It takes courage...

 
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From the moment I left my stressed out life in New York City over four years ago to get on a plane and start a new life in San Francisco, I realized how much courage it really takes to follow your heart.

Anytime I have slowed down enough to listen, I have had to consciously learn to release self-doubt and trust in the process.  When I went to India by myself on a one-way ticket with a 6-month VISA, it was the same.  When I started my business with no clients and only a few months of rent in my bank account, it was the same.  When I sang in front of my boyfriend (who is a professional musician) for the first time, it was the same.  And in the times I have felt overwhelmed with so much to do, but have consciously stopped to honor my body, stretch, breathe and make a healthy meal to take care of myself, it was the same.

It takes courage to step back from life and do something that nurtures and honors yourself.  tweet it

And today, I want to tell you:  Self-doubt is a natural part of the process.  When you are following your heart, even if it is to simply take care of yourself, self-doubt will be there.

I recently read an amazing blog post from KC Baker about birthing her baby boy.  As she was in the moment of labor saying to herself, "I just can't do this!"  Her midwife turned to her and said, "KC, you ARE doing this."

DOUBT IS PART OF BIRTHING, WHETHER IT BE A BABY OR A DREAM.  ~KC Baker

Tonight, I invite you to explore your dreams and desires and find the courage within yourself to slow down, let go of the to-dos, and listen to those dreams.

This evening marks the Autumn Equinox, and the first class in my 6-week series, Yin Yoga & Harmonium in Sebastopol.  We will be singing, releasing self-doubt and cultivating courage to follow our heart.  There will be live music for the entire class by Michael Zeligs.   I hope to see you there.

And for those of you who would love to be there, but live elsewhere, join my email list below and stay tuned for a surprise I will be sending to you next week...

Love, Meredith

 

Are you afraid to share your voice?

 
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For years I felt a block around sharing my voice. I thought I was a terrible singer and had trouble speaking up in groups.  It's hard to say when it began, but small experiences throughout my life added up to a huge block of self-expression.  By the time I got to college, I felt so terrified of public speaking that I avoided it at all costs and would never for a second consider myself a singer.

I eventually went to a counselor at my school because I realized I couldn't live my life without speaking up, and I was ready to do what I needed to move on with my life.  However, the response the counselor gave me was not what I was expecting, "I think you should try voice lessons."

"Voice lessons?  Me?  I'm not a singer!" I thought.  He reassured me the voice teacher he knew would help me with my breath and speaking voice so I could feel confident speaking in my classes.

So, I took his advice and the next week arranged a series of lessons with Caroline, my voice teacher.  I remember so much emotion and fear came up at my first lesson.  I broke down in tears as I started to open up because I had so much self-criticism about my voice.

So, for the first month, all I worked on with Caroline was the breath.  She guided me to breathe all the way down into my lower back and fill my body with breath to strengthen my voice.  She guided me to clear out my nasal passages and expand the space inside my body for breath to move more freely.  Those lessons made a world of difference for me and laid a foundation for me to further explore my voice when I later became a yoga teacher.

In summer of 2010, I moved to San Francisco and bought a tiny ukulele.  I had done my lessons and wanted to keep using my voice.  I would shut myself in my room for hours, practicing where no one could hear.  But eventually, the ukulele led to the guitar and more songs, and I couldn't keep it all to myself, so shared a few songs with my housemates.

Then I discovered kirtan.

It was through devotional singing that I learned my voice was a tool to come into a deeper state of meditation.  As I used my breath and sang, more oxygen would fill my body and I felt a state of presence and stillness after each song.  I discovered:

When you focus on the breath and add intention from the heart, the voice becomes an expression of the soul.  {tweet it}

Since then, I've explored singing with guitar, ukulele, and most recently the harmonium.

I asked myself, "How can I share singing in a safe and exploratory way to encourage others to gain confidence using their voice?"  The answer came in a series of yoga classes with the harmonium.

If you are curious about using your voice through devotional song, I invite you to join me September 22 - November 3 for my Yin Yoga & Harmonium Series at The dhyana Center in Sebastopol.

And I would love to hear - What thoughts come up for you when you think about singing and sharing your voice?  Are you ready to break through those old fears?  I'd love to hear in the comments below.

With love, Meredith

 

 

An Interview with Songstress Ayla Nereo

 
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Today I'm excited to share an interview with the singer/songwriter Ayla Nereo.  She’s another one of those courageous women I see out there sharing her gifts and inspiring those around her.

