Read this if you’re scared.
When I was struggling with an eating disorder, my logical mind knew damn well that if I ate more food I would feel better, both in my body and my mind. However, my need to control my surroundings seemed overwhelming and I was not able to let go of the gripping force of nervousness and anxiety. It was as if it was a force beyond me, and I felt trapped. What would happen if I actually allowed myself to consciously indulge in something as primal as food? Would I ever be able to stop? In order to avoid the unknown, I held my reigns tight and my structure rigid. It was so dangerous that it almost felt good. But I never grew. In fact, each time I chose to resort to a fear based way of living, I felt smaller and smaller in myself, despite the temporary ego-centered pride of nearly impossibly sustaining a life-threatening existence.
I have an acronym for the word FEAR: Freedom Ends, Aloneness Rises. When we dwell in the familiar cave of fear, we inevitably isolate ourselves from the world of possibility. We begin to feel alone, yet oddly comfortable in our misery.
Having overcome an intensely fear based way of living for nearly a decade, I am now committed to supporting others in moving through and beyond fear into a field of wonder, aliveness, courage, trust, and joy.
Last week I was leading a yoga, adventure, and wellness retreat in pristine tropical Hana, Maui. The land is nearly untouched and buzzing with plant life, moisture, beauty, serenity, and risk. Yes. Cliffs and windy roads, rocks, and unforeseen obstacles are part of nature, and navigating this terrain requires a great sense of awareness. All the awareness in the world, however, will not necessarily avoid all accidents. As we approached many hikes, I would hear some participants’ desperate and compelling shriek of fear as we approached ‘unsafe’ terrain. As much as part of me desired to coddle this fear, I chose to gently encourage my students to ‘feel the resistance and do it anyway’. I almost thought people were going to leave the retreat. Yoga retreat? Did you mean treacherous unfamiliar outdoor excursion retreat?
The truth is, yoga comes in many forms. Yoga means doing all things with awareness, not just shapes with your body on a mat in a yoga studio. It means gracefully frolicking through life’s unavoidable rocky terrain. Yoga involves moving through fear and ending up bathing in a freshwater pool under a crystal clear rushing waterfall. It’s worth the muddy, rocky, mosquito-filled hike to get there. It’s worth the sweat, the nausea, and perhaps even the tears on the way. It is the journey that leads to the destination, and hearing the contagious and childlike laughter of the retreat participants as they willingly dared to jump into the freshwater pools made me wonder if they even remembered the struggle it took to get there.
What I’m trying to say is: If something scares you, GOOD. Feel the fear. Feel the nervousness in your body. Awareness of fear negates its potentially paralyzing nature. Where is it happening? Is your chest tight? Is your breath compromised? Do you feel it in your belly? Whatever the situation may be, I encourage you to invite fear in and let it move through you as a means of staying open to what’s on the other side. Stay free. Become the observer of fear instead of fear itself. There will always be magic on the other side waiting for you.