Yoga

    Thoughts on Fear, summer 2017

    July 20, 2017

    I’ve had a draft of a post on fear “ready” for a long time, but I never felt like I cad come to enough of a conclusion on fear in my life to post it. But I think that’s the point, that we’re never done, we’re always learning. Our relationship with different emotions are constantly changing and shifting, ebbing and flowing, and are never complete.

    So I post that draft now, “unfinished,” because there will always be something new, a deeper level of understanding, than where I am now. But that doesn’t mean what I am learning on the journey is not important.

    Fear takes all kinds of forms.

    There’s the obvious fear of failure. Most everyone is familiar with that fear in their own way. There’s fear of the unknown, fear of death, fear of flying, of spiders, of clowns. All around us are reasons to fear How we respond to that fear is where we have room for growth.

    The past year of so, I’ve been practicing inversions in yoga. For many, inversions mean handstands or headstands. But they also look like crow pose or shoulder stand. I’ve taken a few workshops and, with the help of the instructor, gone upside down in various poses.

    Yet in my regular practice, alone, with no one there to support me, I falter. I can kick my legs up as if to invert, but I know I won’t get there, so I don’t fully commit to the kick. Even against a wall, I don’t trust the strength of my body and I save myself by arching my back before I can practice the full pose.

    That fear, the fear of being upside down, the fear of falling, is real. I see it, I feel it, I recognize it, but I’m struggling to work with it and move beyond it. Right now, it is in the driver’s seat.

    And it’s not only in yoga that fear has shown up for me recently. It’s shown up in things I don’t do. Writing, for instance. Because I am an editor, I have to write quite a bit for my job. And thank goodness for that, because my creative writing, the writing I do as a creative artistic passion, doesn’t happen. I’m afraid that when my pen hits the paper, nothing will come out. Or, even worse, what does come out is no good.

    This is easily avoided by just not writing, so for a long time, I didn’t. I’d write maybe every few weeks, just a scene or something that struck me, but never anything more.

    A few weeks ago, I started a writing workshop. I dusted off an old piece I wanted to work on, and showed up. We signed up for a day to share our work, and I ended up sharing the following week. This meant I had 48 hours to get my story in shape from what it has been for years to something I wanted others to read and critique. That meant adding about 2,000 words in 2 days. And because I wanted to get the most out of the workshop, I wanted them to be good.

    So, you know, no pressure.

    The following afternoon I pulled out my notebook. I had no idea where my story could go, but I had to write something.

    And so I started.

    At the end of every paragraph or scene, I froze, fearing I had dried up, that there were no more words in me to come out, that this was the end. But something always did follow. I reminded myself these words weren’t supposed to be perfect, they were supposed to be words in sentences that I could come back in tomorrow and fix and move and shape as needed, but right now, I just needed words on the page.

    By the time I went to bed that night, I had filled pages and pages of my notebook. Typing it out the next day, not all of it worked. Some got scrapped, and some got saved for other projects. But a lot of it was good, or good enough to edit and add into the piece.

    Since then, I’ve had to revise a few more times, and there is still work to do. But there will always be work to do.

    This past weekend, I did a stand up paddleboard yoga class. While that is a story for a different post, toward the end of the class, we practiced tripod headstands. Having fallen into the water a few times already, I wasn’t afraid to really try, to actually kick my leg up, and to push my body.

    The instructor was great and encouraging, reminding me that my body was physically strong enough to do the pose, but I needed to trust myself.

    I tried to remember to breathe, to find my breath through the fear, and have fun. After all, I was on the lake with one of my best friends on a beautiful summer morning. While I didn’t manage a headstand, I did manage to get both feet off the board a few times, and to float a little bit. Finding that float was a huge accomplishment for me, and I hope to bring that with me as I continue to face my fear.

    Fear shows up everywhere, and every situation is different. I felt much more comfortable writing in the face of fear than trying to do a handstand. But I will keep trying, keep feeling my fear, inviting it into my life and working with it to learn more about myself, and what I am capable of.

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