I first discovered Ayla’s music on a mixed CD my friend gave me when I lived in a little one room cabin in Berkeley. I would listen to the songs on repeat as I decorated my room and imagined what would happen in my life. 

It was a magical time.  I had just taught my very first yoga class and was just opening up to the idea of what was possible when I faced my fears, and I was about to reconnect with a boy I had once met a year and a half earlier.  (a boy who later became my current boyfriend).

As I listened to the music, I imagined Ayla as a famous musician traveling the world, someone I would probably never meet in person.  Then one day, my friend who gave me the CD said, “Ayla is playing a show at my house.  Do you want to come?”

I replied, “What?  Really?  She’s coming to Berkeley? To your house? Of course I want to come!”

I was so excited to see her sing in person.  

The same day as the concert, I had my very first date with that whimsical boy, Michael.  When I told him I was going to Ayla’s show that night he said, “Oh, me too!  She’s a good friend of mine, we went to college together and I went on tour with her last summer.  You’re going to love it, I’m so glad we can be there together.”

That night, not only did I get to sit next to Michael, but Ayla invited him to play a song before her set.  I watched as the man I was starting to fall in love with stood up to sing in front of the crowd. 

It was beautiful, and I thought of how brave he was.  Then Ayla took the stage, turned on her projector, and literal fireworks started going off on the screen behind her as she sang, “It’s Okay,” ~ my favorite song of hers at the time.

Michael came back to sit down next to me, put his hand on mine, and smiled. 

“What magic!”  I thought.

It has been so beautiful to watch Ayla’s career unfold over the last three years since that house concert in Berkeley 2011.   I have watched her consistently show up again and again to her craft and her calling. 

I remember hearing her stories of how sometimes only one or two people would show up to hear her play when she first started touring.  Now, she travels to festivals across the country, singing to crowds of hundreds, even thousands of loyal fans. 

Watching her consistently stand up and share her gifts has been an inspiration for me to stand up and share my own.  

The music was with me as I taught my first yoga class, as I fell in love and as I started to believe in myself.

I’m so grateful to know her, and to share with you her insights on the courage, trust, and action it takes to consistently show up and live your dreams.

 
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How would you describe your latest music?

Each album is an evolution of my evolution.  My latest music is an expression of that evolution, another phase, just another way the music is showing up.  It’s a little feistier, a little more fire and also more direct.  It feels like that’s what is needed in the world right now, and I am becoming more direct in how I communicate because of that.

Where does your music take you now?

It’s taking me to festivals, bigger venues, new groups of people, more diverse groups of people, and people I would say represent the masses.  At the same time, the music is asking more of me.  It’s asking me to become a clearer vehicle, especially when I perform.  The more I listen, then the farther the music takes me. 

It asks for a strong integrity in me, and lets me know if my ego gets in the way.  I have to continuously check what my relationship to the music and the world is - if I am feeling self-important about the music and wanting it to serve me or if I’m remembering that I am serving it.  It’s that difference.

When you think back to the first songs you wrote, what first prompted you to share them?

It was definitely called out of me.  The songs trickled in and I was so incredibly shy about sharing them.  At first I shared timidly around campfires at the house I lived in.  Someone would ask me to play another song and I would write another song and timidly have two friends come hear it and they would tell other people and then they would ask me to play it. 

Even the first few years of making music, it was never something I would volunteer.  I was not the person in the room to say, “I have a song to share!”  And that was part of what made me choose to make music as my career, it always felt like it was wanted.  People were asking for it, and I felt it was my responsibility to respond.  Maybe this all would have happened anyway, but I really give a lot of credit to those people in that first house where the first songs came in, because they were the ones asking me to share.  I’m grateful for that.

An image I took for Ayla and David of  Wildlight

An image I took for Ayla and David of Wildlight

What fears have you encountered and how have you faced them?

I think the biggest fear I have experienced is self-doubt.  I also encountered the fear of being seen, the fear of being a powerful woman, and the fear of not being liked, or the fear of people not liking the music, or not liking me, or the way I am giving it. 

To a big degree, with so many years of creating and sharing the music, those fears are not there anymore, but there are times they creep in, so it really takes practice.  A really simple way of undoing the fear is with prayer.

“May I step out of the way, May I receive what wants to come through, May I stand in gratitude that I get to do this.” 

