I watched Oprah interview JK Rowling yesterday. JK talked about fear and how fear can get in your way from achieving what you want. It was New Year’s Eve so naturally all the news stations were showing montages of the significant events of the past year. Pictures of the Chilean miners, Elizabeth Smart, rescuers in the Gulf during the oil spill, Elizabeth Edwards. These people all demonstrated moving forward in the face of fear. It got me thinking about what I’m afraid of, and how those fears stand in my way.
Teaching yoga wasn’t something I thought I would ever do. I was working in the corporate world, making my way, doing the “right” thing. When I went to my first teacher training and found the spark was lit, there was no turning back. So, here I am, 8 years later, and my teaching has evolved over time. But I sometimes find myself afraid, standing there, thinking, “Can I really say that? Won’t I sound stupid?”
Sometimes when I teach, I have conversations with some of you in class. You may not realize it but I wonder what you think when you hear some of the things I say. I suppose I could stick with the traditional yoga “directives;” things like “Lift your right leg, bend your upper knee,” “bow forward,” “upward dog,” and the like but when I stay in that zone, it feels really safe and kind of boring to me. I have powerful memories of some of my most impactful yoga classes and they certainly weren’t classes that stuck to the typical physical scripting that is crucial but only a piece of yoga teaching. But there’s always such a fine line. I find myself hearing what I’m saying and sometimes wonder, “this sounds annoying. I wonder if it’s annoying to them?”
Someone told me once that teaching yoga is a lot like having a conversation with yourself. I find that to be true. I sometimes say things that come to mind and chuckle a bit out loud, not too loud, but spontaneously and a little under my breath. It’s really because I find that often, even off the mat, outside of the studio, I have the same conversations with myself. I remind myself to speak from my heart, to stop making excuses for myself and to stand tall. I ask myself why I’m playing small, why I people please, why I hedge from speaking the truth. I push myself to move forward, despite messages to the contrary and remind myself that compassion first is the way to grow in a healthy way.
One of the things that teaching yoga has taught me is you can never really know what people are thinking and you can’t live your life worrying about it either. Just as there’s a fine line between teaching a class devoted to talking about yourself and trying to speak in general themes, there’s a line between receiving feedback and integrating it on some level versus completely shifting your teaching based on feedback you get- positive or negative. Teaching yoga for me has become such a mirror for how I live my life; when I feel unsteady in life, it shows in my teaching. When I’m feeling confident, I can stand tall and speak from my heart, no excuses.
So what can make the difference? I was watching golf today and they were talking to Rory McIlroy, a young golfer, who’s been lighting up the scene. They asked him what he was thinking when he was playing in the Ryder Cup this year (he was crucial to Europe’s win). Do you know what he said? “Nothing.” Yup, nothing. He basically said he was so in the moment, he wasn’t “thinking” anything. And I realized that there it is. The key to being fearless: being present! I know this, of course, because I’ve been there before. That run I took around the Charles where there was a perfect mix of sun, wind and speed. That yoga class I took which was the most delicious blend of strength and surrender. The day at the beach when I left, completely fulfilled and warmed from the inside out. These are moment of presence that are sealed in my mind and heart and give me faith that I can go there, I have been there and that place does exist.
As I sit here today, on the first day of 2011, I am making a commitment to presence. I commit to making every effort to really be here, now. And through connecting to presence, I commit to living fearlessly.