My family and I went on a zip line tour in California’s Redwood forest last week. When I got to the first platform 150 feet above the ground, my stomach dropped and I stood frozen hugging a tree for dear life, even though I was harnessed in with two safety lines. It’s funny; I used to be the kid who would do double flips off a high dive. As an adult, where did this fear come from?
I caught my breath and realized the parallel between zip lining and the art of teaching yoga. I saw where my previous fear-induced obstacles blocked me from realizing my highest career vision. I strive to be a bringer of light, to inspire others to feel good and safe, and to raise our collective vibrations so that we reside in our truth and knowing for the well-being of all.
The barrier to my work was my own self-betrayal: the sly but insidious mind chatter telling me that I am not good enough, worthy enough, or knowledgeable enough to achieve such potent aspirations.
It is said that what makes someone a great yoga instructor, in addition to her skill, knowledge, and intuitiveness, is that she has committed to living a yogic lifestyle. This can be a scary proposition, as it means being held accountable to the high teachings that she is bringing forth. Overcoming my obstacle of public speaking and being vulnerable was challenging, but the biggest roadblock to my greatness was my unhealthy relationship with alcohol. For me, it was choking the very life current with which I was striving to commune. Jumping off the platform and taking a brave look at where I used alcohol to relax and numb darker feelings was outright frightening. I wanted to keep them neatly tucked away in a box labeled “dangerous: do not open.” But Yoga teaches us that it doesn’t work that way. We can’t be selective about which feelings we choose to feel. When we numb the painful, sad ones, we also numb the joyful, light ones. When not allowed to flow, dark hidden feelings manifest as tension in our muscles, bones, and joints, causing us emotional and physical pain. Our loved ones often absorb the brunt of this unconscious pain during times of challenge and conflict.
I took the leap. I committed to myself and chose to move from self-betrayal to self-love. I started to embrace my teaching. I began taking on bigger classes and challenging projects. However, the choice that makes me most proud is the one to take a long break from alcohol. I commit to finding healthy outlets to relax. I’ve taken great care in opening the “danger box”, giving those daunting feelings an opportunity to float to the surface to be witnessed, embraced, and honored. I understand that they hold the key to my wisdom, and, most importantly, to my freedom. They bubble up from the deep, hidden crevices of my muscles and bones, and with each healing tear, I can feel them gently sloughing off. It is a celebratory river dance where my entire inner-landscape floods with openness, softness, aliveness, and kindness.
Jumping off the platform allows my teaching to come from a pure and authentic place. It is not muddied with the old insecure inner dialogue that seeks external approval over connection: “What do they think of me? Do they like what I am doing? Am I doing this right? Will anyone show up?” Rather, it comes from a higher place: a knowing that those who are called to my teaching will continue to arrive, and that we will connect to our energy sources and wildest longings together.
The path to freedom and abundance begins with knowing ourselves well. My prayer is that every willing person, if the time is right or appropriate, peer into that forbidden box of darker emotions and feelings to acknowledge what may be holding them back from their fullest expression. That way, when they get to the next platform, they can confidently let go and fall back into their highest potential, fully knowing that they are always enough.