From fear to freedom: Opening the door

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If we never go within, there's no other place to go, but without. - Kali Ray Torres
Fear, limitation, lack and grief are all tied to suffering. This is a part of our human experience, but it doesn't have to bind us forever. There is a door beyond the place where we are stuck, yoga gives us the keys, so we have the self awareness to pass through the challenging times and see the light at the end of the tunnel. With practice we become courageous, trusting ourselves and the journey we are on; each small step along the way. Today's practice focuses on moving through our emotions honestly and allowing what needs to surface and release, making way for the lighter aspects of our being and the possibilities that come with that lightness and joy. 
When we step on the mat, we are making contact with the many experiences that our bodies have gone through. One of my favorite saying is, "our issues are in our tissues." When we stop to really listen to what our body is saying, we begin a journey of trust, expansion and deep release. What does it mean to expand?

What does it mean to truly trust the journey we are on? Do you equate trust and expansion as beyond the parts of yourself that you don't necessarily like? We all have moments when we get tested, pushed to our edge, and that "other" voice, the tired one, the exhausted one, or the part of ourselves that has experienced some level of pain, pops up. For the sake of clarity, I am going to say that there are many "voices" that we tend to listen to, a spectrum so to speak. Imagine that for every color there is in the rainbow, you have another voice that you listen and speak with. That may sound like a ton of "voices in your head," or what psychologists refer to as schizophrenia. When one is unable to tame "the tiger of the mind," always ready to lash out or live inside of a projection, one is out of balance. The "tiger of the mind syndrome" is not just a symptom of those who are labeled as mentally ill. There is a balanced state of being that is accessible within the brain. This parasympathetic balance helps to support feeling calm, at ease and in a state of surrender. This is the side of oneself that is most rational and able to "go with the flow." Yet that does not mean that the other part of our being, the part that gets excited, the sympathetic nervous system, is to be tossed out on the side walk. The sympathetic nervous system tells us to stop, look and listen when in danger. We need this survival aspect of our being to thrive on many levels. It's the part of each and everyone of us that is willing to knock on the door and say hey, I'm ready to play! I am ready to work and sweat and get some energy flowing. So we have to have both aspects to survive and thrive, yet what happens when the excited state, get's over anxious, or full of fear? How do we get from one side of the brain to the other and where is the map that will guide us there safely, easily and somewhat gracefully through the door way.
First, you must stop and recognize, that whatever your current situation is, you hold the key to your own empowerment. You say, yes or no to taking out your mat and putting it down and getting on board. No one else can do that for you. So that is number one: Saying yes to personal empowerment. Secondly, you must be willing to ask yourself a very important question. Am I willing to feel what is in my body, such that I may put my hand on the door knob and turn the handle? Have you ever heard that saying, "I'm must get a handle on this," or "Give me just one moment and I'll give you a hand." Most of the time, we have what we need, to arrive at our desired state of being and direction in life. But first, we must know where we are in order to choose clearly where we are going. Give yourself a hand, you made it to your mat, or on that walk, or to the gym, now what?
Emotions are either going to rise up like ocean waves and pass through you like a desert storm or they will remain trapped within. When the rain comes, it is a time for clearing, cleansing and celebration of the nourishment that feeds the soil. When the emotions come, it is a time of allowing what is there to surface and release. This is a part of expansion. Emotions are not to be judged, for as soon as we judge something as right or wrong, good or bad, we have cut of our opportunity to grow, to learn, and to move through what is in the midst of unfolding. Rain is not a bad thing, thunderstorms are natures way of balancing out the environment. Our work is to listen deeply to our bodies and know that there are going to be times when we tear up or feel angry or sad or stuck. There is no glory in numbing ourselves. There is no journey without the true essence of expression and you don't have to say a word for your essence to be felt in a room. This is the truth about emotions, they are carried with us and pass through and into others like tidal waves. 
