Fear is a powerful emotion. It can keep us stuck, too afraid to move on or try something new. It amazes me how something intangible can have such a strong effect, can hold you back, keep you from change or progress.
And it comes in so many forms! Things I fear are not the same things you fear, and our fear manifests itself differently in everyone. For being such a broad emotion, it’s a little strange we only have one word to describe it.
Elizabeth Gilbert, in her new book Big Magic, writes wrestles with the relationship between fear and creativity. I’ve been slowly working my way through this book, and, as life is want to do, my recent yoga practice has been focused on fear as well.
In one class last week, the teacher began class with a thought: fear is an emotion. We should acknowledge its presence but don’t let it rule us.
Both the book and yoga come at the emotion of fear in a similar way—fear is real, fear is necessary, but fear shouldn’t stop you. See the fear but give it space. Let it be and don’t let it hold you back.
True life story.
My yoga classmates can do beautiful poses. I’m talking handstands, headstands, binds, crazy beautiful poses I can only dream of doing. I’ve always admired their ability but, until recently, had never tried some of the poses for myself. Why? I was afraid of falling.
In the middle of class one day, during a difficult pose, my teacher paused and offered a gentle reminder that there is nothing to fear. If you fall out of a pose, who cares?
You’ll never know if you can do it if you let the fear of falling stop you from trying.
For whatever reason, her comments struck a chord, and I tried the pose, whatever it was. And ever since then, when there is a pose I “can’t” do, I do it anyway. Even though my feet feel like they’re stuck in cement every time I contemplate trying a new pose, I try. And every time I try it again, my feet lift easier and easier. Sure, I fall out of poses all the time. But I get back into it and try again.
It feels so good every time I see my fear and to keep going. And while it’s easier to do this in yoga than, say, going to the top of the Eiffel Tower (I didn’t let my fear of heights stop me, even though I was afraid) practicing dealing with your fear in any way helps you in every other way. By facing fear in a safe place, like on your yoga mat, you can become comfortable with it. This makes it easier to face fear in other situations.
As Elizabeth Gilbert says, fear may be the passenger in the car, but no way in hell will you ever let it drive (or even read the map).
If you let it, fear will rule your life. It will keep you stagnant, never letting you dream big or reach for the stars. But it’s just an emotion, same as happiness, sadness and joy. It’s not better, it’s not worse, it just is. And we need to let it be okay to feel fear but know we need to move past it to truly continue living and life full of wonder and creativity.