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April 12, 2014

Active Feet & Other Tips for Overcoming Fears.

car wash

 “I gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which I must stop and look fear in the face. I say to myself, I’ve lived through this and can take the next thing that comes along.”  ~ Eleanor Roosevelt. 

I don’t like the sensation of being trapped or enclosed in a space with no exit…especially in a car wash.

I have several knee-jerk reactions to anxiety. My favorite is to deflect and make a joke, like the post I made to my friends while waiting in line:

My car is getting a massage. She’s so happy! I’m writing to keep a mini panic attack in check. I love-hate carwashes.

Later, after I had navigated my baby hill of fear, I was rather shocked to see more than half of my friends felt the same way about car washes.

Some were neutral, sort of like the gear my car was in. Others readily admitted they gracefully bow out of the carwash process and relinquished the duty to a significant other.

Only one brave soul reported enjoying it.

I felt a flush of envy from the latter but swiftly channeled my inner Negative Nellie into a cheer reminding myself, you’ve come a long way.

In truth I was sweating, fretting and churning. My fearful thoughts splintering and my palms were dripping.

I tried to convince myself Bessie, didn’t needed a bath. I wondered if I could scootch my car over and let the line that was building behind me go by.

It’s a similar feeling I sometimes get at the top of an escalator (escalaphobia) and deciding, no, not that moving step….the next one…nope….missed it.  

I become anxious and sometimes frozen with fear.

Here’s a vignette of car wash 101 panic:

Should I purchase the deluxe swoosh-swoosh or the basic beige blah package.

Will I be able to shimmy my car’s wheel into the little groove?

Will the deluxe package last longer therefore I can skip a month or two of washing my car?

Did I remember to put my car in neutral?

Are my windows up? I can’t breathe. I’m not breathing.

What if I get stuck in there?

I even had the audacity to give the attendant a car wash coupon I bought years ago.

I decided to splurge and paid an extra six dollars (out of embarrassment…my car was extremely grubby). I upgraded to a deep cleaning scrub and wax as I handed over the weary, push-pinned coupon from an elementary school fundraiser.

My son is now in high school.

I could have chatted with the attendant for hours (another time-tested diversion) but there wasn’t time for chit-chat. He had to keep the line moving and it was my turn.

“I have accepted fear as a part of life, specifically the fear of change…I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back.” – Erica Jong

As with any fear I have to face them and this is where yoga has tremendously helped.

Tip #1:

First and foremost breatheI focused on the cooling breath of Sitali Pranayama and a release of Ujjayi.

These two simple tools have helped me in countless situations to stay present and focused. It calmed me. My breathing almost sounded like ocean waves with the added bonus of swooshing suds.

Tip #2:

Next, I activated my feet by pressing the balls of my feet and heels into the ground and raising my toes. As my front car wheel clicked into the track I pressed my feet firmly and snap I became more grounded. I was discharging the panic straight into the floor of my car. 

This is a Forrest Yoga technique that I adore. Active Feet disconnects the current of paralyzing fear. 

I have used it while on difficult phone calls or during Savasana when an inexplicable fear bubbles up.

Fear up —Toes up. This is the little pep talk I give myself nearly daily.

Tip #3:

Third, as I witnessed the process it turned into an fascinating meditation. I let go of some of the irrational chatter and whirlwind; even the slap-slap-slap of giant sponges became quieter.

My car windows were a hot steamy mess at the end; yet I was calmer.

At the end of my cave there was light.

I gave myself a little air pump and a woo-hoo while I peeled off my coat. (I was so incredibly toasty). In my defense, it was a balmy  45 degree day.

The duration of a simple car wash turned into a lesson on staying present. Keeping calm. Regaining self-control with Active Feet and breathing through panic.

I stayed engaged.

My car and I floated through the parking lot and I had this incredible urge to smile at everyone. Bessie was dazzling as a freshly laundry lavender scented wet tee shirt.

We carried on with a notch of courageous confidence to the next task: Grocery shopping.

 

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Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: maong at Flickr

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Carolyn Riker

Carolyn is an educator, counselor, writer and a poet who finds comfort and balance in nature and music. Introspective, forthright, kind and compassionate, she intertwines life with being real. She also writes for Journey of the Heart and Rebelle Society. Carolyn can be reached at Facebook.