Yoga and Fear – How to end the reign of the False Emperor

Fear. It is something I have both experienced very recently, and been thinking about a lot. I looked up a definition of it online and found:

a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc.,
whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid

and then synonyms for it which are:

cower before, tremble before, cringe from, shrink from, flinch from

The nature of fear is to cower- to shrink- to retreat- in short, to go back. If you think about it, fear has a very real function which is supported by our nervous systems- that is, when our lives are at risk- we freeze. When all that we think we are is threatened – we freeze. We stop. Literally ‘paralyzed’ by fear. Until the monster- real or imagined- has passed us by. The problem is that our nervous system- to be precise- our sympathetic nervous system which deals with the fight or flight response can’t tell the difference between a real or an imagined, or even an implied danger.

I have been reading a pretty awesome book this week, ‘Intelligent Yoga’ by Peter Blackaby. In it he makes the point that ‘nature abhors stillness’. He points out that life is defined by movement, and as all students of physics know, even things that appear to be immobile pulsate with life and movement, as molecules that have come together and arranged themselves in a particular way, for a particular purpose and they are not static even though our human eyes do not necessarily perceive this.

We move, we pulsate, throughout our lives we change, and we change constantly. Until we slow down and then surrender to the ultimate transition in order for life to continue in it’s natural cycle. And acceptance of this, of our mortality, of the finite nature of our lives, well that’s beautiful. Colours are brighter, perfume is sweeter, the wind against your face is a caress. When you stop blocking out what is to come you rest in the present. Children are very good at this. I remember when I was seventeen, carrying my toddler sister next door and she was in the midst of the terrible twos and having a tantrum- then the wind blew and she held her little face up and closed her eyes in bliss.. Because there is bliss in movement, in the moment.

Where there is no movement, there is a dearth, there is a lack. Or you can even start to regress, to go backwards, to turn anti-clockwise as a cancer cell does. Our fears differ from person to person, a combination of genetic memory, formative years, experience, and what we fear is not necessarily rational. We may not even consciously know what we fear or why we fear it. But the interesting thing is that we unwittingly put ourselves in situations, time and again where we can face the fear if we like. Like a knight of yore going to do battle. We find ourselves in the same situations time and again. In the same relationships. In the same work situations. And then a situation will appear different- but then unmasked it is the SAME. The same and stuck there. We have all heard people crying about the same shit always happening. In reality, every time it happens it’s an opportunity- a chance for Quantum soul growth if you are up for it..

So my fear story was my own particular Achilles heel. And disappointingly unoriginal. Some man I’d been seeing who just decided, for whatever reason, to cut off all contact. And I could feel my nervous system doing the same old, same old. I could feel out of date urges to throw a drama. I felt fear, and I had no idea why. Not really.There was no real threat to me or my path, no massive change in my life, just niggely scared little thoughts firing off like snipers in my mind. And they were all to do with me, none of it was actually about him, like my own thoughts trying to negatively reassure me. Strange. I observed the thoughts and none of them were useful.. And after a nightmarish 36 hours I felt a new calm. Acceptance. You can’t control other people- and really- why would you want to? If you need to blackmail others into behaving in a certain way just to maintain your own status quo or what you like to think of as ‘happiness’ then you are in deep, deep trouble. Little by little you let go and all that is supposed to come, will come. And then I felt no anger. Just a feeling of having picked up a hitch hiker and dropped him off again kind of vibe.. Why get all shitty over something that made me smile… Why turn a situation into a knife to cut myself with and continue a pattern? Why fear? When you stop criticizing yourself and assuming everythings your fault it really changes your perspective.

Fear is based on previous experience, when our ego sets the paradigms of what we may or may not do. And we may well not conciously recognize or remember the source of it, it can arise like a blind monster making us behave in ways we don’t even recognize as ‘us’. We see this in the Yoga class too. Our physical Yoga practice can be like a mini-drama, a symbol of what we believe and what we fear. So when you think you can control your practice- don’t- let go of ‘You’ and just do. Let what happens then be your teacher.

When you are fearful you are paralyzed. You shrink. Your fear attaches you to the one person, the one crappy job, the one situation until you have such tunnel vision you are nearly blind. Fear is insular. It cramps your nature. It is said that the universe is expanding but fear does the opposite- it keeps you small. It interferes with your true nature, it blinds you to your life purpose, it robs you of the joy you can experience in the present and it drains you of passion… Fear is the epitome of dysfunction… And the media, the world we live doesn’t mind us being afraid, doesn’t mind us being small- it makes us easier to mould, easier to use…

So what to do? How do we end its reign? First of all we must learn to recognize it. That moment where you ‘freeze’ and a million little voices come up to support your stuck situation, the voices of loneliness and sorrow, the voices that urge you to retreat. The voices that start trying to find a way of making peace with the situation like a junior officer all too willing to concede to the crazy demands of a psychotic dictator. Remember who you are, not the role you play, or would like to play, but as a divine spark, like everyone else, someone who has a right to be here. Someone who has a right to tread the path to happiness and to lead the life they want to lead. Someone whose happiness when multiplied, need not subtract from anyone elses.

Don’t be afraid.

Please share using the button below. Thanks to Krzysztof Szkurlatowski ( for the image.

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