Fear: how do you live your life?

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Fear. We all have it.

It helps us. Sometimes. When you’re in a dark alley and you see a man with a long trenchcoat running towards you and your adrenaline kicks in and causes you to fly away. Totally helping you. Good fear.

For many years of my life I lived under its guardianship. Fear watched over me. Helped me make my choices. Was my voice of reason.  Helped me stay in the same job for 13 years, live in the same apartment, eat the same foods over and over again. It helped me stay in a rut. It helped me stay depressed. Bad fear. Cape Fear.

Lately the word fear has been popping up more than usual so I though I ought to pay it a visit.

I was in a yoga class last weekend with my mentor and teacher Annie Carpenter, and she had us all in navasana (boat pose) for a verrry looong time. We all started to shake. I started to get angry. Then she started talking about fear. She asked us to identify a fear that we had previously had in our lives which we had conquered. Still in boat pose. I started thinking. Then it hit me like a ton of navasanas. I had conquered my fear of gaining weight.

There I said it. Many people know this about me but I have never officially written about it or announced it on paper. Of course, it was not simply a fear of just gaining weight, but to simplify it, I’ll call it that. I was, for many years, in the throes of a bad eating disorder. Still in boat pose, I realized I had transcended the darkest, hardest years of my life. I felt like I could stay in navasana forever with this newfound realization.

Annie was saying how fear protects us at times but when it stops us from playing and living then it no longer serves us. Or something like that.  We were still in still in boat pose at this point…and here I was lost in my own newfound revelation, so I wasn’t exactly getting everything word for word.

I became severely anorexic when I was 17 years old after a doctor told me that if I wanted my breasts smaller, (they caused me a lot of unwanted attention and discomfort back then) I should just lose five pounds. (If I could go back in time and shake him uncontrollably for saying that, I would. Although I know it really wasn’t his fault. Even if it was a crappy thing to tell a teenage girl.) That was the exact moment I went home and made a list of all the foods I would and would not eat. Up until that point I had never exercised and I ate cheese steaks and TastyCakes. A lot. I’m from Philly. I quickly lost five pounds. Then 10. then 20.

Then I kept going.

Many years of my life were lived under a blanket of fear. I exercised four hours a day.  I was terrified to gain weight because I finally felt I could control what was happening around me and inside of me through my weight.

Cliché? I know.

I had a fear that people would stop asking me “Are you ill? ”  It made me feel like I stood out. Like I was special. When someone told me I looked “healthy,” I panicked. (I know that this is hard to believe for the people who know me now, especially my students. I am so at ease with my self these days).

Well, here I am in boat pose still in Annie’s class last Sunday at Exhale in Venice, realizing all of this. I am at ease. I have released a huge debilitating fear. Finally. For the most part.

Of course, during times of stress, the eating disorder rears its ugly head. I never worry about what truly is the matter, such as, let’s say: getting married or letting go of a waitressing job I had for 13 years or my nephew having Prader Willi Syndrome. But rather, it becomes simply “I am fat.” My brain takes the path of least resistance, what it knows best. Much as the body will do. That is the old tape it knows.

This happens rarely.

I have, for the most part, conquered this thing that had such a clutch on me.

So here I am in boat pose, shaking like a dog, and I realize I have conquered this fear. This is huge. Finally we come out of the pose and I get a little teary-eyed. I start to feel sad for all the years I let this fear rule my life. What was the fear truly of?

It’s so dark and ugly. I mistakenly thought my self-worth was my appearance. Now, as a teacher of yoga, with so many beautiful young girls coming to me, I recognize the same thing in them. I know them immediately. Perhaps they recognize me as well. I somehow got programmed to believe that what I looked like signified who I was. Inside.

There is nothing farther from the truth. Nowadays, I feel such a deep love for who I am inside that it never even crosses my mind to think people even notice my weight or my face. How can it be so complicated? I am not, nor was I ever, a shallow person. I know better. And yet, for 15 years I battled this idea.

I was also terribly afraid to deal with life. With feeling or loss responsibility or death. When my stepfather died, 10 years after my father had passed away, I just ran. I went out to Cooper River Park in Pennsauken, New Jersey. and ran for over two hours straight. There, all better.

Not quite. It never works that way. Even if we want it to.

The pain and the feelings are still there, we have just distracted ourselves. Maybe fear is just a big distraction?

