I recently had the pleasure of traveling to Alaska with my fiancé’s family to celebrate his grandparent’s 60th wedding anniversary. It was a joyous occasion, filled with celebration and adventure. I got to kayak in the deep sea, hike in the rainforest (Alaska has rainforest – who knew?) and rock climb and rappel miles from the Alaskan/Canadian border. Like a responsible 21st century citizen, I dutifully uploaded pictures of glowing landscapes, blazing sunsets, and me, rappelling from the top of a cliff.
There was one picture in particular of my fiancé and I as we took our first steps down the ledge, him gazing adoringly at me as I smile at our belayer. My mother saw the picture and posted NO FEAR! Clearly impressed by what she assumed to be my fearless dismount down the side of a mountain. What the picture didn’t show was the 20 minutes before the final descent, as I stood at the back of our group of fellow rappellers, sweaty and shaking and FULL OF FEAR. It took an extra ten minutes for our guide to get me to step back far enough to rappel. One tiny step after another, however, I finally made it far enough to lower myself all the way down. Only then did I finally get to experience the satisfaction (not to mention adrenaline rush!) of the rappel itself.
I’m desperately afraid of heights, and have been as long as I can remember. I once broke down into tears in a windowed elevator because it was too packed for me to stand near the doors, and I was forced to watch us cascade all of the way up to the 11th floor of our hotel, with nothing to hold on to and, according to my fearful mind, nothing between me and tumbling down 11 balcony floors. I’ve tried every trick in the psychology books, but nothing has completely gotten rid of my fear. The mindfulness my yoga practice has taught me has helped, but to some degree I think that it will always be with me.
The only difference between me and someone who is crippled by their fear is that I don’t let it stop me. I rub right up against my edge of terror and I DO IT ANYWAY. I might close my eyes as I take tiny step after tiny step over the ledge, but I don’t stop. I might sweat and shake and even cry, but I DON’T STOP. In the end I find myself safely on the ground, perfectly safe, glowing and proud.
I learned in a leadership training in college that growth resides in the area where we are uncomfortable and a little bit afraid. For example, I could stay at my current “day job” forever. I get a regular paycheck, and I’m treated well, but I only get to teach yoga when I have free time. I feel comfortable at work, which is exactly why it doesn’t feel like I’m growing there.
Growth is that place where you’re uncomfortable, maybe a little bit unsure, and even afraid. But you can control that fear, put it in its place, and show it who’s the boss. So instead of staying comfortably where I am at, I am embarking on a year-long 500-hour Teacher Training expedition. At the end I hope to come out not just a better, more experienced, and more knowledgeable teacher, but a full-time teacher! The next step out of fear is moving into the unknown.
I look forward to sharing the next year of 500-hour Teacher Training with the awesome Daily Cup of Yoga community. I am as inspired by your contributions as I hope you are by mine. I’d love to hear in the comments section below any ways you have moved past your fear and into growth.
[Editor's note: This is a post from DCOY contributor, Sean Devenport. We're excited to hear her perspective, observations, and life lessons and wish her the best of luck in her upcoming 500-hour RYT!]