Moving Through Fear on my Mat.

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I’ve decided to stop being afraid of hurting my back.

See, I hurt it almost two years ago. Two. Years.

I hurt it so bad that I ended up on my bedroom floor in child’s pose, unable to move and my daughters had to call an ambulance.

It was humiliating.

It was frightening.

I lost faith in my body.

Ever since then, I have been afraid of hurting my back again. I’ve babied it. I’ve taken it easy, doing gentle yoga, and soft, somatic stretches.

But I haven’t really pushed myself.

Once in a while I do, but the moment I feel the least little twinge I back off again.

I haven’t hurt it that bad since then, but I have “tweaked” it and the fear of hurting it like I did the first time lingers.

Then I read an essay by Elizabeth Gilbert in the February issue of “O” magazine where she reflects on a knee injury. How it plagued her for over 13 years ever since her marriage had ended. When she finally got tired of being held back by that pain she asked what it needed She really wanted know. She heard it say it wants to run fast. To move. For her to stop using it as an excuse to hold herself back.

Oh.

Wow.

That’s exactly what I do.

I hold myself back for fear of hurting my back again.

I don’t take  challenging yoga classes.

I’m afraid of saying yes to fun excursions for fear that walking too much or moving in an unexpected way will tweak my back.

But then I realized that the more I baby my back, the weaker it is getting.

The weaker it is getting, the more chance I have of hurting it again.

So, I’ve decided to stop being afraid of hurting it.

I’ve decided to move it. Use it. Strengthen it.

I’ve started taking yoga classes again. Ones that challenge me. That force me to use muscles I’ve ignored for two years.

I’ve decided to say yes to things instead of no for fear it might be uncomfortable.  I ‘m 51, not 91. And even at 91 I want to be saying yes more than no. I want to be like Tao Porchon-Lynch when I’m in my nineties. Hell, I want to have her sprit and vitality now!

Each vinyasa, each lunge, each time I step my foot through between my hands I am moving through that fear. With each breath I am releasing it, making room room for trust, making room for what is happening in my body in this moment not some imaginary moment in my head.

Fear is just a thought.

Fear comes from not being present to this moment where I am fine, where my back is fine.

So, I’m saying yes again to each moment. I’m meditating daily. (104 days in a row so far.) I’m moving, playing, bending, stretching, strengthening and learning to trust my body again.

I’m learning to go toward my fear, befriending it, embracing it.

I’m literally moving through it.

And I’m finding tremendous strength and freedom on the other side.

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The Practice of Exploring the New.

Mistakes

Image via Celestine Chua/ Flickr

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” ~ Dan Millman

The new! It can be exciting. It can be challenging. It can lift us out of our comfort zone. It can be all three at once.

The one thing it will always do is allow for change.

As we start this new year, full of hope and promises to ourselves, of all the ways we want to change, maybe the best thing we can to is open ourselves to the new every chance we get.

I remember the first time I realized how resistant I was to new things. I was visiting Chicago and decided to check out a yoga studio. As the time got closer for me to leave the hotel, all these reasons why I shouldn’t go popped up:

It’s too cold. (It was February.)

It’s too windy. (It’s Chicago.)

I can practice in the room.

I can practice in the fitness center.

Finally, I ignored all the voices, mapped my walking route on my phone and set off, yoga mat slung over my shoulder. Halfway there I actually had the thought: “Wait, I won’t know where to put my shoes once I get there.”

Seriously. As if that was a reason to turn around.

As if I couldn’t easily find out where to put my shoes once I got there.

That’s when I realized: I find new things very uncomfortable. They’re new, after all, so chances are good that I won’t know the answers to certain questions or exactly where to go or how to do it.

New is unknown.

Unknown is uncomfortable.

Known is very comfortable. Even when it’s boring. Even when it’s not nourishing. At least I know what to expect.

If I try something new I might make a mistake.

This year, if I want to change anything at all about my life, if I want to enrich it in any way, I have to be open to new things.

What is that one definition of crazy? Doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.

Yeah, no thanks.

This year I am making a concerted effort to do new things.

This morning, I took the smallest step by opening up the yoga studio in the opposite direction as I normally do. One very small, micro step. It felt a little odd since I wasn’t just going on auto-pilot.

But that one small step led to others. I invited my students to choose a different space on the floor to lay their mat. We tried a new breathing technique—Bee Breath. I had them face in the opposite direction for savasana.

These are all tiny, almost inconsequential things—except they aren’t. Each one made space for slowing down, for a new perspective.

And slowing down and looking at things from a fresh perspective allows space for change.

So think about your daily life. What are some small new things you can try?

Rearrange the furniture in a room of your house. That always bring fresh energy to the space.

Try a different route to or from work and say good-bye to driving on auto-pilot.

Stop at a different coffee shop.

Or bring your own coffee. 

Or try tea instead of the usual coffee.

Try walking through your town as if you are a tourist. What is different?

Get up earlier or go to bed earlier. Or later.

If you normally write at home, go to a cafe. Or home, if you normally write out.

If you are stuck creatively, purposely set out to make mistakes. Write the worst opening sentence. Create a cardboard character. Create a painting with so many colors that it all dulls into a muddy brown. 

Creating something is better than creating nothing.

Here’s my wish for you via the always amazing Neil Gaiman:

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”