My sister said something savvy tonight. I love my sister. She said, “Ha. An article on fear? I could write that one in my sleep.”  (She could.)

As much as she has an innumerable amount of irrational fears, she is fearless when it comes to her son Blaise, who has Prader Willi Syndrome. She says that you find the courage somehow.

I get it. I have found courage through my own yoga practice, through my teaching yoga, through the amazing man I married, through my nephew Blaise.

I still have many fears and am working through them daily. Sometimes they feel so real, as if at any moment the fear will come true and I will be homeless, my family will perish, I will be without a job, people will hate me, that I will have to go back to waitressing. I will go completely deaf. A fear of the Future. The abnormal fears. They run the gamut.

But sometimes, when I am in navasana in Annie’s class, or teaching my own class, I look up at the sky and shake my fist and say “Eff you Fear! You ain’t real!”

And anyway, as the amazing Wayne Dyer says, worrying is like saying little prayers for the things you do not want.

And of course, in a sense, it is real. But as Martin Luther King Jr said, ”

Normal fear protects us; abnormal fear paralyses us. Normal fear motivates us to improve our individual and collective welfare; abnormal fear constantly poisons and distorts our inner lives.

Our problem is not to be rid of fear but, rather to harness and master it.

So master your own awesomeness. Harness your inner child and your joy. Let go of all the other BS.

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About Jennifer Pastiloff

"Thank you Jennifer, for shining your light on mine." ~ Christy Turlington. / Jennifer Pastiloff, as featured on Good Morning America, is a lover of life, laughter, poetry, yoga, Modern Family (and a really good glass of wine.) She is the creator of Manifestation Yoga®, which is all about causing serious breakthroughs in your life without being too serious. Her rule of “If you fall you must laugh ” is strictly enforced in her yoga classes. / Jennifer teaches this inspirational style of yoga all over but her home base is in Los Angeles. She travels the world teaching workshops and leading retreats. When Jen's nephew Blaise was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Prader Wille Syndrome (PWS), it prompted her to start GAME Yoga. Gifts And Miracles Everyday: Free Yoga for Kids w/ Special Needs. / Jen is in the process of writing a book about how to manifest your life, one laugh at a time. She is partially deaf and wears hearing aids. / Jennifer spent 13 years working in the same restaurant and believes that everyone should have a job in the service industry at least once in their life. (It’s good for the soul, she says.) / Learn more about her at jenniferpastiloff.com. Her blog is Manifestation Yoga. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter.


31 Responses to “Fear: how do you live your life?”

  1. chelsea says:

    Beautiful! Thank you for a deeper understanding of fear we all carry and how we mask it or focus on something else while running from the real fear. You're right, running never works, only for a moment. OXOX

  2. metalbuddha says:

    Thank you for writing this. I needed to read it.

  3. Lana says:

    I am so pleased to see how wonderfully your journey has progressed.! I am so proud of you!

  4. Becky DeMarie says:

    Thanks for writing this.
    Powerful and inspirational.

  5. kgirl77 says:

    Wow – It isn't often that I'm moved enough to comment, but it's as if you've written my story! Thanks so much for sharing!x

  6. Lauren says:

    I can relate. Thank you for the reminder…this is something I struggle with every single day. You are wise in noting the way stress seems to imensify fear.

  7. Robert J. Bullock says:

    Good post.

    I got very sick about a year ago and was introduced to real, prolonged fear for the first time in my life. For me, it was a blessing. It humbled me, it challenged me and it allowed me to see how much I really do cling to this life and everyone in it.

    So, fear is our helper, but we need to make friends with it. Fear is intensity. Fear is energy. Fear is us!

    Learning to go into fear, beyond our thoughts about it, and discovering it's true nature is essential. It's not as hard as it might seem. Evidence is that I have done it and I'm about the worst practitioner you'll ever meet! Not to say I have totally stripped fear of it's scary costume, but I have made progress and can handle what I previously could not with ease.

    I say this not to brag or to claim some special realization or power, but to reassure and encourage those trying to ride the horse we call "fear".

    We all can do this!

