Fear messages seem to be everywhere in our world right now. Fear creates separation from others. It creates self-doubt and judgement. It creates the need to hold on, control and grip. That is, if we let fear in the driver seat of our vehicle of life.
This is where the practices of yoga fit so perfectly as the ultimate goal of yoga is self-transformation, moving from the unreal (prakriti) to the real (purusha). Fear is rooted in stories that aren’t the truth or is the anticipation of the future that we perceive as negative or is our mind-body system reacting from the past.
Fear itself is not “bad.” It is an emotion, a reaction from our mind-body system. Where it takes over is when we interpret this reaction as ‘the truth.’ When our reaction to this emotion is ‘this doesn’t feel good’ and we start to avoid and do what we can to get away from it, this is when fear starts to take over our lives and we feel powerless and stuck. If we are aware of it, choose to lean into it, explore it, learn from it and make a conscious choice about what to do with it, this is when fear gets put in its rightful place as a passenger in our vehicle of life. We are then empowered, rather than powerless.
The practices of yoga, whether doing asana, pranayama, meditation, chanting, etc., all offer the opportunity to go inward and cultivate awareness, invite inquiry and exploration and make conscious choices. When you are in a yoga pose, let’s say utkatasana, do you notice sensations in the body, explore what happens if you make little changes in position and notice the breath and thoughts while in this pose? Do you take time to have breathing practices and time to sit in silence as part of your yoga practice? These tools, when practiced regularly, have immense power in moving from a fear-based mindset to a love based mindset.
And chanting a mantra … WOW! Just like singing your favorite song, chanting a mantra can open up the heart to be filled with love. I highly recommend trying it!
Love. When we are in more of a love based mindset, there isn’t much room for fear. Love connects us to other humans, other beings on this earth. It opens the heart for empathy and compassion. We are more willing to be kind to those we pass on the street and stop to help a neighbor. It builds community and community brings support in the rough patches life will most definitely bring, then allows us to help those who are going through their own rough patches. Love helps us see all the amazing similarities we have, rather than just seeing the differences. It helps us to focus on the amazing abundance in life, rather than focusing on lack.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras are specifically about this path of moving from constant fluctuations of the mind (distractions) to a more steady and calm mind.
“Disease, dullness, doubt, carelessness, laziness, sensuality, false perception, failure to reach firm ground, slipping from the ground gained — these distractions of the mind-stuff are the obstacles.”
~ Sri Swami Sachidananda, “The Yogi Sutras of Patanjali”
“By cultivating friendliness toward the happy, compassion for the unhappy, delight in the virtuous, and disregard toward the wicked, the mind-stuff remains its undisturbed calmness.”
~ Sri Swami Sachidananda, “The Yogi Sutras of Patanjali”
The practice of yoga that moves us more and more inward, more and more to calm and stillness, helps the mind become more and more steady. My yoga teacher, Prasad Rangnekar, states that, “It’s not the 30 minutes that you meditate that are important. It’s how you are in the rest of the 23.5 hours you aren’t sitting in stillness.” I take this to mean that what we practice on the mat or the cushion is then to guide us in how to practice being when we are engaged in life. Yoga is a lifestyle.
To truly move from fear to love, from a life that divides to a life that unites, working towards yoga as a lifestyle is a must. If you do an hour long asana class and feel calm, at peace and loving, then get in your car and start cursing in anger at the first person who cuts you off, are you in a love based mindset? Just because you can do the most amazing inversion pose or balance pose, does not mean you are enlightened or transformed if you go out into the world with an unsettled mind that is distracted with judgment, self-entitlement and anger.
Being a yogi is committing to doing whatever necessary to move towards love and unity with what is true or permanent. Here are a few simple, yet power practices to do throughout your day that can help with this if practiced daily:
- Create your own sankalpa or self-intention/affirmation that you use daily, for at least a year. Yes, the same statement for a year…see what happens!
- Take responsibility! Notice your reactions and explore them. What is underlying them? Do this instead of blaming. When you notice yourself blaming other people or situations, most likely it’s actually because of our own perception.
- Focus on abundance! Notice what is going well and what you do have. We have been conditioned, especially in America, to focus on what we can do better, to be the best.The thing is, we can’t all be the best. And why should we? Work towards things being ‘good enough’ and enjoy what life has to offer rather than trying to keep reaching towards an outcome and create more stress in life. Celebrate each morning that you are given another day to work towards living a more love-based life.
- Challenge yourself to be thankful for “the bad.” Every experience in life is an opportunity to grow and learn, especially the challenges. As I write this, I have had a month where life has wreaked havoc on my body in a number of ways. Yes, I’ve had moments where I’ve been low. In those moments, because of my yoga practice, I have been able to lean into those low moments, be self-compassionate and actually see how the body challenges are teachers helping me to grow. www.self-compassion.org has many wonderful practices about this and being kind to ourselves.
- Surround yourself by like-minded people! Go find those people out there who are also striving towards a more love-based mindset. This is building community and when you need inspiration or a pick me up, you’ll have people there who are more than willing to do just that. “Be picky about who you keep around you. Personalities, words and traits do rub off naturally.” ~ Sonya Teclai
Remember, these are all practices, not perfects. Keep at it and you will see yourself move from fear to love more and more. Fear divides and love unites!