Home » Tuesday Tip: Consider Who You’d Be Without Fear

Tuesday Tip: Consider Who You’d Be Without Fear

About a year ago, a dear friend of mine gave me a gift that changed my life forever.

The night before Wisdom 2.0, my friend orchestrated things so I could sit at dinner with two people I admire greatly, Byron Katie and her husband Stephen Mitchell

Let’s just say that it wasn’t one of the more relaxed dinners I’ve ever had. About one second into the evening, Stephen uttered one brilliant sentence referencing a philosopher I’d never heard of, and I started to panic. Clearly I was not intelligent enough to keep up with a conversation with Stephen (and the other luminaries at the table, geniuses all). 

Moreover, I definitely wasn’t enlightened enough to contribute to a conversation with Katie. It’s hard to explain, but one look into Byron Katie’s eyes and you know in your soul that you are in the presence of an awakened master. Fortunately, there was a lot of food, and I am good at eating, especially when I’m stressed. 

An hour or so into my panic-filled eating extravaganza, my friend vacated the seat between me and Katie and Katie slid over next to me. She gently held my hand (I was so relieved I almost cried) and looked into my eyes. “Who would you be without your fear, sweetheart?” she asked me kindly. I did not feel judged. I felt understood; moreover, I suddenly understood myself

That one question — Who would you be without your fear? — is a game changer. I’ve been thinking about it consistently for a year now. More than that, I’ve been practicing living without fear, and I’ve experienced just how different a person I am when I’m not afraid. At times I’m still anxious and afraid, but fear isn’t a very powerful force in my life anymore. 

Without so much fear, I am able to live from a place of greater integrity. I’ve stopped worrying about what other people think of me. For a lifelong people-pleaser, this is a radically different way of living.

I learned to love Byron Katie through another intellectual and spiritual hero (and fellow sociologist), Martha Beck. I left the dinner with Katie knowing I needed to find out who I was without fear; it was Martha who taught me how to drop fear and live with integrity. 

The best way to learn Martha’s method for living without fear — the foundation for finding the peace and bliss that we all long for in this life — is to do one of Martha’s integrity cleanses, or, even easier, to read her new book, Diana, Herself: An Allegory of Awakening. If you’ve read Martha’s other books (like Expecting Adam or The Joy Diet) or you read her column in Oprah’s magazine, know that this book is a massive deviation from her typical work. 

Even though this book is fiction and not self-help or memoir, Martha does not hold back her clear instructions for living with greater peace. I devoured Diana, Herself in the span of a few days; I daresay it is the most powerful book I’ve ever read for furthering my own personal and spiritual growth. (The book is available on Amazon).

Join the discussion: Has anyone ever asked you a question that changed your life? What was it? What book has most changed your life?


  1. Christine Carter says:

    Has anyone ever asked you a question that changed your life? What was it? What book has most changed your life?

    • panettonea2 says:

      I posted a link to an article about just such a question posed by Oprah. I guess it will have to be approved first. Anyway, the question itself is: “What do you want?” She discovered that hardly anybody can answer that.

      • panettonea2 says:

        The link still hasn’t shown up, so if anyone wants to read that article, please do a Web search on: “The Simple, Life-Changing Question That Hardly Anyone Can Answer.”

        Forbes also has an article that lists 35 (yes, 35!!!) such questions. So, if you’re in the mood for a banquet of this stuff :), please do a Web search on:
        “35 Questions That Will Change Your Life.”

  2. Laya Saul says:

    About 25 years ago I read a book by Shakti Gawain in graduate school. In the book she asked something like: If you were 100% responsible for your relationships (not 50/50) what would you do differently? That has been a guiding light for me and something I’ve taught others.

    • Marielle Reading says:

      I like that — now I need to find that book. Here’s a small twist that I read a while ago: Relationships are not 50/50. They’re 60/40. You give 60, and you take 40. But the secret to success is that this applies to BOTH people.

      • panettonea2 says:

        Very interesting. I had never heard that before, and it makes a lot of sense. But I suspect such relationships are kind of rare. 😉

  3. Troy Hanson says:

    Thanks for the post and recommendation. It sounds like it will a great read when it is released. Looking forward to it!

  4. panettonea2 says:

    Oh, here’s one more question that can be life-changing:
    I have always wanted to _______________.

    Well, what’s stopping you???

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