  8. jennifer says:

    Thank you Robert for sharing that. Bless you. I am glad you are able to use it as a tool and as a gift. At least most of the time 😉

  9. Wonderful first article, thank you.

  10. Shanon says:

    I needed to red this. I suffer from fear of just about everything. Fear and doubt are my best friends, but I want them to be acquaintances instead so I can watch them sometimes – not hang with them all day, every day. Thank you.

  11. thanks for sharing Jennifer. inspiring

  12. Annie Freeman says:

    thank you so much for this, Jenn

  13. Thank you so much for sharing this post. It was very honest and inspiring. So many of us are facing fear each day with transitions in our careers and personal lives. I decided to face fear head on by following my path. I closed my law firm and walked away from the law to follow my passion for empowering others in transition to create careers and lives they love. Each time I feel fear, I just think of the happiness I feel when I know I've touched and made a difference in someone's life.

  14. candicegarrett says:

    Truly inspirational. and I love your quote, "Then it hit me like a ton of navasanas"

  15. Kate Szilagyi says:

    Jen, What a brave and inspiring post. So many of us are afraid to be vulnerable — but your story shows us how poetic vulnerability can be. I am so proud of you!

  16. I wish more people would write blogs like this that are actually helpful to read. With all the garbage floating around on the net, it is a great change of pace to read a blog like yours instead.

  17. nicole currie says:

    Great article!! Thanks for sharing =)

  18. Dylan says:

    Awwww Jennifer you're so Beautiful. Inside and out.

    Poetic, too.

    So strong and sweet to share. Shine on.


  19. […] I found out later that he wasn’t the first pet to get eaten by a mountain-lion in the area, but he was mine. As I buried him beneath a tree, something snapped and darkness washed over me. The first and last time I hunted was when I was a Boy Scout and shot a rabbit. At the time it was a horrible feeling and was one reason I became vegetarian. I got a gun and decided to kill the mountain lion. I tracked him at night, baiting him with bloody meat. I stalked him for a week and came to know him, like my own shadow. I wasn’t hunting an animal anymore, it was something much bigger. I enjoyed it and let the thirst for revenge take over. One night as I sat  in the dark, emotions flooded back. I sank into the dirt and sobbed. I finaly got up to leave, when I saw two large glowing eyes staring at me. I aimed and could feel the big cat breathing like it was a part of me. We stared into each others eyes and I knew I had a choice to make, something had to die. […]

  20. […] I spent the first two weeks crying. I am not sure what I was crying for.  Lost dreams, his pain, or my fear of the future? […]

  21. Rinatkaallka says:

    Короткое обжорство надолго портит обмен веществ Мой мужик меня уже достал! такое чувство, что на него омрачаю наслали или же что-то из этой темы!!! Он не может сыскать никак работу, при том, что он её реально ищет! Вот сегодня, к примеру, он первый работал и хренакс – у него машина сломалась!!! Всё! Какая уж здесь работа- уволен наз! Поздравила его , крича с первым и последним рабочим днем! До этого он устраивался на работу – всё сделал, все доки собрал – вдруг бааа, как оказалось нужна справка, которая стоит очень дорого, опять задержечка, нужно подкопить денег на эту справку , собственно, с сег. дня он и обязан был поработать для той справки.Я вся на взводе! Уже не знаю, что делать! Всё злит, всё нервирует, еще и беременна, и починка планируем сделать, в итоге я работаю, а этот козел не может никак устроиться, а устроился – вот, пожалуйста!!! Успокойте меня пожалуйста, девочки!!!!

  22. […] I was anorexic for many many years and even though I knew it in my heart, in my bones, in my mind; I… […]

  23. […] a phenomenal Los Angeles-based yoga teacher. I first discovered Jennifer after reading her moving article about fear in Elephant […]

  24. Howdy! This is kind of off topic but I need some advice from an established blog. Is it very difficult to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty quick. I’m thinking about setting up my own but I’m not sure where to start. Do you have any tips or suggestions? Thanks

  25. This is good quality information but i think it is essential to keep in mind that if you wish to keep the bodyweight off you must be willing to life a consistant healthful lifestyle, a little bit of bad meals here and there won’t damage but making sure you keep eating healthy foods daily is the key for longer term weight loss.

  26. […] I was anorexic for many many years and even though I knew it in my heart, in my bones, in my mind; I… […]

  27. […] you see the reflection of yourself in mirrors, windows and other people’s […]

  28. Jе suis pressée de lire le prochain poste

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