The photograph above was taken in a quiet corner of a beautiful garden in Italy. The surroundings were peaceful, gentle and inviting and then there was this chap! He was really rather spectacular and yet there was a sense of him inhabiting a dark space deep within me. He seemed, to me at least, the opposite of the angelic realms. He has stayed with me and he may not be a HE at all of course! But for now he will remain as such…..His wide open maw is dark and looks well capable of swallowing whatever/whoever passes by. He seemed rather fearful on that bright, soft day.
I have recently been rereading my April edition of OM Yoga magazine and ‘Face Your Fears’ by Mark Westmoquette interested me. In Forrest Yoga we deal with a lot of fear. Ana asks us, urges us to ‘stalk our fear’ on a daily basis. It is really not easy. However, it is necessary and beneficial to seek out other ways of responding to our fears.
It is so true that we tend to avoid, push away, runaway, become immobile or try to battle with it. We use so much energy to avoid or tamp it down that one day we simply collapse or disappear into the deep sleep that can often accompany depression (I speak from experience on the latter!). When we reemerge nothing is different and again we react to our fears in habitual ways.
Working with Ana Forrest I began to understand a new way of being with my fear. It involved really feeling it within every cell, every corner of my being and then stalking the feeling and like hunting an animal I needed to really know all there was to know in order to get close enough to my quarry. The closer I got to my fear the more intense was the feeling of panic, terror, and the stink of sweat was all about. The words long-remembered from someone, somewhere in my life kept me tracking my fear, ‘these are feelings Gill, and feelings change from moment to moment, so just keep going’.
None of this is about killing the fear. Once I got close then I could gently consider what the fear was about and why it had so disempowered me. I actually realised during one practice that the massive fear within me was now a physical pain beyond any I had ever felt. As I sobbed, the loving, nurturing hands of Sara worked deeply into my neck and shoulder. One of my fears is that my pain is not worthy of receiving love from others, I must always ‘sort myself out’ and not be a burden to others.
And so my fear and pain became a gift as I learnt more about me. The adventure continues and years on I am still unravelling fear and pain.
Breathing is vital to feeling and I mean really breathing. After any Forrest practice I truly feel my intercostal muscles as my ribs have been expanded and telescoped with a passion. We also are constantly reminded to have active feet and hands. Fear results in tiny breaths that tighten the chest, the jaw and the neck. Active feet takes your awareness and energy right down into some of your largest bones and encourages you to stay grounded, earthed. Active hands are wide open and conect us to the world with all that goes on in it whether it be good, bad or indifferent.
I am not a person who is easily frightened, indeed I have paced about my night-dark garden with Airedale dogs as companions to seek out what actually made that noise, much to the horror of my husband who was working miles off in another corner of the UK! However, fear resides far inside and may come from distant times when as a child the imprint of some horror is left behind. Or its origins may be very recent. It happens to us all regardless of our upbringing. What is fearful to one is a complete non-event, a breeze to someone else. All that matters is that the fear is there and what do we need to do to ease it out, so as to breathe more fully and find peace and beauty within and without?
Should you wish to read more about stalking your fear then I highly recommend Ana Forrest’s book Fierce Medicine.
I had no real idea of what words would come forth as I sat down to write this post, I simply enjoyed Mark’s insights and thank him for that. As I wrote I felt a deep sense of connection back to that time with Sara and realised how wonderful it is to feel the closeness and love of others.
Naturally there is always a ton of other good stuff to read in Om Yoga Magazine and if you want to receive your own digital copy simply click on the side panel. I always enjoy the words of Paula Hines and Denise Leicester and there’s a great piece about Raw Food. If you are seeking a wonderful yoga retreat there are lots of options in April’s edition.
Big thanks to all who pass by and spend a while reading my words…namaste.