Letting go of Fear

Fear is part of our autonomic nervous system and is needed for our survival. Imagine what would happen if we were not afraid of a huge elephant running towards us. There is an old Indian story/myth displaying this very idea, where after much work a man has no fear left and he doesn’t move out of the way of the a huge elephant coming through the village. The villagers tell him he must run out of the way, but he says over and over “Its ok I have no fear”, no need to explain what happened! So we need fear to keep us safe in the world. However, not all fears are helpful to us.

Yoga helps us to let go of fears from past wounds that may get in our way of living a life of freedom. These fears from past trauma are stored in the body, in our very cells not just in our memories. We have also been taught to fear certain things; we also have fears passed on from our ancestors. Yoga is an act of kindness on oneself, it helps us to understand ourselves more. We can start to see that many of the fears we have are imagined in our mind and are part of the story we tell about ourselves. These fears may hold us back from reaching our full infinite potential. Fear from previous experience can continue to get overlapped onto a new experience. This can keep repeating itself repeatedly our whole life until we work with it. There are other ways we can work with fears, such as Counselling; talking therapy.

Yogi’s work at being unbound by anything especially fear. There are many ways in yoga we can work with this; on the mat, we may face fear, meditation, and self-inquiry. Yoga Nidra and lucid dreaming, to name a few. Over time we learn to let go of the stories we may tell ourselves; we are not good enough, not smart enough, pretty or successful enough, etc. We can examine these thoughts and ask ourselves “Is this story true” this takes courage, openness, and honesty. Tuning to the truth (Satya) is at the forefront of yoga ethics. 

One of the disciplines in yoga is called Tapas, which can translate to - heat or fire, fire, fire is transformational. One of my teachers says it’s fiery determination, which is needed for anything we want to succeed at in life, when you have that giving up is never an option.  So, Tapas can mean doing something difficult to make your mind stronger. You can work with fear this way; it must be on an individual level we are al different. Everyone is afraid of something, big or small. Some people are afraid to talk up. Some people fear the silence of being quiet, so they can’t stop talking. The person who is afraid to express themselves learns to open their voice and speak their truth. The person that has too much to say learns by the practise of silence (mouna) not to keep filling the void that may make them feel uncomfortable, they learn to let others speak and not be afraid just to listen.

It’s the 20th December, writing this blog post comes to me through lucid dreaming after my second hospital appointment regarding my broken ankle.

So here’s where this blog about Letting go of Fear was being born - 

Ten days after I broke my ankle I’m back at the fracture clinic bring assessed for what’s next. As I wait, I’m aware that I have started to recreate the scene of my accident. I can feel the fear creeping in. They cut off my temporary plaster that was put on until the swelling went down. My mind is replaying the scene; it’s as if my plaster is my black boot the ambulance man cut off in my house when the accident happened. In my mind, I’m aware that I’m now almost seeing my twisted, misshapen foot. They take the plaster off, and my foot looks different and is very painful and swollen but not twisted and misshapen like before. My mind is playing tricks with me. They attempt to put me in a boot, but my ankle is screaming, they give up as there is just too much pain, too much swelling. They put me in a sparkly plaster which will stay on for three weeks. Sparkly Christmas glitter plaster is on offer for one week only at I’m told! Well, that’s a bonus at least it like fun!

After special X-rays to see if my bones will stay together when I stand on both feet 50/50 I return to the Trauma Doctor. He tells me my bones are healing well and I can start to slowly and lightly weight bear on my toes… “WHAT,” my mind says?  The fear yet again.  I tell him I don’t feel good about this; we chat for a while about what I must do to get strong again. When I arrive back home with new my sparkly plaster, I rest for a bit leg higher than the heart. Later, I must get up and try what the DR has told me. I know I must navigate my path without fear.  

I’ve worked with fear a lot since becoming a yoga teacher I know it’s guises well, worry, heart racing, heat coming in, the anxiety, the panic.  Over the last ten years I’ve worked with many things I’m afraid of including the fear of death, most peoples biggest fear, yogi’s seek to irradicate this. Being at the bedside watching my Mother die from lung disease nine years ago was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, feeling helpless, death terrified me. One of the lighter things I have worked with was fear of headstand I was terrified of falling. Finally, one teacher suggested I use this as my Tapas to make my mind stronger she said: “When you are telling yourself you will fall, reverse it”. When you are about to go up into headstand, tell yourself - “I can do this”… To my surprise, it worked! So, with the new way of gentle weight bearing on the toes of the broken ankle, I did this same thing. I stood still for some moments, breathing into the present moment and told myself there was nothing to fear and I could go it and did it. I will not say it’s didn't hurt at all, but not like the imaged pain. The imagined fear was telling me it would not be possible.

Many people spend their lives fearing what people think of them. What they say, how they look. How you look seems to more important now than how you are inside. The world has become such a false place with Facebook Twitter Instagram. Yoga is a beautiful practice to help you become more self-confident to live the life you want to live, a life of more freedom.  Not the life that someone else thinks you should live. Slowly like the sea changes the shape of our coastlines, yoga washes away our fears to reveal what the yogis say is our essential nature. We have only one life, and it’s short. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and have regrets of what I could have been or could have done. 

The guru’s say Practise. Practise. Practise all is coming… I keep the faith; I keep practising.

Everything we do is a choice. We can live a life of fear or courage, what will you choose?

Vivien Row