Fear and pain are life’s greatest teachers:
We have all known fear, it’s unavoidable and it comes in many forms. Primal fear, fear for our life is actually quite rare and yet our modern lives have forced us into a constant state of hypervigilance. The stream of hormones required for our body and brain to be on high alert are seemingly constantly flooding us transforms our fear thoughts into fear scenarios. The monsters in our minds are interpreted by our chemistry as monsters in our real world. This is the root of so much of our suffering. Humans cling to the physical world, we suffer because we are afraid of losing what we have and not getting what we want. At the heart of this is expectation, attachment. When I first opened the yoga studio in Columbus I had this naive belief that it would easily succeed. The location on Bethel and 315, in the heart of the Northwest of Columbus was PERFECT, nobody else was there! Fear and pain set in quickly when it became apparent that it would take more than everything I had to really build the community I dreamed of. Fear was in play and I had an option, I could give up or I could dig in. The days of panic and anxiety did absolutely nothing, my yoga tools were more important than ever. I dug into my meditations, I got clear with myself and I cultivated my relationships. First and most paramount was the relationship to myself and what I really wanted, Then to my children, what was it I wanted to show them? Then to my intimate relationships, how am I being of service? Then to my community, what more can I provide? I was planting seeds of intention and through this my fear subsided, my anxiety diminished and I reconnected to the primary purpose of yoga, connection. My fears were unfounded but nonetheless my thoughts gave them life, gave them form and until I reconnected to purpose and community I couldn’t see it. But without this fear experience I never would have been compelled to reach out, to try, to change, to work, to grow; my fear taught me to act and in this fear scenario, it did indeed teach me.
The power of fear and pain is that they push you to GROW, it will either force you to reach out or cause you to withdraw. In order to stop the unrelenting discomfort you must move forward, the only way out is through. Fear will teach you that your mind has little to do but make up stories, our culture has forced us into thinking that responsible people are fearful, that worry is caring, that anxiety means you are problem solving. Our conditioning has put us in a constant state of hypervigilance. The greatest thing fear can teach us, if we’re open to the lesson is that, it is not a preventative measure. All the fear in the world will not keep “bad” things from happening, what it will cause is a cascade of chemical responses in our bodies, it will cause us to hesitate when we need to act, it will cause us to resist when we need to release. Yoga and meditation guide us into the knowing that our emotions, our thoughts aren’t real and if we allow it, they will keep us from experiencing life in real time, they will block us from our bliss. The work here is to remember the truth.
Sit quietly and first connect to the nature of your breath, simple and unmanipulated, notice the cadence of it, connect to that simplicity. Find ease with it, see that it sustains and supports you, recognize all that it has already carried you through. Find the rhythm. Now dare to call up your greatest fear. Witness it, see what thoughts and sensations arise, let them wash over you, let it swell, let grow, let it loom as large as you imagine. Stay with it, feel your body respond, what is that like? Witness now your ability to breath right through it, connect to the deeper, more calm, unabiding rhythm that exists underneath. THIS is your true nature.
Pain will teach you about strength and resilience, it shows up in many forms. The physical experience of pain in the form of injury or illness is obvious. Then there are the nuances of pain, the kind of pain that resides deeper than your tissue, this pain is cellular, it’s soul deep. This ineffable pain is so often the source of our deepest addictions, our most damaging habits and cyclical behaviors, beyond our comprehension. Pain along a spectrum leads us to protect ourselves to varying degrees. It’s these mechanisms that block the very path of healing. We protect ourselves from the medicine we need in an effort to resist accessing the source of our struggle. We become so entrenched in this pain we identify ourselves by it, and THIS is soul sickness. When we can no longer see ourselves without the pain, without the fear, it becomes our master status. This is an epidemic, we are, on a global level, soul sick.
Practice connection, reach out to people loved ones and strangers alike. How we show up in community can change lives, kindness transforms pain into a point of connection and compassion. Today, reach out to those around you and express your love, witness those around you and see, in real time, their pain and yours subside.
The remedy is seeing the path through, taking the lesson but shedding the guilt and shame that would blanket us from the growth. You are NOT your fears or your pain, you are the stronger and wiser energy that emerges from them.