“So I just discovered Intent.com,” she said looking up at me from long dark lashes.
“And I found your writing,” she continued. “I found your piece about giving voice to your fears. So I wrote some of mine down.”
[Read the article here.]
I felt a smile crawl across my face. This private client is young and hungry and beautiful beyond her ability to even fathom. Her bravery never ceases to amaze me. She is about to embark on her first yoga teacher training; she just got accepted to her desired master’s program. We have been meeting with the intention of preparing her for yoga teacher training — both physically and mentally.
“Can I read you my fears?” she asked in a hushed whisper tone. She looked absolutely terrified. I could tell if I made one false move, she might bolt for the door.
“Absolutely,” I said. I steadied myself, uncrossed my legs and sat up straight. I wanted to be fully present for her. I took a deep breath. In her ever-wise ways, my young student did the same. And then she began.
The first fear came with tears. Her bottom lip was trembling. She had articulated it clearly with essential language. She wasn’t hiding anything. Her courage was astounding. Ironically, her fear centered around not being able to speak clearly and be understood. I knew it to be relevant as I had mistaken her name when I first met her. She has one of those names that has many similar derivatives. I called her by the wrong one for the first couple of weeks of knowing her. She didn’t correct me for some time. This was a good fear of hers to squelch. I could see how this would serve her well. I encouraged her to continue.
Her second fear was easier to share. She was getting more confident in this process. It was not wholly unrelated to the first fear and it is one that many young women suffer: the fear of not being taken seriously. This one was familiar. I too had suffered this one, but I was not as wise as she at her young age. I wasn’t working with the tools of awareness and integrity in quite the same manner. I knew this one wouldn’t hold much power over her for long. She only needed to see the value in what she has to offer. I gently persuaded her to go on.
The third fear was the most cliche, the most predictable, the most common. She laughed as she read it. But the laughter was an attempt to cover great, long-standing sorrow and self-loathing around this very common issue of body image. I let her release this anguish. I did not attempt to mask it. I let her see it for it’s gruesome self — a man-made demon, the product of programming and media assault, wholly and completely without merit for her or any woman.
That was it. She survived. She looked so relieved, already lighter.
“Ok,” I said. “Let’s discuss them.”
We went through each fear, point by point. We traced them back to their earliest known similar fears, memories, and origins. I explained to her the teaching’s of Eckhart Tolle in his book, A New Earth. I relayed to her the ways in which he explains a pain body and how we each have them as large, energetic masses of pain that we carry around. They start early, when we are young. Then we add to them. We build and build them until before we know it, they are making decisions for us and acting without our permission. Many people are ruled by their pain bodies — spending their time looking for misery in the outside world with which to feed it. This is why you see some people’s eyes light up when they hear of someone else’s misery. This is why some folks gravitate towards gossip and gore, rather than light and love. This practice of voicing your fears helps to dispel your pain body’s existence. If we clear these dark energetic masses, we no longer have the need to add to them or feed them.
My student was nodding. She was doing great work. She was sharing fearlessly each thing that came to mind, no matter her perceived limitations.
Fears are universal. There is no greater connection than that which we share over our fears. What’s more is that we all have a similar reaction to our fears. We do a fascinating exercise in Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga Teacher Training’s where we take the time to verbally describe our reaction to fear:
- Sweaty palms
- Increased heart rate
- Constricted throat
- Dry mouth
- Arm pits sweating
- Shallow breathing
And so forth.
Then we share these descriptors with the group at large. Some one hundred and fifty plus people share their reactions to fear. The amazing thing is: we’re all the same in our response. It’s biological. It’s the fight or flight response. It’s primal stuff. And yes, the fight or flight response is a very handy mechanism when you are actually in a life threatening situation. But that’s not what we are talking about here. We’re talking about being afraid to speak in public for fear of our inability to clearly communicate and being afraid to be seen because we have a negative body image. And no matter how terrifying that may be, we’re not going to die from it. There isn’t a dinosaur that is about to eat us. Our biological response is not appropriate for the situation. Therefore, we have the unique opportunity to begin to overcome these fears.
As we discussed these principles, my student began to perk up. She became lighter and lighter and soon, she was smiling with incandescence and ease. Once she became so effervescent, I asked her to teach (and practice) some sun salutations. She bounced up and beamed her way through them.
I offer you this practice humbly. Dis-empower your fears by exposing them to light. Darkness cannot grow in the light.