Stifling fear is a full-time job but the absence of anxiety is not happiness Avoiding the bad is missing the opportunity to overcome it overlooking the value of such satisfaction The demons that chase you are challenges to conquer so thank them for helping you grow Inviting everything in with grace and equanimity the remedy for running is simply to stop
trapped inside a groundhog day of my own design rinse and repeat for the thousandth time why not fall back into bad habits when there is nothing better to do it's tedious and troublesome but the truth is far more terrifying it's always been easier to hide behind a mind set to autopilot than to confront the chaos and uncertainty that causes me so much fear at least this way the days fly by sticking to strict schedules provides the protective illusion of control assures there are no unexpected surprises but the unexpected, the unknown that's where spontaneous joy resides as well hidden behind a writhing wall of fear and hesitation I am what's holding me back
They say that connection is an essential component of human happiness buried deep within our DNA we know we were not made to stand apart This obvious fact haunts me and hovers above my timid heart like a phobia of food and water what I fear is other people prickling skin and sweaty palms is this what happiness feels like? What a cruel, ridiculous irony to be afraid of what you need encountering so much pain alongside the brief pleasure of each pathetic attempt to belong self defeating, sinful nature I feel mostly bitterness towards my own kind I've forsaken them long ago to find refuge somewhere else I've learned to quench my thirst for connection among the dirt and dust of forest floors saying hello to passing birds the innocent caresses of angelic animals that offer me far more love than I could ever hope to have from humanity I was never proud to be a person like every one else seems to be I'd much rather place myself with those I trust and admire resting in the peace and simplicity of my true brethren in nature
that flutter in my chest never seems to settle eyes fixed on the future never find rest there is always something else looming just over the horizon a new fear always forms to take its place perching itself on my racing heart safety and peace permanently out of reach forever pushed back anxiety is a moving target that always promises you "just one more bull's eye and I'll be gone" no matter how many times I fall for this lie I'll believe it again tomorrow because it's so tempting to think that this will go away that if I can adjust my life just right I'll be able to rest
For years I've been afraid of everything I want I'm afraid to lose this sense of longing I've set a place for at my table I'm afraid it will leave me and I'm afraid that it won't When I face that inner voice of mine that's all it seems to say: I'm afraid I'm afraid I'm afraid this mantra skips and repeats etches and engraves deep marks in me flutters nervously behind my eyelids where can I go when I'm afraid of every outcome it's hard to move forward on shaking, unsteady limbs I've exhausted every effort to soothe the voice that says "unsafe" I've built up walls and barricades I've torn them down to demonstrate that I can be brave but still the deep seed of fear remains it cracks through the concrete I lay it crawls ever upward through my veins searching for the sun
fixation and focus are very different things fixation festers and ferments multiplies and consumes the subject grows until it suffocates focus is freedom from distraction submerged in the present moment the soft flow of inspiration over a thirsty soul finally silencing all inner doubt there is no comparison between the two though they seem so similar at first glance one state we chase the other chases us
when does routine become a restraint a heavy weight around your ankle dangling over the balustrade no prison more insidious than the bars built up in our minds silently erecting new walls each day to box us into smaller and smaller spaces somedays it's a revelation to realize I'm the warden that these limitations have been self imposed the power of self-possession is a perplexing puzzle to ponder the overwhelming responsibility of deciding my own destiny the never ending balancing act between benefit and burden mind numbing monotony and clumsy chaos learning to trust those internal cues telling you it's time for change instead of stuffing myself into stifling rituals that no longer serve me resisting the endless cycle of inner evolution it's so scary to let go of what's carried you this far even once you begin to drown it's so tempting to keep pretending that perfection can be reached if you keep pushing I'm still learning how to leave the sinking ship before it hits rock bottom to take notice of the decent and bravely face the bitter cold of unknown waters once again
there is no peace for a heart hunted down by phantom fears what you seek will soon be found magnified, multiplied lungs filled with flowers dark and haunted hovels iridescent crystals of consciousness each frame of reality a microcosm of unending eternity selections from innumerable fractals of possibility manifested as moments focus, focus, focus fear, death, joy, and love are equally present in everything don't be afraid of the uncertainty that engulfs you it is the soft caress of the brutal, boiling sun that sets you free
I recently read that one of the most important tips given to new race car drivers is, “whatever you do, don’t look at the wall.” When I heard this, it immediately reminded me of one of my very first practice driving sessions with my mom when I was a teenager. As I was driving 25mph down a street in my dinky little home town, my sister yells out from the back seat for us to look at a house to our right. Without thinking, I turn my head to look. In just that one split second, turning my attention away from the road and just to the side, I had swerved the car and nearly driven up onto the sidewalk. Whether you realize it or not, where you place your focus is the direction you are heading.
