in the woods near her earlier. We explored woodpecker and soon realised what it had come to share with us. They fly in an undulating manner, taking a few flaps and then folding their wings against the bodies as they dip down for a couple of seconds before repeating the pattern.

Work then rest, work then rest, work then rest.

They also drum in short bursts too.

Drum then rest, drum then rest.

Interestingly they have special cushioning in their skull to prevent brain damage from their drumming. We too need to find the cushion that will help us absorb the shock and fear at the moment.

My cushions are nature time, creativity and my guide told me to study.

Plus woodpeckers drum as a way of communicating. Work then rest, drum and journey and cushion myself. What great advice from woodpecker!

When fear begins to overwhelm have a word with it.

Go on a shamanic journey to it. Journey to your guides. Stop feeding it. Take steps to counter the carnage it can wreak on your emotional, mental and physical state as mentioned above and come back to your centre, alert, alive, informed and prepared to embrace your life.

Don’t be slow about seeking help either. Our therapist-come-supervisor had lots to say to us and having an elder witness our words and reflect back wise insights can further help us become resilient.

Feed yourself - not the panic

These are scary, fearful times.

To my mind anyone who says otherwise is either kidding themselves, blinkered in their own little world or dangerously naive.

Feel the fear, let it touch you, let it work its magic deep within your heartspace but then respond as our ancestors would, as our mountaineer would.

Take heed, listen, take action and feed yourself not the panic.

About the Author


Jason has been a visual storyteller all of his life and follows an animistic, shamanic path from his ancestral lands of Anglezarke on the edge of the West Pennine Moors.
Formerly a professional photographer and film maker he now uses his art to help others fall in love with the land that little bit more.

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  1. Thank you Jason, reading that has helped me. I have found it all quite difficult but it has also helped me in the respect it has slowed me down . I have a habit of charging around never giving anything enough time and I most probably have missed so much in doing so. I now go out with my camera most days. I am fortunate in that I live in a fairly rural area so I can go a good way and not see a soul. This year I have watched this spring unfurl and I have listened to the birds that seem to be enchanting me more so this year- their song seems clearer and more poignant somehow – It is probably exactly the same as last year but this year I have just stopped and really listened. I go into the woods and it feels electric I feel eyes watching me and I swear I have heard whispering being carried along on the wind. So out of all this madness and sadness I have reclaimed my life, I have found The way of the buzzard, I am learning to journey and I am back in nature – so all is good.

    1. Thank you for this Kim. Yes, there is a very real sense of reconnection with Nature isn’t there. My hope is that we can hold onto this and carry it through into life beyond lockdown. It often takes a crisis to waken us, but we do now have the opportunity to stay connected.

  2. Thank you Jason for writing this blog it’s really helped me and showed me what I need to do. For the last few days I have been frozen not being able to do what I need to do. I’ve used bullet points on what I think I need do to and not achieving any of them. I have completely lost touch in what I believe in and the things I used to do like going out into nature, meditating, honouring the goddess and god and so on. So today I’ve decided to take some time to meditate and also do the free spirit animal guide journey in your mystery school. Also to think about what the meaning of the seal means as he keeps popping up in front of me on my morning walk along the beach, and other places. I’m also taking a look at my finances as I intent to sign up to the mystery school which I feel really need at the moment.

    1. Thank you for your comment Helen, I really appreciate your taking the time to write this. These are powerful, mighty times of change and if at all possible we are best supported if we can have a little structure to our life. It’s not the time for big lists, taking opportunities and the like. It’s far better to care for the little things, those which nurture us and remind us of who we are. Go well Helen and do your utmost to maintain your connection to that which is bigger than us.

