Which is the guiding force or principle in your life? When you are making decisions which one speaks the loudest? If it is courage, yay for you! I am totally impressed and you will have to share your tools to get there. If it is fear, I completely understand. It has taken me probably most of my 40 plus years on this earth to shift from a mindset of fear to courage. The last five have been even more powerful in finally shifting so my courageous voice is the one I hear first and the fear is a faint whisper most days.
Our yoga practices are here to help us see ourselves clearly. When we get quiet and still, we often see where we are growing and where we get stuck. In the seeing, there is a release. In release there is freedom. What happens when it’s your daily life where you see that place of being stuck and fear is shouting at you? Can you tell your fear it is a liar? Can you wrestle it into submission? Can you love the fear and move past it anyway?
The last few years I have taken some bold steps to transform my life. It took courage, but I wouldn’t say I was bold in my courageousness. I just went through the motions. I got a divorce, suffered a broken heart, broken spirit and moved the kids and myself to a small house on 2-acres. These were all bold steps that I didn’t realize were bold at the time. Now that we are in our little farm house, I have felt many moments of peace. For the most part, I feel comfortable and content in my own skin. My teaching is happy. Greenville Yoga is happy. But then something new comes in and I have to ask myself, will I let courage or fear win?
It is easy to say of course courage will win. But when you are prone to anxiety and a new situation comes up, fear can very easily take you down the rabbit hole. So here are a few things I have been noticing and working on to shift out of fear-based reaction into courage-based curiosity and response. Fear starts in my mind- usually this is a cyclical type thinking that takes all of my energy and focus. If I haven’t noticed it at this point, it then moves to my body- sweaty feet, pit in my abdomen, overall shakiness. By this time I know fear is trying to move in. One of the tools I learned from meditation and reading The Untethered Soul is that you can get behind a thought. When you see the thoughts cycling through (of unworthiness, unlovability, I can’t, I will never, life will never…) you can literally get behind the thought. You can stop the unconditioned momentum of the mind. What works for me is to use a mantra. A mantra can be super complex or just some words that make sense to you. An easy one for me is to inhale courage and exhale fear. Or if I really need it, if I’ve moved further into fear, loving-kindness phrases or self-compassion. I will recite, “May I be safe. May I be loved. May I be free.” Or even, “I am safe. I am love. I am free.” Just this will stop the monkey mind and will settle my soul. Then, with a clear mind and heart I can open to truth. I can turn off the fear-filled phrases and step further into reality as it is. This reality is not the cause of fear. My own mind is the cause of the fear.
Somedays, fear requires a little more compassion. I like this trick from Elizabeth Gilbert and Thich Nhat Hahn. When you notice fear arise, you acknowledge it. You greet it. You invite it to tea. Elizabeth Gilbert says she greets fear and says it is welcome. But it must sit in the back seat. It can’t have the driver seat or we will be in real trouble. Thich Nhat Hahn likes to say, “Hello fear. How are you today?” In doing so, he acknowledges the fear with care and compassion. But he continues on with courage while holding fear’s hand.
So many of us are fortunate. Our fears aren’t that we are bombed each day, villages raided at night. Our children aren’t being taken from us. The saber tooth tiger isn’t coming to eat us in our sleep. Our fears are trying something new, stepping out of our comfort zones, trying to open our hearts again, trying new yoga classes or poses. We can work with these fears. We can step into courage. And when we do, there’s no telling what we are capable of.
With love and (a sometimes) courageous heart,