Each one of us has a story in which fear is standing in our way.
Changing my belief about the presence of fear has been a game-changer for me. I know it's going to help you, too!
The Typical Adult Control Freak View of Fear
I don't know about you, but I tend to treat fear like it's a very, very big deal. If fear is present, I want to walk the other way. I want to quit. I start looking for reasons to quit by second-guessing all of my goals and motives.
If I can't find a way to erase my fear, that means I must be on the wrong path. Abort mission.
I don't know when or how it happens, but something about our upbringing teaches us that we should not proceed unless we are sure of what the outcome will be. We lose touch with our childlike acceptance of fear.
Let's look at a couple of case studies involving uncertainty and see how, rather than the fear itself, it's the beliefs about fear that really make a huge difference for us.
When Falling Is Inevitable: Yoga Practice
In yoga there is an understanding that the inverted postures (that is, the upside down postures like headstand) are scary because they can invoke our innate fear of death.
Dying is part of life, and so is fear, so this particular fear-inducing quality isn't something that a yoga student sees as any HUGE deal .
In other words, the fact that a headstand invokes your fear of dying is not a reason to avoid headstand. Rather, that very fact is a good reason to make sure you practice headstand.
The work is this: Don't move away from the fear, but reach out and touch it. (Or, reach down and stand upside down in it, as it were.)
When we talk about inverted postures we talk about fear, and we always talk about falling. Because the falling, it'll happen.
I fell out of headstand the other day, like really fell.
When you lose your balance while walking around in normal life, you have instincts for handling that. If you are upright and you lose your balance, you have the instinct to plant your feet on the ground, or plant your bottom in the chair, to correct yourself inside gravity. Fast. You don't even have to think about it.
Now, the thing about being upside down is that you don't have great instincts for being upside down. Your proprioception, the pre-cognitive awareness of where you are in space, is kind of out the window.
For this reason, an out-of-practice yogi who gets shaky while in an inverted posture will not simply send her feet back to the ground and exit the posture.
Instead, she will crumble up in a ball, or she will make her body into a stiffened board, and fall sideways or backward into a heap.
She will land with a loud thud. She will be lucky if she isn't hurt.
In keeping with her out-of-practice state, she will immediately begin berating herself for her poor execution of the posture. She may also, naturally, be afraid.
And not just "be" afraid, but start obsessing inside that place and start making choices from that place of fear.
She will think, Holy crap I just fell sideways out of headstand and landed on my ass. My neck did a weird sideways crunch and it'll probably start throbbing any second! I'm lucky it didn't knock me out! I might have been seriously hurt! I'M NEVER GOING UP INTO HEADSTAND AGAIN.
So, yes, that was me. That fear and self-interrogation were shadows that stayed with me and at the end of the day, I lay my head on the pillow and said to my husband, "I'm such an amateur."
And he said, "The only way to be an amateur in this is to make a big deal out of it."
People don't practice headstand regularly because they've reached a point where they believe they will never fall again. That infallibility is not required.
They practice because they are practicing being with fear. Gradually, the fear has less and less control over them, because they are willing to coexist with it.
When Falling Is Inevitable: Toddler Life
My daughter has lately started to do a little trick that looks kind of like headstand.
She doesn't remove both feet from the floor, she just bends into a pose best described as "downward facing dog with top of head resting on floor."
I kind of hate it when she does it. Will she fall? Will she hurt her neck?
But of course she's a toddler and she's having fun. And of course she falls down every day and she couldn't care less.
What would it be like if she wasn't willing to work at something because of the presence of anxiety? If she allowed her fear of falling to control her, she would never learn anything!
But she moves on and keeps trying new things. She does what she wants. Because fear is normal. Anxiety and uncertainty are normal to her. She doesn't know any other way.
Furthermore, she is doing what's best for her. She is following her primal instinct to learn how to walk, run, climb, roll, and who knows what's next. She's learning all about what her body can and can't do.
It scares me. But her instinct to learn and to push herself in this is coming from a higher wisdom than my fear. She is expressing her pure nature as a new person.
How about you? Ready to #normalizefear?
In what areas of your life are you letting fear get the best of you? What has your movement practice (yoga or otherwise) taught you about fear? What has parenthood (or birth, or your kid) taught you about the normal-ness of fear?