One of my all-time favorite quotes: “I can’t control my destiny, I trust my soul, my only goal is just to be. There’s only now, there’s only here. Give in to love or live in fear. No other path, no other way. No day but today.” –Jonathan Larson
What is fear? What makes us afraid? What is it that makes our breath short or the feeling of panic set in? The unknown. Things that are known are expected and often prepared for. The unknown, we cannot prepare for, and people tend to dislike what they cannot tangibly know or expect or plan for.
Fear is expectation or anticipation; so by definition if you have fear, you are not in the present. If you think about the past, you can have regret; if you think about the future, you can have worry. The remedy? Be in the present! To quote another musical, “Take the moment at present as the present of the moment” – Steven Sondheim.
At my very first yoga class, which I stumbled into, giving no credence to the “advanced” level of the class, the instructor was incredibly enthusiastic and encouraged us all to “just try” everything – including a myriad of inversions and arm balances. As it was my first yoga class, I didn’t know the difference between warrior one and handstand. I tried everything – with supreme enthusiasm and joy. Did I DO everything properly? Of course not! But, I tried, and it never occurred to me not to try to the best of my ability. Perhaps that comes from years and years of being in the theatre world and the suspension of disbelief I had grown so accustomed to, or maybe I just got lucky that I didn’t over-analyze the situation.
One of the things I have noticed as I watch people take my class for the first time, is the incredulous look one can get when I throw out an opportunity to arm balance or invert without giving it some big build-up. I treat arm balances and inversions as they are: just another pose or place to be. (And, plus, it’s your yoga, you do what you want! I only make suggestions- you choose to follow them or not.) Often, said person will look around the room, notice that others are playfully attempting what ever I suggested, shrug, smile and go along. Occasionally, someone will look at me, with a defeated face that says “No. I cannot do that.” Or, “Are you crazy? I would break my face!” It is sad to me that people don’t believe that they should be able to hold themselves up with their own two hands. What a precious feeling that is – to literally support oneself! Not forced, just trying, and seeing the result. Not fearing any expected outcome. Not expecting any reward. Simply being in any given moment and moving forward until it is no longer the place to be.
Children are present in their yoga – they have no fear. They have not yet been TAUGHT to fear. So maybe the next time you practice yoga, try to be more like a child: practice truly being in the present: no expectations, no fears, just moving and breathing in each present moment. It doesn’t matter what it looks like. You might be surprised to notice how easy it is, when you drop the judgmental ego of your self, to simply fly over your fears! Give it a whirl- let me know how it goes!
Now, I am not telling you to throw caution to the wind and be reckless, but try to be present in each moment, and really, truly feel what is going on in your body and in your mind in every situation. You are so much stronger than you think, and you never know what you can do until you try – without pre-judging the outcome. Believe that you are strong and capable – you are – you just need to know it!
How do you keep your fears at bay? What allows you to truly be present in your yoga practice and life?