Fear can sometimes feel so much bigger than us, especially when fed by the steroids of our imagination. Fear of change can paralyze us from choosing to improve our work situation or fear of the unknown can keep us clinging to a painful relationship that’s not serving us, just because it’s familiar. So, how do we find light within fear?
Today’s full moon Halloween got me thinking about the masks we wear--not the ones to protect each other during COVID—but the costumes of what we’re afraid of, like murderers, or who we’d like to be, like our favorite superheroes, or how we’d like others to see us, like a sexy nurse. Dressed as symbols of death, we make light of our fears, such as abhinivesa, or the fear of death that yoga philosophy lists as a root cause of suffering, and flirt with flaunting them. What if we took to this practice more regularly, that is, acknowledging our fears and befriending them, as Mindfulness Teacher Pema Chodron would say. Late author of Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, Marshall Rosenberg, pointed out that our so-called “negative” emotions, including fear, function to mobilize us to address our unmet needs, such as the basic human needs to feel worthy, accepted or safe. The perception that fear is a messenger to help us know how to live a more fulfilled life might inspire us to see some light.
I had the honor of hosting a group online retreat yesterday, called Ground into Clarity, in which we worked to dismantle a self-limiting thought, such as self-criticism or negative self-judgment. I was inspired by the courage our group practiced in peeling the layers of inner talk to understand the underlying belief and need beneath them. Interestingly, fear was a common ingredient in our self-limiting thoughts. Fear of disconnection is Author Brene Brown’s definition of shame through her research and expertise in vulnerability. In one self-limiting thought, we uncovered anger as a protective mask over deeply rooted shame. With practices of self-empathy and compassion shared with each other, we empowered the courage to understand the need being expressed by this fear. With an open heart we were able to see fallacy in an underlying belief: My worthiness of love as a human being depends on others’ approval of my behavior. Then, light began to seep in through the cracks and awakened a belief that was more aligned to our true nature, or pure goodness: I am worthy of love, period. Continuing to water this seed through various practices of Pradipaksha Bhavana, which The Yoga Sutras' teaching to transform negative thoughts to positive ones, life-enriching affirmations replaced the hurtful fear-based ones. While this was the start of planting a new garden that will need to be nurtured with daily love to thrive, it demonstrated how we can use fear to serve our well being, rather than inhibit it.
As with any challenge worth tackling, perception makes a difference. We can feel powerless by feeding inner talk that belittles us and deafens our ability to listen to the truth behind our emotions, or we can see the inner talk for what it is—just talk. Our awareness is power. Through the yogic practice of svadhyaya, or self-study, coupled with ahimsa, we can listen to the messages from our fears compassionately, and choose how we tend to the inner garden of our minds and hearts. As is the practice on the full moon, we can let go of what no longer serves our well being—releasing the repeated thoughts, or beliefs, that poison us. And so, we let our inner light shine greater than the shadow we may have once misconstrued as an enemy.
A concern I sometimes hear among fellow yoga practitioners is: I’ve been practicing yoga for a while (like over ten years) now, and I don’t feel like I’m advancing in my yoga practice. I thought I’d take a moment to share my thoughts on this. What are yours?
🌈Something to consider: How does your yoga practice affect how you relate to the world? And to yourself?
The Kleshas, literally "poison" in Sanskrit, are the root causes of suffering as explained by the sage, Patanjali, in The Yoga Sutras. In understanding these mental disturbances (listed in the image below), we can become more self-aware and not get entangled in them. As writer, Adam Brady, said, "Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional." We have a choice to remember that we are the seer of the ongoings within the mind, the body and the material world. Like yoga, this cultivation of empowered awareness takes consistent practice. Yoga Sutra 2.6 points out the misperception of identifying "the power of the seer" with "the instrument of seeing." Through meditation and self-study, we can identify the thoughts that cause us suffering and regain our perspective, as the witness, a pure consciousness that is peaceful by nature.
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REviews of Root 2 Rise Yoga with Michelle chua:
Michelle truly lives out what she teaches. She is so much more than a yoga teacher - I learned this when I went on her exquisitely curated trip that she organized to Costa Rica this past June 2018...Hopefully like me, you'll be delighted by her effervescent love of movement, nature, and all people!
Michelle clearly stands out with her beautiful and bright energy. I love how her practice and teaching encompass body, mind and spirit. She not only teaches yoga but lives and exudes it.
Michelle not only teaches 'yoga', she embodies it fully with her heart and soul...
Michelle is by far one of the best instructors I've ever had, period. Patient, clear in her explanations and demos, and so encouraging...
My first yoga class was with Michelle years ago. You can have the best (yoga pose) sequence and not teach from your heart. With Michelle, I also feel her passion when I'm in her class. I can see she loves what she does, and she inspired me to want to teach yoga, too.
I'm so grateful to have met Michelle! Her kind energy opened up my interest in pursuing yoga and meditation. She is such an incredibly light and soul. She starts with grounding ourselves through mindfulness and breathing exercise. She brings the most authentic energy to the class by sharing the history and understanding behind poses, names, and techniques. I truly appreciate her work and impact on my well-being!
I’ve had dozens of instructors over the years, but Michelle is far and away the best yoga mentor I’ve ever practiced with. She epitomizes grace during these difficult times. Michelle has saved my sanity and my back while working from home, keeping me grounded with her sharing of yogic teachings and meditation techniques. Her repertoire of physical asanas is encyclopedic, and I’ve loved learning new poses and stretching my boundaries. Jump in, all. You’ve got this!
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