There was once a time in my life when I was paralyzed with fear. Fear of strangers, fear of new experiences, fear of the unknown. I was painfully shy. I am still haunted by the memory of the day my mother made me order my own meal at McDonald’s for the first time. Rather than simply telling the girl at the counter what I wanted, instead I thought it would be a better idea to burst into tears. To teach me a lesson, my mother refused to place my order on my behalf, and I went hungry that day. (In retrospect I should have been grateful for the opportunity to NOT eat McDonald’s. Thanks, Mom.)
I somehow made it through my elementary school years with little incident, and continued to avoid strangers at all costs. I lived a “safe” and sheltered lifestyle – piano lessons, a few close friends, good grades. I never did anything out of the ordinary. Yet, my life took a turn in my early years of high school. My parents enrolled me in a program to travel to Mexico to build houses for the less fortunate. When I heard about the news, I was furious. Why hadn’t they considered consulting with me first? I didn’t understand why I had to waste my summer camping in the desert, of all things, when all my friends would be hosting pool parties and having fun. In the days before my departure, my anxiety began to mount. I didn’t know anybody, and it would be the first time I had traveled somewhere new without the aid of my parents. How would I survive? What if something were to happen? What would I do?
Although it took some time for me to adjust, the trip turned out to be a life-changing experience. I met people that taught me more than I had ever learned from my friends back at home. I discovered new things about myself: I was able to do things on my own, and make a positive contribution to society. I came back a little more independent, a little more mature, and a little more human.
So often, I think that it is our fears that prevent us from becoming the people we are meant to be. Trying yoga for the first time can certainly be a daunting experience. Many people have a preconceived notion of yoga as a group of women clad head-to-toe in lululemon, bending their legs behind their heads and chanting strange mantras. My first time trying yoga, I remember approaching the front desk of the studio cautiously, unsure of the procedure. Was I supposed to say, “One yoga class, please”? What if I couldn’t follow the instructions properly? What if I wasn’t flexible enough, or strong enough? What if I looked…stupid? What would everyone else think? Fortunately, I made it through class that day, and I’ve been hooked ever since.
In the end, it is when we face our fears that we become better people. Just as going to Mexico changed my life, that first time trying yoga has drastically altered the course I thought I had set for myself. I never would have guessed that I would be a yoga teacher today.
All it takes is one step, one risk to truly make a difference.
I took a workshop with Max Strom several months ago that really influenced the way I see the world. He told us that little changes over time alter the course of our lives a great deal. If – standing at a fixed point – you set a destination ten miles ahead of you and walk in a straight line, you will reach your destination. If you move just three inches to the left or the right of this fixed point and walk in a straight line, you will miss the mark by a great deal. So, what did I learn today? I learned that perhaps life isn’t always walking the path we think we are destined to. Perhaps it is about having the courage to take that first step to the left.