By whom the breathing has been controlled, by him or her the activities of the mind also have been controlled; and, conversely, by whom the activities of the mind have been controlled, by him or her the breathing also has been controlled. - Hatha Yoga
I was teaching a class recently where a woman got very angry, because it was hotter in the room than she was used to. It was hard for her to stay inside. She was already fired up when she walked in, she wanted the room to be cool, to "cool her off." Her face was twisted in pain and she was expressing it quite audibly for the entire class to hear. It was a moment of being tested, a moment when I had to listen deeply. She needed to go there. For some reason, that woman had to get something off her chest, but she wasn't sure how. New to the practice, we come with emotional baggage. It isn't our fault, it isn't something we need to try to get past, but rather something worth looking at deeply. In that moment, my work was to love her unconditionally, that is the role of a teacher, to be compassionate. We don't always see our actions and how they may effect others when we are in the "heat" of the moment. The key here is simple, but not always easy.
"You don't have to like what you see, you don't even have to love what you are doing right in that moment. Are you wiling to feel your own resistance to the act of doing what you know needs to be done? Are you willing to show up for the work, so that you may play more joyfully? Are you willing to step into the fire, so that you may feel the flow of the breeze more fully? Are you willing to take a leap and risk looking like a fool, expressing your emotions and allowing yourself to cry, laugh, sound out the essence of what is there for you? We have lived in a culture that has placed blame and criticism on expressing our emotions as children. As adults, we can choose a more empowering way of being. We can see the places in our lives where we have bottled ourselves up, not shared, laughed, cried or sang our hearts out. Are we not 0.worthy of a deeper life? Isn't it time for your practice to support you even if you don't have one yet? When we take the fist courageous step, we are ready to feel freedom where we are and step into the moment to moment of it all. We learn to let go, allow and trust the breath to be the guide. When we watch the breath, we deepen our awareness, we notice the moments we hesitate or over think. If we are consumed by grief and cannot see past it, it's important to move the body, to breathe through and to the other side. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Stay awake to your emotional body and watch it like a river. When it gets out of hand, step in and find the shore. Your yoga mat is a safe haven that awaits you. 
"Practice and all is coming." --Patabi Jois
The true test of courage is not are you willing to take the leap to fly, the true test of courage is are you willing to feel the fear before you fly and then put one foot in front of the other. Small steps first. Leaps come later. If one is already fearless and does not have anything to loose, there would be no fun, no game, no story to tell about the victory over our fear. We are born with the fear so that we may expand beyond it. It is time for a new level of freedom and a new way of coming to your work, workout, and play-out! So how do you get from the place where you are bound by emotion to the place of freedom to feel? There is no place like...ahhhh...breathing deeply. We must stay grounded in our breath and if we don't, there is no presence of mind. The mind and the emotions are tied together. They are lovers so to speak. If the mind is not in balance, the emotions won't be either. We must work together on this and see ourselves in another. Notice when your workmate, partner, or friend gets all tied up in the grief, the anger, or the pettiness. Give them permission to let off some steam and give yourself permission too. Ask for a time out if you need to. Then notice it, observe it, step back from yourself each time. Say you fly off the handle and really make a mess of things. Well, then I guess it's time to breathe, take a moment, time out. Then go back and clean things up. Ask yourself this? Was I being present to my breath and the emotion, did I communicate it and was I honest? Did I get complete in my communication. Leaving a mess is only more clutter you don't need. Wipe the slate clean and begin again. On or off the mat, be clear about your intentions. It's the only way to pass through the door from fear to love.
 "Can you see beauty even when it isn't pretty." -Oriah Mountain Dreamer
Being honest with ourselves on the yoga mat makes way for honesty in all our experiences. It's not always pretty.  When we go deep into the hips, the heart, the shoulders, we are accessing all of these vulnerable places, notice what comes up. What thoughts, feelings, actions and attitudes arise. This is the door way to freedom. This is the door way to lightening our load. We don't have to carry around our hearts in a suitcase. We can release the baggage and move foreword a little lighter each time. Yoga is a practice and it is ever evolving. We are not trying to get to some point out in the distant future. We honor, except and nurture ourselves along the way. Go to the mat willing to listen, be, and stay put for an hour. You are placing your hand on the door knob, opening and stepping through to the other side. You have the key. Your breath will carry and guide you through. All you have to do is show up and be present.
 "If you take practice, practice, practice--ninety-nine percent practice, one-percent theory, automatically you will get mind control; then, union with the Atman (soul)."  - Patabi Jois, Pradipika