Tag Archives: anxiety

Risks

Via Flickr User Andreas Fetz

Via Flickr User Andreas Fetz

I’ve again been slacking in my blogger duties. At the beginning of the summer I was so concerned that I would not be busy enough–ha! Life has been surprising the hell out of me lately. I’m doing my best to stay grateful instead of letting anxiety take over–as I said in my last post, it can be difficult for any of us to let ourselves experience joy. There is certainly a part of me that is so freaked out that it compels me to want to quit everything and retreat into the Comfort Zone, where I can neither fail nor succeed.

But there is also the part of me that is exhilarated by this freedom. It’s terrifying and uncomfortable to be taking risks. Inevitably I will have failures, and I make mistakes. But how sweet it is to be in this place of growth, even if the experience isn’t always pleasant.

So much of this started with yoga. When I restarted my yoga practice back in January, it was out of desperation. I needed something to change. I had no idea how much it would help me heal; help me move my body and my mind and my spirit; help me process thoughts and emotions more effectively; help me learn about myself and about life.

The funny thing is that I don’t always want to go to yoga. Sometimes I even dread it. Because I don’t know what will happen on that mat. Will I feel strong? Will I feel weak? Will I nail this pose, or fall out of that one? Will any emotions come up? Will I cry, will I laugh, will I freak out, will I feel disconnected? Any of these are possibilities, and they’ve all happened–usually when I least expect them.

In yoga, as in life in general, you can’t know what to expect. It’s a risk to step onto your mat, not knowing what will happen there. Sometimes, yoga makes you feel like shit.

Yoga certainly isn’t the effortless experience some people believe it to be. Whether it’s your muscles shaking, your mind screaming, your heart swelling with a sudden onset of emotions you didn’t even know you had, yoga can be really damn difficult. I’ve had classes (and will continue to have classes) after which I feel awful. And some of those were even sessions I went into in a good mood. You never know what will happen. But the thing is–it’s always what you need.

And that’s why I’ve kept going. And that’s why I have begun to open myself to new possibilities–because yoga has helped me see how worth it it is to take risks.

I discovered a quote a few months ago by Peter McWilliams:

It is a risk to love.
What if it doesn’t work out?
Ah, but what if it does.

And it stuck with me. It not only applies to love but to everything. Daring to love in a larger sense is really daring to live–to make yourself vulnerable with no guarantees, to accept the possibility that it won’t work out. Because what if it does.

Letting Ourselves Feel Joy

Via Flickr User Danila Bedyaev

O blog, how I hath forsaken you. The past few weeks have been insane in the very best of ways. Since summer began, I’ve been able to enjoy Austin a bit more, soak in some delicious summer-ness, and work on some projects (I’m slowly learning some HTML/CSS). And quite unexpectedly, I met a great guy and began a new relationship.

So life is pretty damn good right now. Of course, the only downside to contentment is that there isn’t as much to write about, or at least not the immediate motivation to write about it.

But since I’ve written and reflected on depression quite a bit, perhaps I can now also write and reflect on joy. You would think feeling joy would be simple and easy, but it requires a willingness to be vulnerable that can be very difficult. When good things happen to us, it’s a lovely feeling, but then enters the fear that now we have something to lose. This can create a huge amount of anxiety that can lead otherwise stable people to self-sabotage. With the chance for happiness comes the chance for heartbreak later on–which is why there are a significant number of people who never allow themselves to take emotional risks. They protect themselves from sorrow and pain, but they also shield themselves from joy and love. Because to feel joy and love, you must make yourself vulnerable; you must be willing to accept both the darkness and the light in life because there is not one without the other. It can be immensely uncomfortable to extend ourselves beyond baseline emotions in any direction.

But if we want to love, to learn, to cry, to laugh, to explore, to discover, to try, to speak, to write, to move, to grow, we must take risks. Each one of these things is a risk in and of itself. But look at what they can give us.

So the challenge is letting yourself feel joy and trying to free yourself from the anxiety that surrounds it. Brené Brown’s suggested method is gratitude: being thankful for what you have when you start to feel that sense of anxiety emerging. Reminding yourself that you are right here, right now, and you will always have this moment regardless of what happens in the future.

Yoga, of course, can help. It gives us the chance to pause to just be in our bodies and our minds and focus on the present moment. If you’re anything like me, you suck at being in the present moment. But I’ve found that even just trying has made a difference, just taking the time to go to the studio and do nothing but move my body and breathe for an hour and fifteen minutes, even when I can’t get my mind to quiet down.

There is also the yoga of resting, though, which is what I’m (mostly) doing today. And there’s a lovely, simple joy in that too.

Full Moon

I never thought I would love a yoga pose named after an obnoxious bird, but my gods, do I love pigeon. It has joined wheel at the top of my favorites list. I tend to like anything to do with the sacral or heart chakras, but the way pigeon allows you to really focus and breathe into it serves to help release pent-up emotions so effectively.

I had an intense class yesterday, which I’m still sore from, and I have a bit of a sinus something going on, so I opted for a short at-home practice today. I put on music this time, and I forgot how much difference it can make. I enjoyed myself and stayed “in the moment” much more than I normally do with home practices. There may or may not have also been a little bit of dancing in between poses. 