We say something similar when teaching arm balances in yoga. In teacher training when we practiced cues for bakasana (crow pose) we were told to always make sure to emphasize the importance of our gaze. If you look straight down between your hands as you try to lower your body’s weight forward onto the backs of the arms, you’re inevitably going to tumble forward and possibly hit your head on the floor. The trick is to look a few inches ahead of you. Looking forward, but not down. Our gaze is a reflection of our focus and intention and a reminder of how important these things are.
I think these physical examples are an excellent demonstration of how this same principle applies in more abstract matters. If you look at the wall, you’ll hit the wall. If you look at the floor below you, that’s where you’re going. If you focus on the potential problems or possible ways you might fail, that is where you’re going to find yourself in the future. It seems so obvious when I think about it in this context.
My anxiety is always directing me to the worse possible outcome. It would be great if I were able to print out a pie graph of my mental energy expenditure from day to day. I’d be willing to bet that 90% of my thoughts are about what I’m afraid of or what could go wrong. Even when things usually go pretty well for me, I always immediately find the next fear to latch onto as soon as one disappears. Somehow my brain convinces itself that it is doing this to keep me safe. And to a certain extent, it is smart to contemplate obstacles that may come up and how we can deal with them in the event that they do. However, this is not really what my anxiety is doing. It’s not coming up with calm, rational contingency plans. It’s telling me that the experience will be inherently stressful and traumatizing and trying to find a way to avoid it all together.
It’s really helpful for me to remember the real life examples of the way our focus determines our experience and even has an influence on future outcomes. Yoga gives us ample opportunities to practice these principles before putting them into action in other areas of our lives. Getting into an arm balance is scary. You’re quite likely to fall down the first few times you try. But if we focus on that fear or how it feels to fall and hurt ourselves, we’re never going to master bakasana! Focus on what’s in front of you. Focus on where you want to be or what you want to see happen. If you focus on falling you’re going to fall or perhaps never let yourself try in the first place.
Realizing and reminding myself that my focus on fear is not helping me to avoid it, but instead propelling me toward it, is exactly where I need to begin. Normally when I contemplate shifting my thoughts to the positives and letting go of my anxiety about any given situation, I become afraid that by not looking at the scary bits, they’ll sneak up on me or something. It’s like trying to keep your eyes on a spider at the corner of your room so that it won’t suddenly appear on your arm. But what if staring at that spider was an invitation for it to come over to you? You’d probably keep yourself busy with whatever you’re doing and leave it alone.
It’s time for me to start giving my energy to the good things in life that I want to create, not the parts that I want to avoid. If I focus on the good, I’ll naturally move past or through the obstacles in due time. When I let myself focus on only the scary parts of life, that is all I’m going to experience, whether my fears come to fruition or not. I’ll have already lived the worst of them out in my mind anyway. It’s okay to let myself think about the good things that might happen too or the things I hope will happen. It’s safe to let myself be happy. It’s safe to imagine a future full of positivity and light. In fact, that’s the first step towards manifesting that future.
silencing the inner chatter to hear the soft hum of celestial wisdom lifting myself above the tumultuous tides of my own mistaken mind finding stillness in the radio static of consciousness to tune in to the salient source of everything surrendering the obsession for contemplating complex patterns in favor of opening to the energy trying to be channeled in life's challenge is a sweet irony a call to remember what we are amidst the chaos of time and space to pause long enough to transcend them humbling ourselves to the unknowable truth to trust in forces we cannot control to be guided by an unseen hand down a foggy, confused path learning to mirror the beauty of faith reflected back in the eyes of the innocent by the joyous confidence of children and small beings with blindly open hearts our trust will not be betrayed only the temptation to doubt will mislead us even so we are never lost only learning new lessons