personal growth, yoga

The Jerry Springer Effect, Or How I Learned To Banish Fear In Five Simple Steps

It stands in your way. It shuts you down. It feels downright crappy. Here are five surefire methods to stop fear in its sinister, creeping tracks.

1. Breathe like Darth Vader. My yoga teacher reminds us to feel our breath and engage in ujjayi breathingas we drag the inhale and exhale powerfully across the back of our throats. In other words, super deep breathing. It sounds great. It feels great. It’ll mellow you out and connect you back to yourself. Sometimes, taking a breath and centering is all you need to face down fear. If that doesn’t work…

2. Imagine it’s happening to someone else. If your best friend was afraid to jump out of an airplane but you knew the adventure was totally aligned with her adventure-seekin’ self, you’d encourage her, right? What if she wanted to kick her loser boyfriend to the curb? You’d want her to dump the jerk. Well…step out of yourself. What would you say to “you” if you weren’t “you”? Okay. Do that.

 3. Apply the “Jerry Springer Effect.” Someone always has it worse than you. Recently, I had a filling in my molar randomly fall out. As much as I told it not to, my tongue fished around in the back of my mouth, feeling for the big ‘ol hole, freaking me the heck out. I tried yogic breathing (see #1), but I still couldn’t chill. Then I reminded myself that lots of people don’t have access to a dentist. I recalled that in the old days people had to get their teeth yanked out without painkillers. Then I felt a little bad about being such a sissy about my silly filling when my appointment the following day would fix me right up. Perspective usually helps.

4. Remember that you are going to die. It’s true. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but this is the only moment and life you can be sure of. As frightening as that may be, it is also liberating. What if you could put this “thing you are afraid of” in your eulogy? Would you rather be known as “the person who died trying” or “the person who gave up?” Yeah. I thought so.

5. Do it anyways. Whatever it is. If a thought or idea has taken up residence in your mind so that it nags and grows inside you, do it anyway. “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not absence of fear,” said Mark Twain. And he should know. If anyone stood down the aristocracy and generated a new voice for the rebellion, it was Twain. Own it. Close your eyes. Hold your breath. Then jump in the deep end and learn to swim.

Fear never stood a chance.


Rediscovering Your Authentic Self

“We are at 5 who we are at 50….if we’re lucky.”
Becky (Sometimes) Amos

My sister and I had a wonderful conversation the other night and we got to talking about the picture above. It shows the two of us at ages ~3 and 6. She said it’s one of her very favorites because you can already see who we are, captured on film, at such a young age. I am the girl on the right who spent hours reading and writing and staring at posters of unicorns, wishing I could somehow get past the 2-dimensional poster layer to the fully imagined world I knew lay just on the other side. She was already dating David Banner (aka The Hulk) and insisted we set a spot for him at the dinner table every evening. Thus, the die was cast.

We laughed at the memories, smiled, and knew that those little girls we used to be, in so many ways, hinted at the women we would become. But the next question is, what got lost along the way and is it important to try to find it again?

Henry David Thoreau said  “It is usually the imagination that is wounded first, rather than the heart; it being much more sensitive.” I have to agree with him. For me, one of the intrinsic parts of self that got buried, stomped on and shoved to the back of the closet, was creativity. It can be different for each of us – drawing, dancing, singing, making music. But I think everyone forgets about parts of themselves on the way to adulthood. Parts that can be rediscovered and broadened to make life exciting again.

Now that I’ve reclaimed writing, I feel like I’m dumpster diving my life, rediscovering bits and pieces of creative inspiration, struggling to reignite neurons that have gotten lazy from disuse. They flicker on, sputter, and engage a little longer each time I use them. As my brain acclimates to its new assignment (create! imagine! ignite!) everything is like new again, until I realize I’ve seen this landscape before, as a child. It feels like the memory of a dream.

Who were you as a child? What did you love? What was it about you that was a little different from everyone else – the thing that set you apart? That’s probably the thing you tried to let go of as you grew up. It makes sense. Those things that set us apart are also the things that invite the most ridicule as a child (and sometimes into adulthood.) If you had any self-preservation instinct at all, you found a way to “cope” with that difference and make it more agreeable to the schoolyard and classmates who acted like miniature stand-ins for society at large.

But you know what? Those things that set you apart are the very things you were put in this world to contribute. It’s time to reclaim those parts of yourself. It’s time for an expedition into the dark corners. Look under floor boards. Start with the smallest shred of evidence (“I remember I used to love swinging….”) and follow it down the rabbit hole. Search for the feeling, the sensation, the imagined landscape. Inhabit it. Feed it. Watch it grow. Find your way home.