So much of working through the fear is just showing up on stage and being with it,  show after show after show after show.  And then being humbled by it and learning something from it and applying it at the next show. Then doing that over and over for years...  Like anything else, practice.

What was it like playing your first concert?

My first concert was thrilling and terrifying.  

I definitely stepped up to it in stages.  I started around a campfire, then a few songs to friends at dinner parties, then my first official show was at Stanford, where I went to college.  I just remember being kind of awkward and super nervous, and yet all my friends were there, cheering me on and supporting me so much and calling in people’s attention because I didn’t have the presence of holding attention yet as an artist.  And so, they really helped do that, hollering and clapping and getting the whole crowd into it, and it ended up being really fun.  Support was a key piece. 

What is performing like for you now?

It’s so different.  I’d say I used to get nervous with butterflies, even to the point where at one time I decided I didn’t want to be a performing artist because it was too nerve-wracking.  I even said, “I will probably never tour.”  And really, through practice, I learned performance is all about vibration. 

I learned the vibration I stand in when I perform the song is literally the vibration the song would go out on.

If I am worried about what other people think or caught up in this or that fear, then that’s the vibration the music comes out on.  If I’m really grateful, happy, intentional, and surrendered, then that’s the vibration the music comes out on.

Now I don’t get nervous, it’s more about remembering what I am there to do, it is not about me, and when I remind myself that, the show is better.  If I treat it like it’s me, Ayla getting up on stage sharing with everyone, it’s a lot of pressure to try and create the best outcome for everyone from one human being.

If I let all of that go, and just remind myself that I’m not trying to do anything here, I’m just trying to receive as well as possible, then the best possible outcome that I can’t even create or conceive of by myself happens. 

What does courage mean to you?

There’s a quote I remember reading once, “Courage isn’t the absence of fear, but rather the directing of one’s attention to something else.” It’s not about battling fear or winning over fear, but it’s tending to what is important.  When that attention is so strong and direct, there is not room for fear.

We show our courage when the attention of what we do want is stronger than the fear of what we don’t want.

How do you think vulnerability fits in?

I see vulnerability as a form of courage because it’s a form of transparency and really showing ourselves.  It’s opening ourselves to others, it’s a softening, and a letting in.  I think vulnerability has been one of the ways I have began to understand courage, power, and strength.  Vulnerability is the feminine power.  It’s the ability to receive, and there’s a grace in that.

It’s definitely been one of the more humbling and beautiful teachers in my work, especially in performance, showing up in front of people on stage and letting myself be vulnerable. To not create an appearance of who I am and how I want people to see me as, but rather just show up in the beautiful simplicity of this human being, who I am.  When I can really do that, it is incredibly empowering.  When I embrace vulnerability, I feel my strongest.

What advice do you have to someone who has a dream but is stuck, afraid or doesn’t know how to take the next step?

I would say trust life.  But first, make your prayer really, really clear.  As clear as you can make it in this moment.  Ask yourself, "What do I really want?  What is my passion? and What do I desire above all else? " And, not just the external things, (and actually it’s probably best to leave those up to spirit to decide), but the internal state of what you want to experience.  I ask myself, "How do I want to feel everyday waking up?  Do I want to feel really grateful?  Really in love with my life? Am I so grateful that I have the best possible life I could have? "  

Those are the things that I pray for and ask for.  The external will create the best possible outcome to make me feel that way.  So make those prayers really, really clear and then trust that every single thing that follows is helping that prayer, even if it appears like it is taking too long, or is not a blessing.  Trust, and clarify the prayer. 

The other big piece is to move towards it in any way you possibly can.  If you want to meet the universe halfway, then you have to go halfway, and often, it’s a lot farther than you think.  If you want to sing music to people, then you need to start singing music to people and organize your own house concert.  Ask someone if you can play music at their party, or if you want to teach workshops, just start teaching to friends.  

It’s about how you are showing the universe you are committed, you really want it, and you are going to do whatever you can in this moment to move towards it. 

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What projects are you currently working on?

My latest album, Hollow Bone just came out.  There is currently a remix album being made, and I’m doing a remix contest for it. 

