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Something Bigger Than Fear

Yesterday I posted the above photo to Facebook and Instagram. A friend at my yoga class took it. Before class started I was telling her that I had started a photo-a-day project on January 1st. My teacher overheard and suggested we take a photo of me in handstand with the lights above me.

I loved this idea.

We got the angles right and the camera ready. My teacher told me to kick up, and then she said she was going to let go of my feet.

I responded before she had finished speaking: No. Don’t let go.

I told her I didn’t want her to let go because of my back. I hurt it somehow last week and was afraid that if I jerked wrong it would get worse. She understood. We took the photo, and shortly after, class began.

During class my teacher spoke about how what’s going on in our yoga practice is often related to something that’s going on in our lives, and vice versa. She gave the example of how when she really began opening her heart in her relationships, her chest and shoulders also opened in her yoga practice.

I nodded along while she spoke, knowing I’ve experienced similar effects. On we went with class, and on I went with the rest of my night.

Then this morning, my coach and mentor posted this comment to my Facebook photo: “Middle of the room is VERY different from the safety of the side. So empowering. A metaphor for life.”

And then, as it does sometimes, it all hit me at once. I remembered what my yoga teacher said the night before and saw the connection between my yoga practice and my life.

My fear of leaving “the safety of the side” in yoga is also my fear in my life right now. I’m in a situation that is safe, comfortable, and for the most part, predictable. I’ve been here for a while. I’ve had a wall to lean against, and all of the other yogis to hide among.

But it’s also dull, monotonous, and constricting.

Many years ago I went to Cabo San Lucas with my then boyfriend. While there, we signed up for a snorkeling afternoon. There was a hurricane in the Gulf then, so even though it was July, the temperature was chilly and so was the water.

I’d always wanted to try snorkeling, but had been afraid. I’m claustrophobic, so though there are no enclosed spaces involved with snorkeling, the thought of wearing the mask and breathing under water had always seemed like the equivalent of being trapped in a box underground.

I remember shivering in the water that day, and being beaten around by the waves. My boyfriend and the rest of the group had swum up ahead. I was near the shore, trying to muster the courage to leave it.

At one point my boyfriend stopped and turned around to wait for me. I don’t know what switched in me just then. I just remember thinking, “I don’t want to not do this because I’m afraid.” So I put the tube in my mouth, put my head in the water, and kicked off.

I went at my own pace, and was apprehensive the entire time. Despite the gray clouds and the wind above water, everything was beautiful and calm below. But what I will always remember about that day is the moment when I chose something bigger than fear.

It was a rare moment of bravery that doesn't come around all that often. Especially now—when it's time to move away from the safety of the wall.

The truth is that yesterday I was probably ready to do handstand without an assist. But fear got the best of me, and I used my tweaky back as an excuse.

I also have lots of excuses for my life. I can tell you what I want to do next and immediately tell you all the reasons why I also can’t.

It’s scary for sure.

Out in the middle of the room there’s only one or two other yogis. There is nothing to lean on. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I might lose my balance and fall over. Or I might actually maintain the pose, and just be freestanding in the middle of the room. Which is actually the scariest outcome, because after that, anything can happen.

But staying at the wall is scary too, because the longer I stay there, the harder it is to leave. And I know it’s actually keeping me from reaching my full potential.

And like Cabo, I don’t want to not do something because I’m afraid. I want to find the thing that's bigger than my fear. Because nothing is really safe. Or maybe everything is. Either way, this is my choice: stay at the wall, or start kicking up in the middle of the room.

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