fear-can-freezeFear’s dagger paralyzed me. I was 9 years old, playing outside at dusk in the humid Kansas summer evening. Dad was working outside. I ran into the dimly lit basement seeking a toy.

A foot high dark figure appeared in front of me, hissing as it drew closer. I froze. Snake! I could not find my voice. The hissing snake jumped closer in its vertical position. I stiffly jumped back with my frozen body. Again, the snake jolted closer to my legs. Fear choked my mobility. Finally, my voice screamed in horrific fear, “DADDDDDDDD!”

Dad grabbed a hoe and saved me. He turned on the basement light, discovering it was a poisonous copperhead snake. His care and confident calm soothed me more than any words could have done.

My fear made me vulnerable to a near fatal bite. Wanting to conquer fear, as I grew older I learned self calming through biofeedback and attended many self actualization workshops for advancing emotional intelligence and self control. I became acutely aware of how my own and others’ tensions impact those around us. The power of calm energy’s soothing effect on others in the face of fear and negative emotions signaled healing empowerment desirable in small and grave crises. Either choice, fear or calm, spreads through others like sand in an hourglass. What do we want to radiate, share and be?

1954. I had my greatest raw test with choosing immobilizing fear or generating calm. I hiked up a steep mountain incline on a dirt logging road, reaching a plateau. Fifteen yards in front of me was an adult wildcat, sniffing, hunting for food. He did not see me behind him.

Fear’s lightning bolt struck me from head to toe. Being downwind, he could not smell my fear or presence. I had to choose: backing down the mountain or staying. Fear could not play a part in staying. I chose the immediate mind/body/emotion release of fear and tracked the wildcat.

As the wildcat walked away, I kept pace, walking when he did. Once in a grassy area, he suddenly jumped into the air, plunging into tall grass. Then he turned toward my direction, mouse hanging from his mouth.

Our eyes locked. We stood motionless, staring for several minutes. Then in extremely slow motion, he lowered his back end to the ground, then his chest and head, keeping his eyes high enough to see me over the tall grass, our eyes still locked on one another.

My intuition said to follow suit. My leg muscles thought it took an eternity to reach the same position as the wildcat. Eyes remained locked for 5 minutes until my legs begged me to stand up. I raised up in the same slow-motion way. When I stood, the wildcat copied me, keeping the mouse in its mouth. Eyes continued in locked position on each other.

I spoke. “Hi. I am Janai. I am so grateful you have shared this special experience. I am deeply grateful. My work is for the world’s children, including the children of nature, like yours. I ask for safe passage to the Iris field.” When I finished the word, “field,” he looked away, turned slowly and walked up the side of the mountain with his meal.

I was filled with ecstatic energy, a state of grace and gratitude. My human potential expanded beyond what I could have imagined. Nature’s gift taught me exclusively how fear’s signal can be managed and acted upon wisely depending on the situation and intuition. More importantly, I experienced how my calm presence connected and created an outcome more magical than my wildest dreams. Fear can freeze or free human potential.

Today’s world offers many opportunities to be frozen in fear. And fear can beget more fear. It exists as a guide with true danger. Trusting ourselves and helping others to find calm grounding leads to calm knowing and positive results. Try this:

Imagine or actually lean against a large tree. Feel its calming strength. Allow yourself to imagine BEING the tree, feeling roots deep into the nourishing earth. Feel it. Really feel it. Breathe it. Be it. The upliftment of the tree’s limbs reach toward the heavens. Feel uplifting freedom while being grounded with roots in the earth. Feel calm. Steady. Strong. Solid. Grounded and uplifted. Breathe. Be it. Carry it with you and spread it to others. We are all healers.

Choose to be frozen in fear or free your human potential.

This article originally appeared in The Local’s Guide.