During the most recent weekend of my yoga mentorship we sat in a circle and my mentor asked us how we were feeling. I couldn’t remember the last time someone asked me that. I knew it wasn’t good but I hadn’t actually stopped to think. People took turns answering. I was last to go. I opened my mouth and my eyes welled up, voice cracked, and nothing came out at first. “Broken” I finally croaked. I hadn’t intended to say that but that felt true.
That was the moment of acceptance. All of a sudden pretense fell away, and just like that, with one word, there was a shift. Feeling broken was hard enough. But how often do we also feel guilty for our feelings? Think of all the stories we tell ourselves about letting ourselves and others down… So if feeling broken wasn’t enough, feeling guilty for it had made it damn near unbearable. Making peace with my own brokenness allowed me to sit with my feelings and be present. There was levity in admission. I was giving permission for the healing process to finally begin.
As I still sit in this place of heartache, I am able to connect with myself. I am learning to care, nourish, and love my perfectly imperfect self. I am learning to ask myself the important questions: how do you feel? And what do you need? I am learning to check in instead of checking out. And as I learn to be kinder to my own self, I am finding new capacity for unlimited kindness I never knew existed within me.
Every crack in an opening, which may make things available within us that weren’t before.
This emotional space is a struggle. Every morning I wake up and it takes me a moment to remember why things feel “off”. But as I honor my feelings I feel empowered to be exactly as I am. I allow myself not to be ok. And that’s ok.
Recently every time I find an incredible opportunity in front of me, my immediate reaction is that of excitement, followed closely by trepidation. Over the course of the night the anxiety comes in swells, every possible disastrous scenario plays out in my head, and when I wake up in the morning, I am absolutely certain that there is no point of even trying since it couldn’t possibly end well.
Occasionally I look back to when I was a kid and wonder where that stupidly fearless version of me has gone. There was a time that I was convinced I could fly if only I tried hard enough. I tried flapping my arms and jumping off much-too-high tree branches. There was no way in hell I was giving up. When I learned biology and physics, I just modified the dream of flying slightly: I was willing to settle for being a pilot or an astronaut.
But the older we get the more our experience warns us of potential failures and negative outcomes. And as humans we are programmed to seek safety and stability: if we are safe where we are, why chance it and rock the boat? Yes, the potential reward may seem exciting but is it worth the risk?
Often fear sets off a flurry of negative thoughts, which get out of our control, and then in turn set off a biological fight or flight response, which makes us avoid the thoughts (let alone the actions) that led to the anxiety in the first place. We give up before we even have a chance to get started.
But what if we stop and breathe? What if we face the fear of the unknown instead of running away from it? What if we ask if there is any truth to our anxieties? What if we tell ourselves that most negative outcomes we dread will never happen? What if we remind ourselves what our original motivation was for contemplating the action? What will our lives look like if we practice welcoming the possibilities?
One of my goals for 2015 is to be childishly “stupidly” fearless and say YES to my big scary dreams.