When my partner, Joyce, and I, decided to move to the country, I knew that I would have to learn to drive, a prospect which didn't overwhelm me with desire. Whereas other people are afraid to fly, my greatest travel fear related to the cab ride to and from the airport. The idea of learning to drive in New York City, an area of vehicular maniacs, was frankly terrifying.
Nonetheless, I bravely set forth, signed up for a series of driving lessons, and created enough fear to fill a large ocean. Before each driving lesson I taped rhodochrosite (for anxiety) to my solar plexus and took so much of the Bach Flower Remedy Rescue Remedy that I was afraid that I might not pass a sobriety test.
I viewed the driver of every approaching vehicle as a potential assassin; on my worse days it seemed that the entire driving population of Manhattan had made arrangements to congregate wherever I was driving and to kill me, if possible. The muscles of my driving leg developed permanent knots, and hyperventilation was my favored method of breathing.
At night I would dream of driving (always badly). As each lesson drew near my anxiety reached new heights. Looming above all the daily terrors was the fear that I would fail my driving test.
While traveling the roads of New York City I was simultaneously exploring the path called fear of driving, and the experience was just as new for me.
On one level I discovered a pattern of beliefs about the identity of someone called"driver". Drivers were confident, fearless people who did something grownup called driving. They were masters of their environment, moving freely (if sometimes recklessly) through it. Being neither confident, fearless, nor the mistress of my environment, I could therefore not be a driver.
Taking these beliefs a level deeper, I realized that I felt drivers must have a basic trust in the universe, at least in that part of it which related to driving. It never occurred to them, as it did to me, that within everyone who sat behind a wheel beat the heart of a murderer. They believed that driving was essentially a cooperative effort.
I could find no evidence for this notion, but in exploring it I began to experience my own fundamental uneasiness about the universe. Driving in a vehicle became a metaphor for moving in the vehicle for learning called physical existence. My automotive experiences, by exaggerating this condition of mistrust, brought my core beliefs to my attention.
I'd been student-driving for a few weeks when I took an Ask Your Angels workshop with Ama Daniel (co-author of the book by the same name). At the beginning of the workshop she asked each participant to take an Angel Card. (If you don't know these, each card has the name of an angel, such as Joy, Patience, Peace). The card I chose said Grace.
Towards the end of the workshop we were invited to make direct contact with our angels and ask questions. One of my questions--truly, it was a plea--was how I could overcome my fear of driving. The answer I received was, "Remember what your instructor said."
Suddenly I did remember. At the height of my paralysis he told me, "Driving well doesn't just mean obeying all the laws, knowing how to do the technical things; it means driving with grace."
I thought of the Angel Card I'd chosen. Driving with grace, yes, and also driving with Grace. How could I go wrong with an angel as my co-pilot?
I got a little more graceful--no more slamming down on the brakes or stiff-armed attempts to turn the wheel, but angels help those who help themselves, and I still needed to go change the core beliefs. I do not recommend my method for doing so.
A few days before the road test I made a desperate attempt to avoid taking it by having a taxi run over my foot, the driving foot, of course. As the wheel rolled over this vital appendage I realized that I had taken my fear of moving vehicles as close to the ultimate as I wished to experience.
Through devoted use of Reiki I saved the foot from more than a bruise. Having manifested my fears in so unique a fashion, I at last created the space in which to laugh at them. Healing touch and healing laughter allowed me to release my fears. When I took my driving test I passed it.
Today I maneuver my car with confidence (although parking lots still make me a little nervous). What I learned about driving has been valuable; what I learned about fear has been far more so. I discovered that fear is a great teacher.
Fear teaches us to be careful. There is, of course, a point of no return with fear, in which one is so careful (s)he decides not to do anything which would provoke fear. I'm speaking of a more adventurous condition in which one can be afraid and do the thing one wants to do anyway. In this state of commitment we learn the skills necessary to make our fears unnecessary.
Fear teaches us to look for its source. Just as physical symptoms are exaggerations of emotional and spiritual malaise, so my fears of things in the physical environment masked a deeper uneasiness about the whole business of being alive.
Fear can help us to release fear. One of the worst things about fear is how we feel about it. We will do almost anything to avoid being afraid. In addition to finding it physically unpleasant, we may be ashamed of it; we may condemn ourselves for feeling it. ("Haven't you grown up yet?")
If, instead, we can travel with it to the end of its road we find that, having experienced it fully and survived, that our journey begins to feel smoother, safer, and that we can actually pause to enjoy the scenery.
Rhodochrosite is one of the best stones we know of for relieving anxiety. When placed on the solar plexus it promotes slow, deep breathing. This is especially helpful, as shallow breathing can intensify anxiety.
Amethyst, a stone which particularly relates to transitions, restores a sense of tranquility and trust to the unnverving business of change. Many people have found it comforting when they've been dealing with the most profound transition of all: death.
If fear is accompanied by an uneasy feeling in the heart, do not reach for rose quartz. This stone opens the heart, and when we're in the throes of fear we're not always ready for opening. We suggest instead aventurine, which we have found very helpful in soothing and balancing heart energies.
The three classic Bach Flower Remedies for fear are Mimulus for known fears, Aspen for unknown fears, and Rock Rose for terror. Rock Rose is one of the essences in Rescue Remedy, my driving favorite.
An FES flower essence I used, which is excellent when fear is heightened by the need to handle many details (and for new drivers there are many details to handle) is Indian Pink Those in a new job with many new routines to learn or people who are attempting to handle the many details of moving would also find this a helpful flower essence.
I didn't think of taking Mountain Pride, another FES remedy, but I will for future challenges. This is for the
spiritual warrior, lending courage to those who tend to shrink away from challenges.