  3. Thank you for your wise words and reflections, Jason, and especially for your beautiful photography. Your images for me serve as a reminder of the utter beauty of creation and perhaps even more importantly of the awesome power of the one that is The Creator, which takes me to an extraordinary gratitude with the thought that no matter how dangerous this Covid-19 is, and in no way do I diminish it – how much bigger, greater, magnificent and powerful is this creation?? I find that very comforting, my cushion (perhaps it’s called faith, I’m not sure)
    I do agree with you about not feeding fear, too much exposure to the uncertainty and negativity saturates us until it starts dripping through every pore like a water-logged sponge and ends up soaking into everything.
    Perhaps this strange time is a necessary season, for healing to take place on many levels. Who knows. But isn’t it amazing how quickly some things have been observed – swans and dolphins in the waters of Venice for example and clearer starry skies?
    For many of us, I think, if nothing else, we have been forced to view our lives through different lenses, reconsider priorities and appreciate the daily gifts we already have, that may have become so familiar they are taken for granted.
    Sorry, I wasn’t intending to write so much. But I do so I hope that anyone who is fearful now, may find hope and encouragement in the future, and especially as more and more people reach out to connect lovingly to each other, as I am now.
    Thank you Jason for prompting me into deep thoughts.

    1. Thank you for your kind and thoughtful words Peggy, I really appreciate your taking the time to share this here. I’ve read your comment several times and am heartened by what you write here. Yes, let’s look through this new lens, give honour to all of nature and find a new way to be on this beautiful planet.

  4. Thank you Jason! I so needed to read this today, because as from Monday, our remit changes and we will be transporting and working with infected people and caring for them. Frankly, it’s pretty terrifying!
    I shall re read this and work on what you have advised.
    But in between work there is the tranquility of where we live which I am so grateful for.
    Much love to you and Nicola. Xxx

    1. Thank you for your comment Lisa, I hope you manage to get the respite you so need and deserve. Take care. Nicola and I send you much love. xxx

  5. I’m so grateful today for being reminded by Nicola to read your blog. It has been sat in my inbox waiting for me, and the timing could not have been more perfect !
    Thank you Jason ❤️Xx

    1. Thank you for your comment Rita, I’m glad you found it fitting at this time. Sometimes we just need a reminder of what we already know don’t we. Take care. xx

  6. Hi Jason
    Thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings around fear, which I found very reassuring and reaffirming.
    Having had many trials and tribulations since my Dad had a stroke in December 2018, I have found myself in a pretty good space during these strange times as I feel that my experiences over the last 15 months have prepared me to accept the present situation. I feel calm and relaxed and am taking life day by day. I feel that this is, and has been, a good time to look within, to cleanse and to heal. I am enjoying isolation and doing things for myself that often fall by the wayside due to work and family commitments. We are blessed with glorious weather at the moment and I hope that the sunshine is helping people to smile, even if we cannot get out in nature. My garden has received a fair bit of attention this week and it is so relaxing and therapeutic, note to self to do this more.
    I am trying to remain positive and cheerful, smiling and laughing whenever I can.
    I wish everyone, everywhere,well. Take care of yourselves, your loved ones and those around you. Stay positive. Look forward.
    Thank you again Jason
    Love and light
    Fuj xx

    1. Thank you for your comment Fuj, I’m glad you found it helpful. This is indeed a good time to re-examine our priorities isn’t it. I too am hoping to let myself enjoy more time out and self nurture. Best wishes, Jason xx

  7. Thanks for sharing your feelings of fear with us Jason. I believe this really helps more of us to also talk of our own fear. Its a very strange time indeed and fear and panic is definately around us. In some ways I feel Ive been in preparation for this time for a while now as I have taken a step back from the world and have been facing my fears and learning to understand my stress response to fear in a very deep way. This has put me in a good position to recognise my fear, like you and choose not to feed it. I had 2 days of it and then realised what was happening and choose not to get any deeper in to it. Our stress responses of fight flight freeze and fawn are very interesting indeed and we can learn so much about ourselves in how we respond to stress. My main stress response is FLIGHT so if I cant literally flee or run, I begin to obsessively ruminate in my mind which can be really difficult to come back from once Im in the rabbit hole…To be aware of it and learn how not to feed it is so crucial to our health and wellbeing. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us. Jan.

