Fear and When Fate Attacks.
Written by: Jeneka
So this blog may come off a little strange or on-orthodox but I felt as if it was just way too coincidental. Or maybe not, maybe it’s a fate or a higher power or whatever you want to call it, maybe it is,” all supposed to happen for a reason.”
Life and its lessons. Episodes of time destined to happen to ultimately teach you something. To read about my journey as a yoga teacher, click here.
So, here it goes….Many of you that know me very well, know that I have one big fear. A fear that is debilitating. A fear that as a child I’d hope I’d grow out of, seeing my parents handle it with no issue. A fear so common that you would think there would be a therapy class for it to help with the anxiety it creates on the daily…spiders. Yes, I know I’m not alone in this so I’m not being too overly dramatic here but for reals this is a daily struggle for me and its never ceases to be unmemorable. Now, I know what you’re thinking… the wheels are turning and you’re saying, what the heck does this girl’s fear in spiders have to do with yoga. Well let me just tell you and you can come up with your own synopsis of my life and its many when “fate attacks” moments, I like to call it.
In order to begin I would to share the psychological background behind the meaning of yoga and it all starts in “Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra.” Now the book is extensive and for the sake of time I found an article written by Mara Carrico for YogaJournal in 2007.
‘In Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra, the eightfold path is called ashtanga, which literally means “eight limbs” (ashta=eight, anga=limb). These eight steps basically act as guidelines on how to live a meaningful and purposeful life. They serve as a prescription for moral and ethical conduct and self-discipline; they direct attention toward one’s health; and they help us to acknowledge the spiritual aspects of our nature.
The first limb, yama, deals with one’s ethical standards and sense of integrity, focusing on our behavior and how we conduct ourselves in life. Yamas are universal practices that relate best to what we know as the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
The five yamas are:
Niyama, the second limb, has to do with self-discipline and spiritual observances. Regularly attending temple or church services, saying grace before meals, developing your own personal meditation practices, or making a habit of taking contemplative walks alone are all examples of niyamas in practice.
The five niyamas are:
–Tapas: heat; spiritual austerities
–Svadhyaya: study of the sacred scriptures and of one’s self
–Isvara pranidhana: surrender to God/Also see Tap Your Higher Power
Asanas, the postures practiced in yoga, comprise the third limb. In the yogic view, the body is a temple of spirit, the care of which is an important stage of our spiritual growth. Through the practice of asanas, we develop the habit of discipline and the ability to concentrate, both of which are necessary for meditation.
Generally translated as breath control, this fourth stage consists of techniques designed to gain mastery over the respiratory process while recognizing the connection between the breath, the mind, and the emotions. As implied by the literal translation of pranayama, “life force extension,” yogis believe that it not only rejuvenates the body but actually extends life itself. You can practice pranayama as an isolated technique (i.e., simply sitting and performing a number of breathing exercises), or integrate it into your daily hatha yoga routine.
These first four stages of Patanjali’s ashtanga yoga concentrate on refining our personalities, gaining mastery over the body, and developing an energetic awareness of ourselves, all of which prepares us for the second half of this journey, which deals with the senses, the mind, and attaining a higher state of consciousness.
Pratyahara, the fifth limb, means withdrawal or sensory transcendence. It is during this stage that we make the conscious effort to draw our awareness away from the external world and outside stimuli. Keenly aware of, yet cultivating a detachment from, our senses, we direct our attention internally. The practice of pratyahara provides us with an opportunity to step back and take a look at ourselves. This withdrawal allows us to objectively observe our cravings: habits that are perhaps detrimental to our health and which likely interfere with our inner growth.
As each stage prepares us for the next, the practice of pratyahara creates the setting for dharana, or concentration. Having relieved ourselves of outside distractions, we can now deal with the distractions of the mind itself. No easy task! In the practice of concentration, which precedes meditation, we learn how to slow down the thinking process by concentrating on a single mental object: a specific energetic center in the body, an image of a deity, or the silent repetition of a sound. We, of course, have already begun to develop our powers of concentration in the previous three stages of posture, breath control, and withdrawal of the senses. In asana and pranayama, although we pay attention to our actions, our attention travels. Our focus constantly shifts as we fine-tune the many nuances of any particular posture or breathing technique. In pratyahara we become self-observant; now, in dharana, we focus our attention on a single point. Extended periods of concentration naturally lead to meditation.
Meditation or contemplation, the seventh stage of ashtanga, is the uninterrupted flow of concentration. Although concentration (dharana) and meditation (dhyana) may appear to be one and the same, a fine line of distinction exists between these two stages. Where dharana practices one-pointed attention, dhyana is ultimately a state of being keenly aware without focus. At this stage, the mind has been quieted, and in the stillness it produces few or no thoughts at all. The strength and stamina it takes to reach this state of stillness is quite impressive. But don’t give up. While this may seem a difficult if not impossible task, remember that yoga is a process. Even though we may not attain the “picture perfect” pose, or the ideal state of consciousness, we benefit at every stage of our progress.
Patanjali describes this eighth and final stage of ashtanga, samadhi, as a state of ecstasy. At this stage, the meditator merges with his or her point of focus and transcends the Self altogether. The meditator comes to realize a profound connection to the Divine, an interconnectedness with all living things. With this realization comes the “peace that passeth all understanding”; the experience of bliss and being at one with the Universe. On the surface, this may seem to be a rather lofty, “holier than thou” kind of goal. However, if we pause to examine what we really want to get out of life, would not joy, fulfillment, and freedom somehow find their way onto our list of hopes, wishes, and desires? What Patanjali has described as the completion of the yogic path is what, deep down, all human beings aspire to: peace. We also might give some thought to the fact that this ultimate stage of yoga—enlightenment—can neither be bought nor possessed. It can only be experienced, the price of which is the continual devotion of the aspirant.”
Now, you may still be thinking what does this have to do with her fear in spiders. Well, this is where fate attacks in the most mysterious ways or maybe its the higher power presenting a reminder or constant life lesson to keep you in check. Whatever it may be I’m going to let it be my drive from now on. Whenever I see a spider and its creepy crawly 8 limbs I’m going to remember its the world reminding me of my fear and how I need to transform that fear by living by those 8 limbs of yoga instead. I’m going to apply the 8 limbs of Yoga to my fear for those 8 creepy crawling legs of those spidy’s. One day this fear will be broken. I believe in it, I have to gosh darn it.
Even though I highly fear spiders, I still appreciate them and find beauty in them. Their way of life is absolutely fascinating and I can’t help but be oddly attracted…as they are to me as well. Pretty ironic how something you fear so much is drawn to you instead of repelled. Happens with humans as well, sadly. So the moral of this story: Find that beauty…in all your fears. Turns out, they may not be fears in the end but lessons learned instead.