Walking Into the Abyss – A Simple Exercise for Overcoming Fear of the Unknown

November 21st, 2017

By Richard West

Guest writer for Wake Up World

This is a practice I developed a couple of years ago. At first it was just a bit of fun, designed to see how far I could go with it. However, I quickly realised that this exercise could help me to confront all my fears about uncertainty in a relatively safe environment. It challenged me to literally step into the unknown. Even though I knew that I was safe doing so, the exercise brought up my fears very quickly and I was able to confront and soften into them.

The great thing about this exercise is that even though it’s safe enough, it will still challenge you very, very quickly. It will bring up all your fear about stepping blindly into an unknown situation, but without creating any major consequences for your life. It also provides a very effective way to deal with the fears that arise, so that when you do need to step into the unknown down the line, you are already hard-wired to be able to cope with it.

The other great thing about this practice is that it is so simple and so flexible that it is possible for everyone to do. It can be done alone, in pairs, or in groups. I do it mostly alone, but it can be very powerful in a pair too, especially as an extra safety net. It can also be planned or spontaneous, for example, when out for a walk in the countryside.

The Exercise:

1. Find a place which is well known to you, that is relatively open and has few obstacles or dangers. You could use your garden, an off road footpath, or a field for example. I would not recommend doing this next to a road unless you are with a very attentive partner.

2. Pick a route which is relatively straight forward and close your eyes. You could use a blindfold, but I would recommend just closing the eyes as you can open them very quickly at any time.

3. Begin to walk along your planned route. Keep your eyes closed for as long as you can.

4. You will likely begin to experience some kind of discomfort or fear very quickly. When it begins to arise, slow down or stop. Observe the sensation of fear. What does it feel like to you? Where in the body can you feel it? Accept the fear and don’t attempt to push it away.

5. Walk a few more paces, observing the fear grow. At this point, although logically you know you are safe, your fears of the unknown will likely be overriding this. Other fears may also start to arise, for example, ‘what will people think of me if they see me like this?’

6. Walk slowly forward. Know that the fear is just a transient feeling. It is not who you are. Breathe deeply and work to relax as much as possible around the feeling of fear. It is important that you don’t work to push the fear away as that will just create another identity (‘I am not afraid’). Instead, simply allow the feeling and relax around it. The fear can be felt floating in space, but you are just observing it. It is just an experience – it is not you!

7. Stop. You’ve done great. Breathe and relax. The fear may not be completely gone, but that’s okay. You are not defined by it.

8. Slowly open your eyes. See that everything is alright.

9. Celebrate with a smile.

This exercise, when practiced fairly frequently, will give you a great tool for dealing with any situation which brings up fear of the unknown. Feel free to go at your own pace. You don’t need to complete all 9 steps each time. Feel free to make your own alterations to the exercise. Be creative, and have fun with it.

Recommended reading by Richard West:

About the author:

Richard West

Richard West is a carer, psychologist, spiritual facilitator and writer. He has worked close to death for 7 years and is passionate about helping people to move on in a conscious way, even though our society is geared to fight against death.  Richard is also a spiritual facilitator at Openhand. He offers services in Spiritual Facilitation and Conscious Dying on his website ‘Back to the Source’ and writes regular articles on his blog (where this article first appeared.)


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  • Nicole

    Intersting, thank you for sharing, it does sound like fun and a learning experience. Examine the fear and picture self standing in front of this fear and ask “why are you afraid”? Usually the answer is “I do not know” and it just fades because it is just a program with no experience behind it.