April 3, 2015

Musings of a Selfish Yoga Teacher.

meditation, presence, allow, feel, breathe

The other morning I presented my yoga class presenting a thought to consider—I love how, as yoga teachers, we have or think we have, that license.

The few moments of introspection before the movement officially begins in a yoga class are some of my favorite parts of the practice. The space for reflection before things get rolling offers us a chance to bring more meaning to our time on the mat. It makes our time together that much more powerful and even unifying. No longer am I, the teacher, alone in front of this group of people, drawing the curtain on what’s going on in my life or what’s troubling me. By presenting the thought to the group we honor the fact that although we may be going through different situations the challenges we face are very similar – and so are the lessons we’re here to learn.

Without any further ado, let’s get on with it!

“Fear is an emotion that cannot exist if we are in the present moment.”

Fear is a future thing. Our natural reaction to the statement is, “No way! When I’m feeling fearful it’s definitely happening in the present!” While that part is true, are we ever really afraid of what’s happening in the present moment? when we remember a time that we were overtaken by fear were we afraid of the current situation or of what might transpire?

Things, situations and events that evoke fear do so with the help of our own inner storyteller. Its not what is happening that scares us, it’s how our imagination fills in the spaces that are unknown, where unknown is synonymous with ‘in the future’, that give us indigestion and low back pain.

While the example that follows is intense, its one that makes clear the fact that fear is a future thing. When our night on the town leads us down a dark, dank alley and in that alley we are confronted by an armed robber fear is a natural, evolutionary response; its instinctual. In those moments we can be pretty sure that we won’t be trying to figure out what exactly is scaring us but—fortunately for us—this is all hypothetical and we have plenty of time to delve deeper.

So here he is, pointing a gun out our chest, asking for our wallet. He isn’t hurting us so that can’t be what is causing the fear. We only have a few bucks in our wallet so that’s not it either. We’re afraid of an action he might take, but one he hasn’t yet taken. Our storyteller within is moving us into the future where we’re afraid of what might happen next.

As we dare to look critically here we can start to see the root cause of our fear. We can begin to see how the man with his gun wouldn’t be so scary if it weren’t for our thought patterns as we face him. “Oh my God. What do I do? What if he pulls the trigger? What about my kids? He’s going to kill me! Oh my God!”

The above scenario is one I hope none of us must ever face but it can be a great teacher—one that teaches of the value of staying in the present.

How do we combat the inner storyteller, the part of us who fills in the ominous future and damns us to an unfortunate fate? By doing one of things our yoga practice so often teaches—being present. Being present means being in a state that can help us outsmart fear. It won’t be by plodding along on the path of logic or reason that we drop our fears but by being present, patient and waiting to see what actually happens in our lives. By staying in the moment, even in seemingly paralyzing situations, the flow of thoughts that snowball to the worst case scenario are naturally halted. By being present we can change the process as well as the outcome of our experiences.

The beauty behind all lessons is that if they apply in a dark alley way at gunpoint they apply when our kids aren’t home yet, they apply when the economy takes a dive and they apply when we’re about to try a handstand for the first time.

Instead of being witnesses to all that goes on and all that we do we have a tendency to jump ahead. A tendency to let our inner storyteller seal our fate in an outcome that doesn’t meet with our dreams. Since thoughts are things these fearful thoughts do have the ability to take root and make manifest in our lives.

So, the next time we step on the mat or step in front of a crowd or find ourselves in a situation that used to scare us we have the opportunity to be present, to be the witnesses. We can take that time to drown out the babble of our inner storytellers by opening ourselves to the experience as it unfolds. In doing so the situation has the potential to smash our inner storytellers’ dismal projections and prove even greater than our wildest dreams. Let’s be the ones who relish in each passing moment, living, learning and loving with all our hearts. Let’s be the ones, present in the here and now, who wait to see what actually happens next.


Relephant Reads:

Facing Fear in Handstand.


Author: Maria Fendrick

Editor: Renee Jahnke

Image:  Shutterbug-Flickr

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Maria Fendrick