Yoga doesn’t want to destroy your anxiety. Yoga just wants to have a nice open dialogue with your anxiety. “The Wired Warrior,” will be devoted to facilitating that dialogue. Every few days, I’ll be sharing work-related and real-life-related dilemmas, with an explanation of how yoga can prevent you from breaking things and hating people.
I was talking to a former co-worker tonight about her new job and she mentioned that she’s starting on a three month trial period. “More reasons to just be nervous,” she explained.
“I’m sure it’ll turn out better if you try not to be nervous and just do your work,” I suggested.
“But being nervous is a big part of my personality,” she protested.
I totally hear her on this. Fear is a big motivator for many people, and constant fretting can be as natural as breathing. But through careful observation of my own work habits, I have noticed that worrying about the future, or things that are not immediately in my control, has a negative effect on the quality of work I do. Constantly worrying that I might lose my job in 3 months would almost definitely lead to me losing my job in three months.
It made me think of something my teacher-trainer Kara Sekuler said this weekend. We were practicing handstand, and she told us, “Move into your fear. Don’t try to conquer it–it’s too hard. Just move into it.” For many people, myself included, handstand is the White Whale of the yoga practice. Whether it’s kicking up, not looking like a banana once you’re up there, or trying to balance off the wall, everyone has a challenge. For many people, myself included, an entire class can be tainted by concern about the handstand practice.
As it turns out, the handstand practice can also be tainted by fear about the handstand practice. Take someone like me. If someone helps me up into handstand, I can balance fine. But I cannot kick up to wall to save my life, or anyone else’s. Once I got so mad that I threatened myself by saying, “your mother will die if you don’t kick up into handstand.” I didn’t do it. (Sorry, Mom.) On the downside, I no longer believe in mind over matter, although on the upside, my mother is still alive.
It’s not that mind-power and will aren’t important. But my problem was that I was trying to conquer my fear of handstand. Clearly, since I can balance once I’m up there, my fear isn’t really of handstand. My fear is about kicking myself up. By focusing on “conquering the handstand,” I was able to keep being sloppy and weak when I kicked, because I distracted by trying to force myself towards the final pose. Similarly, for most of us, the big worries, i.e, will I lose my job? will I get promoted? will anyone ever visit this site? distract us from the little worries that we should be focusing on, i.e, does this sentence sound right? did I fact-check? are there any typos?
The thing is, you can’t just conquer your fear of kicking. You have to deliberately and mindfully move into your fear of kicking, and you do that by forgetting about the end goal and kicking with the best form you can possibly have. It’s a more manageable way to deal with whatever is blocking you, physically and psychologically. Kara also told me that my block was that I wouldn’t really commit. (I told her commitment was impossible for me and that I could get a doctor’s note to prove it.)
While it’s true that I have fear of commitment, I found that moving into that fear slowly–not committing to a full handstand but just to kicking really well, was doable. For people who love to worry, it’s hard to imagine putting the end goal aside for even a moment. But for people who love to succeed, it’s probably worth a try.