Many years ago, feeling stuck, options appearing limited, life stretching out like a prison sentence, I happened upon a book called Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers.
In that book she says fear never goes away, and that making a pact with oneself to act when it has, or when you feel better, is completely wrong thinking. The fear only leaves, or rather shifts, when you steal yourself and act. You have to push against the boundaries in order to create a new landscape.
That book literally got me off my arse and back into education, which led to university, and so the beginning of something beyond the fear, beyond the stuckness. The biggest lesson in the book for me was the concept of the ‘chatterbox’. The inner voice, the inner critic, that lurks in the shadows of the mind feeding and reinforcing doubts, fear and uncertainty, with negative chatter.
This chatterbox is cunning and evasive. Even as it screams inside your head, it doesn’t become lucidly noticeable until somehow you’re made aware of its presence. This book shone that light for me, and in doing so offered up a different way of operating. It brought to my awareness the idea of overriding the passive conditioned mind with consciously positive affirmations. One of the mantras Jeffers offers for consideration in her book is “there is nothing to fear; I can handle it”.
We can easily suffocate in the idea that we can’t handle ‘it’; our fears and uncertainty. That we will be overwhelmed if we step outside of our comfort zones; however hideous, destructive and self-defeating they might be. Better to remain in familiar territory with our discomfort, than to broach new territory and face discomfort in unfamiliar surroundings. Familiarity can be a sanctuary. It can also be a prison. If it is keeping you in a state of fear, then by definition it must surely be the latter.
It’s so long since I first read this book, that my memory is a little fuzzy on the matter, but it could be, that it was this book, that opened my mind to the concepts of yoga. The beginning of my awareness that it is possible to stand apart from your mind and observe its workings. That one doesn’t have to be a slave to ones emotions and thoughts. That you don’t have to believe everything that you think. Indeed to do so must be classed as a neurosis. Standing rigidly with your thoughts and the thoughts of others, given the nature of the human mind and attachments of ego, is a precarious position to be in. It is not a flow state. It is a tsunami in waiting.
So this book shifted my thinking, gave me an elevated position or new perspective from which to observe myself, the working of my mind, and identify the tethers of my conditioning and experience. What this book offers, like psychological behaviour therapies, yoga, mindfulness and the like, is a nudge from the passenger seat of awareness over into the driver’s seat. The place where you are in control of the route and destination. Your hands are on the wheel of your life and mind responses. And that is fundamentally the raison d’etre of yogic practice.
Mark Pearson is a Yoga Alliance (200hrs) accredited yoga teacher. He has written for Om magazine on the subject of Mindful Parenting. He has a blog at https://dharmayoga2106.wordpress.com/ and can be found via Twitter @yogabum2106 and Facebook @dharmayoga2106