As part of the LifePower Yoga Mount Laurel challenge, I’m exploring one of the seven axioms of yoga each day and sharing what it means to me. If you’re interested in joining the challenge (and winning some Lululemon swag), you can find all the dets here.
#6 Fear and pain are life’s greatest teachers
No one of us is exempt from fear and pain. While they may be under different guises and at different intervals in our life, we all experience pain and fear.
We may resist a pose in yoga because it’s scary or it’s plain uncomfortable. We may push away connection and love because we’ve been hurt or have experienced loss. We may give up on our dreams because someone told us it will never work or we aren’t good enough. Or, we may settle for an unfulfilling job or relationship because we don’t believe we’re worthy or deserve more.
Fear and pain are natural experiences in life and almost as soon as those feelings present themselves, we seek out ways to avoid feeling what we feel.
The pain of losing my baby sister when I was 9 and my younger brother when I was 21 created a fear of loss and uncertainty and prompted me to build walls around my heart. Whenever the feelings of pain or fear came up in my life, I found ways to numb them. Rather than explore the feelings, I’d work out at the gym for 8+ hours, restrict my calories, isolate, write and sleep for hours on end – all of which served to further disconnect me from my true self.
Even as I gave up the vices of my eating disorder, in a lot of ways, I still didn’t open my heart. It wasn’t until Yoga Teacher Training this past fall that I truly began to peel back some big layers – it wasn’t until we did an exercise in giving and receiving love that I was able to know what it meant to allow my pain to be felt and touched.
During our last weekend of YTT, after close to 3 hours of meditation, I was anything but calm. My body ached and I was angry and tired. But, we still had one exercise ahead of us. We were instructed to form groups of 5 – 6 people and one by one we’d take turns receiving love from the other members in our group. One by one, individuals in my group took their place on the bolsters as the rest of us surrounded them, energetically hovering our hands above their body sending love and energy to them, before making a physical connection.
Though I was the only person left to go in my group, I felt myself unable to move. I felt as if everything was closing in around me. Eventually, with the help of my group (OK, maybe it was more like gentle pulling), I found my way onto the bolsters. Immediately as I laid down, before any hand hovered over me, I began to hysterically sob. Like I straight up lost my cookies. My sobs only grew louder once I did feel their presence and the physical connection.
All I could think was, Why is it so fucking hard for me to receive love? I love these people. Why can’t I let them love me?
Every fiber of my being wanted to run away, close off and hide – to find some way to numb the pain. I didn’t want to feel the pain. I didn’t want the others to have to feel it either. I was afraid of what might happen if I touched my pain and let them love me.
That experience, while it was difficult and painful, showed me that fear and pain are my greatest teachers. Pain showed me that there was something to be healed – something that could only be healed by feeling it. It taught me that pain, the loss I felt with connection, was just a fear and that my fear was just a story I created to deal with the uncertainty and stress in my life. For so many years I had told myself I would be safe behind my walls, my closed heart, my “I’m fine’s,” and my never-felt feelings. And it was only by reading my fear’s story, by experiencing this receiving exercise, that I was able to embrace my fear for what it was and it was only by embracing my pain that I was able to see how I was holding my fear and to finally release it.