Cruising Instagram for the umpteenth time yesterday, I came across this quote:
“You know all of those things you’ve always wanted to do? You should go do them.”
Meant to be inspiring—to light a fire under my ass to go and live my heart’s desires, fueled by a passion for adventure—quotes like that actually have the opposite effect on me.
Instead of invoking a “Carpe Diem” attitude of hope and inspiration, I’m overwhelmed with anxiety and stabbing pangs of fear that I actually won’t go and do all of the things I’ve always wanted to do.
Which is a completely irrational fear based on an illusion that causes absolutely real emotional and physical discomfort.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve lived with the fear that there’s not enough time, followed closely by the fear that I don’t (or won’t) have enough money, neither of which have ever been an immediate or legitimate threat. Rather, I have a strong association with what the yogis call karma mala.
Malas are like veils that keep us from experiencing the world as our true nature.
Karma mala in particular is the veil that creates the illusion that there is not enough time, resources or ability to accomplish and do all of the things that need to be done, hence anxiety, fear and distress.
What I’ve always wanted to do is travel.
I’m not talking a vacation or two a year, but to really travel: to see the world, to visit places most people don’t. To stay put for months at a time in a fairly remote location, living as simply as possible immersed in whatever local culture I find myself in. So why don’t I? I know plenty of people all over the world who have done just that. Who would look at me and say, “Just go.”
Like it’s that easy.
I admire those folks who appear to live so freely and so courageously, with seemingly little worry for the future. Instead of backpacking in my 20s, I got my master’s degree.
I moved to Los Angeles, started teaching and built a portfolio of private clients; I published two books; I worked to establish myself as a professional yoga teacher and writer. Still, the desire to live a more bohemian lifestyle in a tropical location continued to gnaw at my heartstrings.
The thing about desires, true desires, is that they don’t go away.
They remain tucked away in the damp cave of our hearts. Leave them unattended and our hearts will grow heavy; cultivate them and our hearts, our entire being, will be more vibrant.
Desire is nothing more than the energy of life pulsating through you. According to Tantra philosophy, you are here because consciousness, The goddess Shakti desired to experience herself in hundreds of thousands of different ways so she manifested the entire world of duality.
Desire is the reason life exists.
It wasn’t that I was ignoring my desires to see the world, I thought and dreamed about them constantly; however, there has always been these feelings of severe doubt. I’m one of those people who must know how. Give me a list of clear steps to take toward accomplishing something and I’m all over it.
If I can’t map out exactly how I’m going to make something happen, I have a hard time resting assured that it will actually come to fruition.
It’s an issue of faith, my lack of trust, and I’m working on it (damn that karma mala).
In the meantime I started doing what I could do to make this traveling thing a reality. Aside from crafting a number of vision boards, I’m building my online presence and I’ve started leading my own yoga retreats. I also have a partner with the same dream, so it no longer feels quite as daunting.
Remarkably, or rather accordingly, as soon as I started taking steps toward making my dreams happen, opportunities manifested.
And so did a whole new set of fears.
No longer afraid I won’t get to live the life I’ve always wanted to live, I’m afraid to go through with it. Right now I know what my life looks like. I know what steps I’m to take and the direction I’m headed. If I cease the opportunity to live and work abroad, my entire life will change. Who knows if, or even how, it’s all going to work out? I’m facing the great unknown. And, quite frankly, I’m terrified.
There’s a passage on fear in “The Breath of God” by Swami Chetananda, in which he says,
“Fear lies at the very foundation of what I call the mantra of stupidity: What’s going to happen to me?”
He goes on to explain that fear is a contraction of energy. That I knew. What I never considered was that, “Into the space created because of the contraction, every kind of illusion will arise”—which is evident given the arsenal of screaming fears in my head, doing everything in their power to convince me to stay put, to play it safe.
It’s utterly maddening. To have wanted something for so long, only to be completely terrified it might actually come true? But isn’t that the way it goes?
Intuitively we know that whatever it is, whatever our deepest desires are, that their fulfillment changes everything. On one hand, it’s scary to think you may never fulfill your dreams, on the other, we have no idea what will become of us once our dreams are realized, or as Swami Chetananda points out, what we will become.
Fear is a mechanism of the ego designed to keep us playing small. However, contraction is the precursor to expansion.
Knowing that, if we could just soften a little bit, acknowledge the illusions that fear generates and consciously decide to override them, there’s tremendous expansion to be had. In order to do that, the desire to grow must take hold.
We have to want to grow so intensely that there’s no other choice than to conquer what scares us the most.
While on Instagram, I also came across this quote:
“Your largest fear carries your greatest growth.”
It’s the law of the universe after all: The larger the contraction, the greater the expansion.
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