Fear is not real.
Fear is an illusion, a compilation of thoughts we form that can be disguised as many things; doubt, procrastination, comparison or really just a straightforward fear like heights or darkness. These fears become barriers in our lives, holding us back from doing the things in life we want to do. We don’t realize the potential that lies just on the other side of these thoughts.
Maya Tulum Yoga Retreat
One of the highlights from my yoga retreat last week was the Temazcol experience, also known as a “Sweat Lodge” (aka torture chamber, aka brick oven, aka my nemesis). I won’t drown you in the details of what this ceremony consisted of, but will provide you this link to give you an idea: Mayan Temazcal
In short, the main purpose of this ceremony is to cleans your mind, body and soul of bad energies and thoughts through chants, guided meditation and lots and lots of heat. I freak out immediately if I’m enclosed in small spaces, and even more so if it’s dark and hot. So going through this was no walk in the park.
But I wanted to conquer this fear, that was my main objective when I decided to join the group through this journey. Everyone had different reasons for being there at that very moment, and perhaps deep down they were all the same reasons, we just labeled them differently.
As we each folded into the small lodge, those reasons were becoming clearer to me. Fear and anxiety rushed through me as we took our seats and settled in for what would be about 1.5 hours of uninterrupted agony. It was nothing I could have imaged, and everything I feared all in one.
Why would I voluntarily put myself through this? I could have easily opted out when the topic came up. I could have changed my mind when I actually saw the small brick lodge we would all crowd into. And I could have easily walked away when we were given the rundown of what we were about to experience. But I didn’t. I stayed because I truly believe conquering your fears opens up gateways and expands the dimensions of your mind.
Edges of Darkness
The door closed, darkness filled the space and the ceremony began. All I could think was “get me the f@#k out of here!”. But after several minutes of heat, sobs, screams and chants I could barely understand let alone regurgitate, I mustered up the mental strength to endure the process. To do so I had to stretch the boundaries of my mind beyond what I could imagine in order to get through it. It was a complete mental workout, a total strengthening of my mind.
I felt like Luke Skywalker facing Darth Vader; I refused to give in to the dark side – pun very much intended.
I still had the chance to walk away, inhale fresh air and jump in the ocean. The thought was so tempting, it was far too hot in there, the air was stuffy, it was hard to breathe and the door was merely inches away…but I was there for a reason, (the reason wasn’t because I willingly walked inside the lodge, so now just sit still and don’t ruin it for everybody else) I felt instantly drawn to it from the first moment I learned of it, and to me, that was reason enough.
So now, I had 3 choices, I could give up and walk away, give in to the “dark side” and freak out, or expand my mind and get through it. Gaining control of my mind and calming it was no easy feat in that environment. I surely could not have done it without the support of the group and their energy. But I managed.
In those moments of darkness, I was able to reach that very edge where fear ends and limitless potential begins. I stepped right up to it and crossed it. I felt like I reached a new frequency level I had never experienced before because I never looked over that edge. It was like a new door appeared and I had the ability to open it and look through it. And what I saw on the other side was infinite space.
We’re so used to stopping when we feel we have reached our limits and then filling that space with excuses as to why we can’t go beyond them – “I won’t go in the Temazcal because I’m claustrophobic, period!” (or whatever your “claustrophobia” is).
Keeping that door open wasn’t easy. My mind wanted to constantly snap back to the reality my body was being exposed to. And that battled continued through the remainder of the ceremony.
“You will only ever have two choices: love or fear: Choose love and don’t ever let fear turn you against your playful heart.” ~ J.C.
The Bigger Picture
To me it was like this – imagine drawing a circle on a piece of paper, the circle represents you within the space of the universe; the circle is your energy. Now draw a larger circle around the first circle. That larger circle represents the new frequency or level of consciousness you expand to when you experience growth.
However, that space in between the small and large circle is just space for now. You’ve created space for change, it is now your responsibility to make the changes you have opened yourself up for.
A lot of us come back from an inspiring trip, a new experience or even a stimulating conversation feeling alive and exhilarated. However, that feeling of excitement quickly dissipates once we return to our everyday routine. We go back to what is “normal” and comfortable and before we know it, that space is gone or maybe even filled with new fears and doubts.
On a physical level, it is like achieving flexibility or strength. If you do yoga 3 times a week for 1 month you will open up your muscles. You’ll have the strength to hold a pose longer than you did when you started and you will create new space in your hips to touch your toes, for example. However, if you don’t consistently practice, you will slowly lose what you’ve gained. The same goes for every aspect of your life.
It is our personal obligation to maintain that frequency level (or strength or flexibility). It will not maintain itself. We have to keep working at it. Life is a constant journey, there is no destination – and I pepper in these cliché quotes because they are simply true. Just because I came out of that sweat lodge alive and renewed doesn’t mean my journey is over. I came out with the vision and the tools to become anything I want to be. It served as a reminder that we are all limitless and we can exercise this potential at any moment. You don’t need a Temazcal to tell you that (although it helped me).
“Knowing is not enough, we must apply. Willing is not enough we must do.” –Bruce Lee.
Maybe my fear was of myself and facing my true potential, I still don’t know the true source of my fear of small, dark, hot spaces. But I do know the fear only exists in my mind, and I had the choice all along to eliminate it. I now know what lies beyond it and that to overcome something, you must face it.
We all have the potential to reach these levels and beyond. I learn that more and more through yoga, through the people I have met since I started this practice, and especially the beautiful people I met during my retreat. I truly believe our purpose is to reach these levels of love and help each other along the way and I cannot ignore that.
So I encourage you to put yourself out there, throw yourself out of your comfort zone and reach for the spaces beyond your limits. It won’t be easy, but where there is discomfort; in life, in movement, in words…therein lie the opportunities for growth.