FEAR. MY PERSONAL STORY.

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Dear friends,

I truly hope this finds you well, at peace and getting ready for the transition to Autumn.

You’ll have to forgive me – this blog post might be the longest and most important one I’ve written to date. If you’re interested in my somewhat mad ramblings do grab yourself a cuppa and settle in. It’s long and personal but I’ve been trying to get to this point myself for a while and recently something shifted and I just had to take some time to make sense of it and share it in the hope that it might inspire others.

I have been thinking a lot about ‘fear’ recently ahead of my next workshop at Indaba Yoga. It’s a biggie right? Generally my friends and family do not know me as someone who tends to suffer from fear or any kind of anxiety but that’s truly not the case. It’s fair to say that I am a bit of a fighter but it’s also true that I’ve lived with fear all my life; I am constantly trying to chip away at it – it is my life’s great work. Sometimes I know I’m really getting somewhere and there is lightness and ease but at others I am totally at sea in the knowledge that it has me in it’s grip.

My personal story is that music has always been a major part of my life, I worked in the industry for a long time and was nuts about music from an early age…my earliest memories are all tied into hearing and experiencing music and being blown away by it’s inherent power to move me. I see the same thing in my son who is just four years old but can instantly be deeply affected by a piece of music or someone’s voice.

When I moved towards yoga it was part of a combined effort to help me finally deal with crippling panic attacks and bouts of anxiety and depression. As I practiced with more discipline I began to experience other fascinating aspects of myself but ultimately feeling such a mix of emotions and states became very confusing, so much so that I went into a form of shutdown. I began to move away from the music industry and away from certain areas of my life which at the time I thought were holding me in damaging patterns. Consequently I pretty much turned my back on the past and I included music in this – it became hard to even listen to because of the overwhelming feelings it stirred up. I didn’t really understand why at the time, I just knew I needed to simplify my life, I didn’t want to explore the reasons why, I had become attached and dependant to the stillness and calm yoga offered and I felt I couldn’t afford the instability the past presented.

It’s a common story really – the ego tells you you’re better off in a safer place so you remove the triggers. It makes total sense in one respect, many people experiencing conflict, trauma and pain turn to yoga; they feel something shift internally and want to experience it more. They simplify their lives and then arrive at a crossroads where they believe that what they’ve experienced in the past is too conflicting. In an effort to attain more balance, they modify all areas of their lives until the pendulum ceases to swing so wildly.

In one respect this is really important and part of a natural process of building new pathways but what happens when we inevitably arrive at another crossroads where we realise the past has not been healed and more to the point that these parts of us are still gloriously relevant and important aspects of the self which have been left abandoned and uncared for?

Cut to a recent experience I had a music festival standing in a starlit field at night watching the amazing Sufjan Stevens play – I had the realisation that exploring fear is fundamental to all growth and although it is often framed as negative and unsettling, on the other side of this is great freedom. I felt something uncomfortable rising in me as I watched and experienced this incredible moment, it was almost like an itch and I wanted to move away, to my surprise I realised it was fear – but what was there to be afraid of? On the Sunday I watched a musician play his set with such presence and freeness I felt absolutely floored. The resistance finally dropped and tears sprung into my eyes as I realised what I’d blocked myself from for many years….was actually me….the essence of who I was had become lost in favour of a two dimensional simpler version. The fear that I had felt was the fear of it becoming overwhelming again.

It was a powerful realisation that we are all in some way looking for beauty, for love, for experiences of ourselves which resonate with those of others, for community and safety, for harmony and the reassurance that all of these things do exist….BUT sometimes we choose to turn away or close ourselves down because we are afraid of opening, afraid of where it will take us and afraid that we are not ready for it.

I guess the question we must always ask ourselves is – are we able to absolutely, fully, freely, wholly, completely – melt into the experience we are having? More to the point are we ready and willing to accept that as multi dimensional, hugely complicated and wonderful human beings not everything we experience will be comfortable, linear and pleasant? Are we actually ready to have an experience or is it easier to observe ourselves (and others) have an experience and remain at a safe distance?

It was a lightbulb moment for me. I often refer to it in class as ‘the moment of integration’ – when we allow ourselves and the barriers to ourselves to disintegrate fully. You can see it in people in class, feel it when you hold the body and you witness the heart beat and the rigidity of the form melting – there is ‘the moment’. Everything changes right then, it is a miracle and a wonder to behold and not easy to find. Chase it and it’s gone.

At one point at the festival I felt this and all the pieces of me knit together, like an energetic bolt of dot to dot. The past and the present, the light and the shade, the happiness and the doubt, the human and the yogi, the wild unhinged woman and the painful introvert, everything i’d locked away came flowing back like a huge tidal wave and it felt huge, overwhelming, very frightening and utterly glorious! That moment when everyone around you is laughing and dancing and you’re bent double ready to primal scream….yes that!

I think it is all too easy for people to get trapped in one way of being and then lose an important and relevant piece of themselves – for a moment they are lost in a two dimensional landscape and searching for the next thing to help them get home. They are scared to take steps forward, or steps back, they are fearful of exploring the edges of themselves they are afraid of their own power and fearful of waking up, they are scared to return home.

Fear. It’s a biggie right?

Thank you for reading.

Sarah Jeffs