I went running this morning in the chilly January air. Though my podrunner track pumped through my earbuds as I willed my creaky body forward (I have two races coming up in the next month, so training season is on), my mind worked harder than my quads. I started pondering the idea of fear and how it leads to inspiration. Or, sometimes, how inspiration leads to fear. And then back again.
A few times in my life, fear has lead me towards incredible opportunities. When I received my yoga certification back in 2004, I was petrified of teaching in an actual classroom. In college, I was the person in class with lots of ideas but who developed heart palpitations when called upon to share. My face would flush, I would mumble and trip myself up in my own fear of public speaking. This became easier in grad school, as I calmed down and developed confidence, realizing that my ideas were just ideas, professors were just people, and it really wasn't the end of the world to fumble.
In both of these instances, fear fueled me in a strange way. I felt inspired by my yoga teachers and the thrill of teaching yoga myself; this inspiration must've taken hold somewhere in the universe. I started teaching about a month after I graduated, at a little funky studio next to Brendan's clinic. I taught mommy and me yoga - apropros since I was a new mom deep in the trenches, and newly pregnant again. That first class, I felt paralyzed with fear.
But lo and behold, I got through it. And women started giving me positive feedback. They would end class smiling, looking peaceful and less frazzled then they did when class first started. I thought, maybe I am on to something.
From this opportunity, I developed confidence in teaching, made some friends. I walked into Gold's Gym a few months after Audrey was born, applied to the group fitness department, and started teaching a class. From there I got on the sub list, picked up a few more classes, started teaching at a second Gold's location.
Before I knew it, the same small group of people took my four classes. One girl in particular kept showing up, and stayed around afterwards to chat with me. She was a buff gym rat, with a football player husband and two boys from a few different relationships. Yoga helped her calm down. At first she resisted, saying yoga "wasn't a real workout," but slowly she began to benefit from the combination of stillness , strength, and mobility.
Fast forward a few years, after I stopped teaching at Gold's due to the program dismantling, me having another kid, and life just picking up speed. I dropped in on my former Saturday morning class at the GIlbert location, since I still had a membership. I walked in, late and rushing as usual, only to freeze in my steps. There was Trina, my old muscled student, not taking class, but leading it.
We both broke into grins, then I unrolled my mat in amazement. She lead the class with some hesitation, much as I did years before. With growing confidence in her voice she ended strong, the result being fifteen happy people in shavasana, breathing easily and deeply after putting their bodies through the movements and rhythym of yoga.
After class, I rushed over to give her a huge hug. Beaming, she held my hands and asked me how she did.
"Are you kidding? That was awesome! I didn't even know you wanted to get your certification!"
And then she said something that stuck with me. That continues to fill me with a feeling of purpose.
"I didn't know I wanted to until I stopped taking your class. I just graduated and started teaching. Yoga helped me so much back when my life was crazy. It centered me and got me in tune with my body. You inspired me to become a teacher."
I was floored. I never imagined I'd inspire anyone to do anything. I felt blessed, yet humbled at the same time. That fear based in inspiration lead to something amazing for me, and for Trina.
I'm not the greatest or most impressive yogi - I can't do the crazy inversion poses. My scoliosis flares up and sometimes I talk too quietly, and people ask me to speak up. In the middle of a long asana sequence, sometimes I'll forget a pose on the left side. I've lost count of how many times I've thought about it the drive home, or had a student remind me mid-class.
But I take my limitations to the mat. I think it makes me accessible to people coming in to do their best with what their bodies and minds have to offer that day. It shows that I'm a struggling human, far from perfect, but who genuinely cares enough to guide and lead from the heart.
My fear of public speaking came full circle a few years ago when I tentatively applied to be an adjunct instructor in English/Humanities at a local graphic arts college … and, incredibly, landed the job. Terrified that first day in front of a room full of students, teaching something I had never taught before, I muscled up some inspiration to break through my fear.
I sucked those first few weeks - I know I did. I had no organizational methods or knowledge of how to transmit new information to resistant students - to set boundaries, to communicate clearly, let alone to inspire.
But, week after week, I fumbingly figured it out. I taught for two years there, and received positive feedback on class surveys. A few kids hadn't read a book (except for comic books) since junior high. And after taking my class, they not only read but kind of - SORT OF - enjoyed it. They would read my edits on my papers, ask questions about them, and - most shockingly - listen to my advice. Ones who started the semester with folded arms and purposely closed mouths would sit up straighter by the end, and raise their hands to answer questions.
By far, teaching through my fear has been the most rewarding thing I have done, professionally. It stumps me still, how that can happen. If I waited to be "perfect" or be "prepared" or not have any fear, I would never do anything.
Inspiration drives fear, and fear can drive inspiration. Whenever I hear myself say "I can't" something in me resists it. I thought "I can't swim laps" "I don't know how to swim" for so many years until last Spring, when I decided to jump in my backyard pool and just do it.
Fear of sharing myself through writing stopped me for years. "I'm too busy, I have nothing new to say, no one will read what I write" etc…all these fear- based excuses easily took hold. Until I wrote my book, then pushed a big ol' opause on it and started this blog. A few of these blog posts have sucked - I know it - but I plug away. I am trying to push through the fear of no one reading what I write. Feeling the fear in order to remember the inspiration behind why I started it in the first place.
What inspires you? What do you fear? I'm surprised how closely these concepts parallel each other. I'm learning how to embrace and respect fear, and analyze specifically what drives it. Usually in my case, the resistance I feel tries to keep me away from what I really want/need to do to live my life the most fully.
Author Steven Pressfield wrote a whole gem of a book on fear and inspiration: The War of Art. I am still spinning out about it, digesting its nuggets of greatness. Pressfield sees fear as a big part of Resistance: that ego force people fight against every day to move forward in life. Life puts us in a battle between Resistance and creativity, and it's our job to push Resistance back on its heels.
Resistance cannot be seen, touched, heard or smelled. But it can be felt. It's a repelling force. It's negative. Its aim is to shove us away, distract us, prevent us from doing our work.
Instead of fearing fear, or giving up and letting resistance win, I need to remember that behind fear lies truth. Inspiration fuels this truth, and when I follow it, I find contentment. Contentment leads to self-worth, satisfaction, joy - all those feelings that help create a meaningful life.
So, on my next run, I will let the f word Fear toy with me. I will look at it, feel it, let it bounce around within me and resound in tempo with my feet as they pound that pavement. I will sneak around it to find the truth and inspiration behind it.
And then? Bring on the fear, bring on the inspiration. I see you Resistance, and I salute you.
"Resistance has no strength of its own. Every ounce of juice it possesses comes from us. We feed it with the power by our fear of it. Master that fear and we conquer Resistance. " - Steven Pressfield.
The path through fear is an open road, full of endless potential.
Mom of three fireballs. Teacher. Wife to a rockstar doctor. Writer. Yogi. Runner. Business Owner. Trying to manage it all with grace, honesty, and humor. Health Coach, Holistic Nutritionist, Protea Medical Center. www.protealife.com.