I’ve been feeling more anxious lately, which has been making it more challenging to do my school work, or anything. Even writing this post feels difficult, but the times when we don’t feel like writing are the most important times to write, even though the results might not be too pretty (nor smooth nor insightful nor…) . One of the lessons yoga has taught me is that we have to make ourselves uncomfortable and vulnerable in order to move forward. The process of doing so can feel painful or even pointless, but dammit is it important, and ultimately freeing.

There’s a full moon tonight, which I hesitate to say could be contributing to my (and others’) anxiety, only because I know the idea of the moon’s phases affecting human emotions and behavior is controversial. I’ve experienced and observed enough full-moon craziness to believe it, though, so I suppose if I must be labeled An Insane Moon-Myth Believer, so be it. 🙂

Running into the Waves

Many yogis consider savasana (the pose that comes at the end of every yoga practice) to be the most challenging yoga pose. The physicality of it–lying on your back with your eyes closed–is easier and more effortless than any other pose, but mentally, it might be more challenging than all of the poses combined, at least for busy minds (and who among us doesn’t have a busy mind?). It’s a pose of total relaxation, letting everything go. Its (seemingly morbid) English name is “corpse pose” because you’re meant to be totally still in mind and body. 

For some of us, the simple task of not thinking is a steep climb up a high mountain. It might even provoke anxiety. This is certainly true for me, and there have been times when I’ve spent the entirety of savasana getting caught up in the explosion of thoughts in my brain. I imagine if we were able to make images out of someone’s mind during meditation, a Buddhist monk’s might look something like a smooth, perfectly spherical marble ball–and mine would just be a cloud of black squiggles squirming around haphazardly. 

So lately I’ve been taking a different approach. Instead of trying to clear my mind completely, I try to at least put myself somewhere peaceful. After Tuesday’s gentle hatha practice, I saw a meadow full of grass as soft as feathers, where I danced and felt the sun warm my skin. 

Then something kind of interesting happened during yesterday’s savasana. I went to that same meadow, then moved through it, to a forest that resembled one that’s very special to my family. I continued moving through, not on the ground but among the treetops, where a bird might fly. On the other side of the forest, I found an ocean. Then I came back to the ground, and I ran into the waves. They looked quite like the ones I pictured when I wrote this post, but in this meditation, I was not afraid of them. I dove into them, I moved with them, I relished the smell and feel of the salt water. I was not struggling against the ocean; I became a part of it. I moved with the currents, and then they moved with me. 

I left class feeling blissed out. It was a cloudy, drizzly day, but all I noticed was the smell of the rain. It’s been a while since I’ve felt like that, even post-yoga. It’s not as though it’s permanent, but I am grateful to have experienced that feeling. Now I remember it. I remember that it exists, that it can be real. And I remember that the ocean is not my enemy–it’s a part of me, and I can choose to try to move with it instead of struggling against it and wishing for dry land.

Maybe savasana isn’t so bad.

Waves

I’ve been trying to write for the last half hour, and I can’t seem to find the words I really want to use. When your mind is so full of thought and your heart so full of emotion, it can be difficult to formulate a coherent sentence. Maybe tomorrow I will have more mental clarity, but for now, I accept that I need time to process before I can grasp the right words. I can only say that things seem to be shifting and changing–I don’t know what that means exactly or what will come of it, but I am trying as hard as I can to ride the waves of this ocean I’m in and not get trapped underneath them. I’ve had many times when a wave does overtake me and I begin to drown, but just as I am about to give up and let my lungs fill with water, I suddenly break the surface and gasp in air. I am grateful to the universe for this, for allowing some small but potent change to occur just when I need it the most. I am trying to just keep moving, creating and inviting these small changes when I can.

My yoga experience has been varied this week. On Monday, I had a transformative class: I went in feeling low–stuck in a deep depression and resentful of everything–but I underwent an amazing shift and came out of the studio feeling awakened, refreshed, and liberated. And I actually enjoyed myself during the practice, which is something I have rarely experienced, at least to that extent. You know that when yoga teachers say, “Let your practice be effortless,” and it kind of pisses you off because since when is holding yourself in a squat or standing on your head effortless? Well, my experience in that class was probably the closest I’ve come to actually understanding what they mean when they say that. I felt that union with my body (the word yoga actually means union) and took actual joy in all of the sweaty torture.

I had a similar, though less pronounced, experience the next day, in a gentler hatha class, and I had a pretty good home practice on Wednesday.

But yesterday was different, unfortunately. I don’t know whether it was that the teacher just wasn’t my style (no music and not many modifications provided) or that I was back in the dark black hole of doom or that I was feeling some muscle-related side effects of a medication, but I left feeling teary and even nauseated.

I do think I am beginning to see, though, that there is value in those kinds of practices, too. I do think that it shifted things; it just happened that it shifted things such that I had to experience some really negative emotions that had been building in me.

Today I went to acupuncture, and it seems to have shifted things in a more positive direction. I do think it’s important that things just keep shifting, even though it’s inevitable that there will be a lot of this back-and-forth.

My heart is still heavy and sad, but I am grateful for the love I have and the love I am able to give.

Image

Photo via Pinterest