That moment you realize you are way up in the air.
You have one last move, and it’s a big move! You know you shouldn’t look down, but you do. And that’s when fear kicks in.
Thoughts and emotions are ramping up, your heart is beating out of your chest and your hands are clamtastically (I swear this is a word) sweaty! You think to yourself, ‘oh shit, oh shit!’
And because you hesitated and didn’t trust in your abilities, fear took over like a raging storm. All you had was ONE move and the top was yours! But instead you climbed back down, shaking, tail between your legs, frustrated and upset.
You attempt a second, a third and fourth time -- each time you fail and each time fear wins?
Why did I let my fear win? Why was my fear so powerful that I lost site of my capabilities. I doubted myself because I simply didn’t believe that if I attempted to make that move I would succeed. You see, I took one look at the top, literally an arm’s length away and in that moment of hesitation I choked. I truly believed I couldn’t make it!
Why? I know I am strong and capable, was it fear that stopped me or was it my self-doubt, my inner critic saying, “You can’t do this Sara.” Was it my fear of failing, of hurting myself, of being too weak?
Perhaps all of the above, but fear is not the problem, nor the obstacle; it’s the thought process, the self doubt, the overthinking that comes after fear kicks in. I find myself no longer in the moment. I have jumped into the future by anticipating what I think I can-not do even though I haven’t even tried.
I climb because it scares me, it challenges me, it makes feel strong and it takes me to my edge – an edge that can be frightening as fuck!
But through all of that, I feel so embodied as I scale up, down and across the wall.
And every time I encounter fear, I say, “Hello good friend.”
I have come to realize fear is not my enemy but my alley. Why do I fear? I fear because I doubt and don’t trust. I don’t believe in myself sometimes and fear is there to remind me, to wake me up and shake me back into a place of trusting and believing.
“Sara, if you can get yourself into this you sure as hell can get yourself out of it!” So I fail, but does failing mean I miss out on the things that scare me, that make me fearful?
In moments of fear, I now pause, take a very deep breath in and tell my self-deprecating thoughts to shut the hell up! If I fail it doesn’t matter. I will get up and try again and again!
Every attempt I learn something new about my body and how it moves across the wall. With every attempt I gain more confidence, I begin to develop a greater understanding and knowledge of my body in relationship to the boulder problem (the name for a route in bouldering). I will make it to the top but it might take many fails to get there.
Thich Nhat Hanh says it beautifully, “Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones”.
How do we stop ourselves from being fearful?
The thing is, we don’t and we can’t. Why would we want fear to go away! Fear is a human experience.
Fear does not have to govern you or prevent you from doing the things that scare you. Fear is not asking you to stop!
Rather, as we begin to see fear as a cheerleader, a teacher that is offering you in those scary moments some real nuggets of wisdom. Fear challenges you to listen, to believe in your abilities and to trust the fierce person you are!
The reason I am sharing my story about fear is because, I witness so many yoga students feeling guilty or ashamed when they practice postures that trigger experiences of fear in the classroom. When we’re afraid to acknowledge and feel our fears, it only makes things worse. Instead of feeling defeated or unable, I invite you to use the yoga room as the perfect place to witness your fears and become more skillful at working through them.
When we are working out of our comfort zone, fear is bound to arise. Rather then letting fear get the best of you and giving up, take a very deep breath, step back and assess, ask yourself what are you fearful of?
Try changing the narrative. Instead of trying to live a “fearless” life, try to live a life where we can understand, manage, and respond to our fears with greater compassion and skill. I’m under no illusion that our fears will permanently go away. I am, however, optimistic that the more we work with our fears the less it will control our unconscious behavior.
I leave you with this…
F.E.A.R has two meanings – Forget Everything And Run OR Face Everything and Rise.
The choice is yours.