  8. Thank you. I am actually finding some peace in this stressful time. Looking at the sky, listening to birds and watching the trees as they sway in the breeze from our garden. There’s a feeling of safety from the camaraderie with our neighbours and it’s very reassuring. We wait ,my husband and I to see if we may be called to work ( nurse and doctor) that holds some stresses but for now the peace is almost hypnotic. Allowing just 15 mins each day to watch the update in the evening gives us clarity about the current situation without swamping and overloading us and making us anxious. Keep well.

    1. Thank you for your comment Von. Yes, it is possible to find peace and comfort in the nature and neighbours around us isn’t it. I agree that once a day is just about right for my checking too. More than that and I begin to worry. Thank you for being there as medical professionals too. I can only begin to imagine the plight of workers like yourselves who are willing to go onto the front line of this. Take good care of yourselves.

  9. Excellent blog, Jason. Naturally, I do have concerns as we all do especially as I am 73 with fairly serious health conditions. My health has been poor for over a year so I have been in semi-isolation for quite some time now. It was even difficult for me to get out very much, especially into nature but your beautiful videos have helped me. I have managed to get out into quiet places a few times since we have had this spell of exceptionally amazing weather for this time of the year and it has been wonderful to see how Spring is really springing. You can almost see it happening as you watch, leaves unfurling, flowers opening, lambs gambolling about. What’s not to love about all of that. Nature is doing what nature does year in, year out. What a miracle! So being able to be out as this time is a privilege that we can enjoy if we are able to get out there. If not, this particular community is blessed with all the wonderful tools you have given us over the last 18 months or so. As you say, it is important to keep abreast of the rapidly changing world we find ourselves in but we must also nurture ourselves with what is really important and remember our roots. We have no idea what the outcome of all this will be so we are very much living in present time. It can be a great learning experience for us if we can just allow ourselves to be in the moment and enjoy what we do have rather than obsess about what we are losing. I know it is very hard for some people who are losing their jobs and their income but hopefully this crisis will help us to realise what is of value in our own lives and what is of value to us as a society. So mote it be.

    1. Jill, thank you for a wonderful, heartfelt reply. You speak with such wisdom, clarity and selflessness and sum up my thoughts very eloquently. Yes lets stay mindful, in the moment of this unfurling year and be thankful for all that we have. Let’s have the intention that a more beautiful society will emerge from this when the time is right.

  10. Thank you Jason. Before this Pandemic, I was beginning to realise that a lot of my stress and it’s knock on effects was because of fear. Fear, for me, comes often in small hidden ways. Not obvious until deep thought begins to reveal it. Fascinating subject covered very well. Your thoughts (communicated on the Mystery School), Summarised perfectly here, have kick started a healing process for me and subsequently my family, as I desire to serve them better by bettering myself. Fear outside of this current crises, (as well as including it), has been hiding in plain site. Not anymore…the conversation begins!

    1. Thank you for your reply Elizabeth. What an empowering message you share here. Fear has held me in it’s thrall for much of my life in so many ways. As you say, hiding in plain sight. Once we know it’s ok to name this the grip of fear begins to loosen. We are bigger than this. We can do this. Let’s have the talk, this dance and begin to take the lead!

  11. A very lovely article, and amazing pictures to go with it, not to mention the really helpful advice. ^.=.^

    I did some journeying today to meet with my guides, and a new one came forward during this time which was a large black bear. Really need his strength during this time, having a workplace (a non-essential shop who are using a loophole to stay open) threatening my job, and not being paid, because I want to self isolate and stay at home to protect the vulnerable family member I live with. So I did like a bear and am now ‘hibernating’ with my family, and I have to say it’s only been a day after my decision and I’m calmer than ever despite all the chaos outside. It is giving me time to connect back to the earth and keep a level head.

    1. So good to hear you being assertive and bear-like here Kyla. It serves us well to set our boundaries, draw a line in the sand and claim our choices. A huge well done. Let’s hope more and more people take the same stance and let those loophole seekers learn that community and family are the main things.

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