Please Do Not Feed the Fears (and Baboons)

It's a month in since we've arrived at South Africa and ventured to follow our dream of building a place called Bliss & Stars. A wilderness refuge from today's crazy world, a place to heal, recharge and reconnect with yourself, and nature.

It is always so exciting with the new things and places — the thrill of exploring the new area, the joy of figuring things out, the new scents, the new tastes. It is a honeymoon phase with the new place.

But the novelty can also feed the fear. The unknown puts us on alert. And that's what I started noticing along the happiness of being here; there was a fear — this faint feeling that something is not ok.

As if the awareness of being surrounded by wild nature is activating my reptilian brain making the rational thinking and calmness vanish for the primitive urge to survive. And to survive our brain tricks into seeing danger everywhere. The sound waves and the loud wind outside suddenly becomes the sound of the upcoming mayhem. The baboons playing outside become monsters who will chew Molly's leg and bite me. Dried kelp laying along the beach turns into poisonous snakes. There is an abundance of danger... in my head.

It's fascinating to observe this primal drive slowly creeping into every area of life.

woman meditating on the beach, photo by Simon Rae

Meditation becomes a sanity check, a space to see and examine the fear as it arises and passes. I notice how the arising and passing images of danger get my heart pounding. There is no danger — just me sitting on a pillow in the safety of the walls, windows, and a roof over my head. The pulse increases and breath shortens. As it passes slowly by, the gusts of wind are not crushing the house, and the baboons are not chewing off Molly's legs. It is just me and my thoughts. My brain does what it should do; it tries to protect me as if I was a cavewoman. And it creates a danger even though I sit still...because it's better to be safe than sorry.

The brain will do what it has been doing for the past millions of years - ensuring I survive. And meditation is a way of finding the way to the inner wisdom and harnessing the brain. Not letting yourself to get hijacked by the amygdala. Learning how to respond to whatever is arising skillfully. Don't feed the unnecessary fears.

Baboons eating bananas in front of the house, Misty Cliffs, photo by Daria Rasmussen, Bliss & Stars.jpg

And sometimes the fear has its place because you have to be careful of baboons. They can be dangerous, and they are smart. When you leave the door open and mind your business, they will come in, look at you, show the teeth, so you keep a distance while they take bananas and cookies. Then they go away unapologetically and unashamedly, leaving you perplexed and laughing.