Working with fear

Javelin trainHigh Speed Javelin – Photocredit: wikipedia

Following an acute experience of agoraphobia many years ago, one of my personal challenges (still) is working with fear and anxiety. I’ve explored various different therapies and techniques in my recovery and am so grateful that I came across the transformative power of Dru yoga, which has helped me so much. I’m now able to teach yoga classes, drive longer distances and travel on public transport – all of which would have seemed impossible when I was virtually housebound and having panic attacks. Although able to do most of the things I’d like to do, there are still times when the fear kicks in or I think the fear will kick in.

If I’m not careful, I start judging myself, thinking that I should be able to ‘deal with’ the fear and not be afraid of it still. But those habitual patterns seem hard to break.

So I thought I’d try a mindfulness course, and am half-way through an eight-week programme. A quote that our lovely tutor, Shelly at The Mindful Road, sent us this week reminds me to stop judging myself:

“Note that this journey is uniquely yours, no one else’s. So the path has to be your own. You cannot imitate somebody else’s journey and still be true to yourself. Are you prepared to honor your uniqueness in this way?” ― Jon Kabat-Zinn

Acceptance has been key for me, but more recently, I’ve been working with embracing the fear, rather than trying to banish it or push it away.  One of the concepts of mindfulness is to notice and be curious. So with the fear, to be curious about how it feels, how it changes my breathing and what thoughts appear. And at the same time to welcome it (which is really hard!).

In a video clip that we were asked to watch this week, Jon Kabat-Zinn demonstrated this in relation to pain – not pushing it away, but moving in closer. If you’re interested, take a look at the video, and go to around 31 minutes into the clip if you don’t have time to watch it all.

One of those things that I’d still like to do is to go on the Eurostar, and this weekend moved another step closer to that by going on the hi-speed rail link from St. Pancras to Ashford. 12 miles of tunnels out of London, so great practice for the Chunnel. Paris, here I come!

Focus on chocolate

Tulips and easter eggsJust before Easter, we did a chocolate meditation in one of my classes. It went down quite well, even though I got one or two strange looks when I suggested it. If you’ve got any Easter chocolate left 🙂 there’s a version of it on the website: Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World. Try it with some fruit if you don’t eat chocolate.

Why practice it?

Well, it slows you down and helps you to appreciate what you eat, rather than wolfing it down at 100mph. If you eat more slowly generally, it aids your digestion too. It helps to focus your mind by giving it something to do, so you are fully aware in this present moment. (And it makes the chocolate last longer too!)

One of Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga is Dharana, variously translated as focus, attention or concentration, and is the step that precedes meditation.  Whatever we can do to help the mind to focus rather than jumping off in all directions is good for our equilibrium.

“By shining the light of awareness where there was murkiness and darkness before, you start to see what is inside and around you”.

~ from The Spirit of Yoga by Cat de Rham and Michele Gill