Working with Fear

In the heart of yogic teachings, there are 5 kleshas, or obstacles to practice.  Basically, we know what we need to do to be a good human, but there are things (life) that make that hard as hell!  One of those is ABINIVESHA, or the fear of death.  There is an innate fear in most all of us to live.  We don’t want to die.  This is a good thing! But, let’s take that a step further.  Ingrained in this fear of death lies this fear of things not being exactly as they are now.  We tend to not want things to change.  We are afraid of change.  We are afraid of the unknown or things that disrupt the status quo.  Fear is a legitimate issue that we as humans consistently face.


This can be simple examples, like when your favorite restaurant closes or Coscto stops carrying your favorite yogurt brand (always with the food analogies, I know).  Even the fear of going upside down in a yoga class!  I remember when Gabe and I first took over the business, people were SO sweet and excited!  However, immediately after ”congrats!” the first words were almost always “so, is anything going to change?”  It is just how we roll.  It’s super scary not knowing.     


There are also BIG examples.  Like a loved one dying or losing a job.  Fear of the “what if” when we are faced with big decisions.  When I had my first baby, Amelia, 4 years ago, it was an extremely difficult transition for me.  I had this perfect, beautiful, healthy baby and, on the outside, I was all good.  On the inside, however, I was struggling.  Big time.  Like many new moms I was sleep deprived, overwhelmed and anxious.  Looking back, I had some raging post-partum anxiety that I needed to deal with.  All my usual go-to’s like yoga, meditation, and exercise were not really helping.  There were times that it honestly felt impossible to utilize those tools.  I am sure many can relate. Thankfully, day by day, I made it through the storm.  I always wanted more than 1 kid, but I was TERRIFIED.  Literally.  The thought of doing all the that again made me want to run.  And cry.  I all but talked myself into the idea that Amelia would be an only child (only children are the bomb by the way, no judgement there.  I know some awesome only kids!).  I was so scared to do it all again, it felt almost crippling.  I decided that before I truly made that decision, I needed to dig in to the scary places and do some big work.  Insert more yoga, therapy (good therapists are gold!), dialing in my nutrition and LOTS more meditation.  I am proud of the hard work I did.  It was not easy.  It did, however, help me to figure some stuff out and make a better plan.  You all know the rest.  I had Leo almost 1 year ago and he is amazing.  He is the sweetest babe.  More importantly, I was in such a different spot.  I FELT different.  I am different.


A few weeks ago, when I started writing this blog, it was going to be all about how I overcame my fears, and all was well.  But that never felt quite right.  It was not like my fear just disappeared and POOF that was that. I still feel afraid, all the time.  But working with the fear has helped me in most aspects of my life, so how could I convey that? It was not until I had some time with my first yoga teacher and dear friend, Theresa Murphy, that I realized being afraid is part of the gig and that is ok!  So, what was different?  She posed this statement to the group:


May I be willing to include fear.


That was it.  It is not that fear magically goes away.  Like the kleshas teach us, fear is part of the human experience.  It is when we work with the fear and step right into it, even when it feels terrifying and uncomfortable, that we begin the process.  Not allowing fear to take over completely.


Fear is nasty and can cripple us.  It can rule how we are in relationship to others or even to ourselves.  Theresa reminded me that courage is not without fear.  It is feeling the fear and doing it anyway.  With the example of my son, I would have missed out on so much had I let the fear take the wheel completely. 


May I be willing to include fear


What is the take away then?  How do we work with this fear?  May we all be willing to include fear!  It is there to stay, so let’s include it and work with it. Yoga gives us these amazing tools to work with!  Self-inquiry (constantly checking in --what am I feeling now?), doing hard poses that are scary/hard for us (hello handstand!), sitting with discomfort (5 minutes of pigeon, anyone?) and stillness (meditation is #1 in all of this) so we can notice what comes up.

I see you, fear. You can stay, but you don’t get to be in charge.

Gabe Hopp