On Fear & Yoga
“I love what you discovered in Floyd,” she tells me as we settle in over brunch. “A lot of it sounds kind of scary to me, but it seems like it works for you.”
I have spent a bit of time mulling over what the outside world must think looking in on this little adventure of mine. Earlier in the week I found myself in the comments section of a blog I follow, where the discussion had turned to how irresponsible and “head in the sand” a friend of a poster was being by utilizing alternative methods to heal a similar disease. I can’t say I was surprised, but a part of me was disappointed.
I can see my journey from both vantage points – outside and in. Although my last time in this kind of situation was a good 14 years ago, I know who I was and how I thought and the state of my heart and soul and despite the fact that I loved God, I hadn’t stuck the landing on trusting Him yet. The people closest to me were doctors not pastors or yogis, so it never even occurred to me that there could be something outside the boundaries of traditional Western medicine that could be of use to me. The thought literally never entered my mind.
And Western medicine worked, y’all. Chemo booted my Hodgkin’s right into remission. Sure, there were some hiccups along the way, but it worked. And that’s where I want to be clear – I don’t mean to chastise the good work done by so many researchers and health care professionals in our world. What I do mean to do, though, is to get us all to look at little closer at who is making the decisions about our health, and why our default has become to let others make the choices that only we can ever really make.
I’ve come to believe we do this for two reasons: (1) fear and (2) the simple fact that we’ve forgotten how to listen to God (or the Universe or Mother Nature or whoever it is that guides you along your path) and to ourselves.
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I get a little kick out of describing myself as a reluctant yogi. I had no interest in yoga for a very long time. I was serious about how I spent my time, and if I wasn’t moving my legal career forward I would be training for some lengthy endurance event, not sitting around stretching thank-you-very-much.
A friend finally lured me into a class, under the guise of needing people to help her log her necessary hours for her teacher training certification.
I was immediately hooked. I was also wrong about the stretching.
I have told many people that I am not sure how I would have handled the last six months (nearly seven now – where does the time go??) without two things – my yoga tribe and my recovery community.
Over the last six years, my yoga practice opened sealed-shut doors to my heart and soul, teaching me how to understand what my body and my spirit require. It started the long, slow unraveling of what others wanted me to be and began to unearth who I actually am. This was a frightening discovery in many ways - to understand that who I had become under society's tutelage was not actually who I was created to be. But it was also exhilarating. So I continued to return to my mat, again and again and again.
So imagine my surprise when I walked into the rooms and started to learn that I still had more to learn - about self care and boundaries and asking for what I need. I didn't know any of this.
Years ago I was called "emotionally stunted" by someone in my world. It took entering this space for me to understand how true that was.
But though both of those mediums, I began to understand how to clear away the external racket and listen to God and my heart. How to live from what they were telling me. How to create a life that is built on that solid foundation of my own needs and desires rather than a shifting one constructed out of the needs of dozens of other people.
This is also why I am not up and taking off to explore for an entire year. My hope is to take trips scattered over a period of eighteen months so that I can not only learn what it is that I need to learn in order to really heal, but so that I can also learn to live here – at home – in a way that will allow me to remain so. Where ever you go you will always be, and part of this for me is learning to live at home in a healthy way. Running off on a year-long adventure won't teach me that.
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Fear is the trickier animal, if you ask me. But its also my own personal kryptonite. The first time I completed a fourth-step inventory, at least 98% of my resentments and poor choices had fear at their origination. This realization that fear had motivated nearly my entire life’s worth of decision making hit me like a snowball packed with a rock in the center.
The truth is, I am scared. I am scared that I could be hearing God wrong (although, honestly, with the amount of confirmation I’ve been getting I don’t really think that’s possible) or that I am hearing Him right but what I'm picturing as the endgame isn't the same as what He has planned. I am scared that these things won’t work and that I will be back in that chemo room one day. I am scared that even after all this, there will be a recurrence. I am scared that I will never feel financially secure again.
But even more than those things, I am scared of what will happen if I don’t listen to what I am being told. Because I know if I don’t, I will undoubtedly never be healed.
I am learning that sometimes we have no choice but to push fear aside after thanking it for alerting us to what could go wrong. I do think we owe a thanks to fear – and that it can serve as an important indicator of whether or not something is really wrong. But to live solely guided by it? No.
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To ease any fears out there, I’m not running out on all these adventures alone. I’ll have someone with me or someone in the area who knows where I am. And, just to be clear, I wouldn’t climb in the back of a random van or drink tea of mysterious origin if I weren’t wrapped up in the safety of a yoga festival. I was able to do so much exploring in Floyd because it was a safe community for me to do so in. I’m not about to wander down some dark alley in the middle of RVA looking for a hidden staircase.