Relax in the face of FEAR
This past weekend I was in Jamaica for a friend's wedding. A group of us were walking down the beach and we saw a boat taking some people out on one of those tubes. You know, the kind that drags people around a body of water? On the back of a boat from a gingerly tied, fraying rope? "Great Big Mable" was her name.
My friend (the bride) said, "I want to go one one of those but Jamie is afraid to go.
Defensively, I said "NO! Im not afraid. I just dont like those things."
Surprised at my reaction I realized... maybe I was afraid? What was I actually fearful of? Why didn't I like those things?
What is fear anyway? Fear is when you are afraid of something that hasn't happened yet. Seems silly when you put it that way. But fear is a natural thing. Even the most primitive of reptiles demonstrate fear. The fear response is a survival technique that we all share and it keeps us alive. But because fear is a natural response, when we resist it that means that we resist living. If we resist or avoid the feeling of fear long enough then that fear can change from a survival response to an habitual emotional response.
Emotional patterns can be stored in the body. Naturally, when we get sad, angry, happy, or anxious our muscles respond. Our throats tighten, our jaws clench, our shoulders shrug, our toes curl. Conversely particular holding patterns in the body can actually create certain emotions. If you carry your body a certain way the mind can start believing it. In winter we are hunched over, our chest is contracted our arms are crossed in front of our chest in a "protection mode". What does look like to you? Someone who is fearful or afraid right?.
So a practice to open the front body can be a really great practice to reverse the holding patterns mentioned above. But a practice in which we encounter fear can be an especially rich one. Inversions are usually the the poses that illicit the most fear because as adults we become more and more afraid of falling. In Tara Brach's book "Radical Acceptance" she idenifties that the root cause of fear is actually all tied back to a fear of death. As we get older we realize that we are in fact getting closer to the day we die. So we to cling to life. Yogis call this "abinivesha". One of the 5 mental afflictions. We resist fear and oh yeah, we avoid inversions. :) But realize that inversions are a way to face our fears. Here we can taste the fear, smell it, see and touch it - without resisting. And from that space you let life flood in.