I’m also working on a collaboration with The Polish Ambassador and Mr. Lif, a hip hop MC and the three of us are doing a whole album together.  We’re doing a Fall tour, around the whole country, and we’re in the midst of doing a launch for that.  We are integrating permaculture and calling it “A Permaculture Action Tour.”   We have a team of people working with us that are helping us connect in to local groups in each city we go to.  On every Sunday of the tour we are going to build or plant a garden and do hands on work to benefit that community directly.  We are doing an IndieGogo to bring that permaculture team on the road with us.  There’s so much that needs to happen in the world, so we are trying to light people up, spark curiosity, interest and action with permaculture and sustainability. 

What do you consider the most important part of the work you do?

The most important part of the work I do, is what I don’t do.  It’s the things I can’t take credit for.  It’s the way that life or spirit or soul, this higher good of all beings that can come through each of us, that feels like the most important part.  If I said anything else right now, it wouldn’t be true.

If there was one thing you’d want every person to learn from your music, what would that be?

To learn how to love themselves and accept themselves completely and have their love so filled up that it extends to every human, animal and living thing on this planet.  

More love.

An Interview with Erica Jago

 
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I had an insight a few weeks ago to share the teachings of the women who have inspired me.

These women have been fearlessly sharing their gifts and their talents with the world.  In doing so, they have inspired me to face my fears and live up to my own greatness.

This is the first in a series of interviews entitled: Courageous Women Leaders.  The women I will be interviewing over the coming months have touched my life.  Now, my intention for these interviews is to inspire YOU to face your fears and live up to your own greatness in the world.

Today, I'm sharing an interview with Erica Jago: a fabulous yoga teacher, innovative graphic designer and co-author of my favorite yoga resource book, Art of Attention.

 
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I remember when I first read the story of how Art of Attention came to be, I cried.  Erica vulnerably reached out to Elena Brower for guidance during a difficult time in her life, and over the following months, the Art of Attention was born.

What brought tears to my eyes was how Erica reached out to Elena in need, and Elena listened.  Erica shared her vision for her life with Elena, and by the time I was reading it, it had all come true.

Their story reminded me:  

There is still magic in this world.  We can ALL dream, and let ourselves dream BIG. {tweet it} 

Almost one year ago, with some hesitation, I vulnerably emailed Erica to share my gratitude for her work, how her story touched me, and what my own vision for myself and the world was.  Now, I see that vision coming true, and a friendship has unfolded through the process.

I met Erica in person at her yoga class at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum's exhibit, Yoga: The Art of Transformation, and watched with awe as Erica addressed over 100 yogis with grace and poise.  That moment has inspired me again and again to live each day with courage...

How would you define yourself as a teacher? What I look for first in my students is, what are they attracted to? What turns them on? Then we create beautiful rituals around how we communicate those desires to the world through our spirituality, our creativity, our art. The classroom to me is really about fearless expression and when I teach retreats we go deep into the removing those boundaries that inhibit our inner artist. Yes, everyone is creative - even the accountants and engineers!

Where does your teaching take you now? Currently, I am creating great healing programs for and with talented souls, aka retreats, and I’m incorporating more dance into my workshops. I guess all the transformational festivals I’ve attended over the past four years has turned me into a dancing, dub step and reggae goddess :)

What first prompted you to share your teachings?

My artwork started to reveal a step-by-step process on how to design group sequences, class experiences and even emotional ceremonies. I saw that other teachers and practitioners could benefit from this deeply intuitive methodology  because I was witnessing my own healing though the sharing of my art.

What fear(s) have you encountered and how have you faced them?

Public speaking was and still is a fear of mine but I regularly attend Toastmaster meetings for years and just kept signing up for gigs that put me in front of an audience. You just have to rehearse and take one small step at a time; the rest unfolds naturally. Also, jumping into the ocean daily is great for releasing stagnation and paralyses from the body. 

What was it like teaching your first yoga class?

I wanted to run out of the room! I only stayed because their eyes were closed and because I had my entire sequence illustrated in front of me. The planning and preparing for class is what drew me back. It ensured a sense of clarity for me, even before I stepped into the classroom because I had already contemplated it, practiced it and experienced it first hand.   

What is teaching like for you now?

When I look back at all the recorded teachings from past years, I have a deeper understanding of what I was going through and how it needed to be seen.I still illustrate all of my sequences before bringing them into the classroom because it means I’ve fully embodied the language of those truths. The themes I choose come from a deep desire to master a concept more fully and I love working the cycles of the Full and New Moons to set intentions and to bring meaning into the postures. 

What does courage mean to you? 

Courage reminds me of the Wizard of Oz. The bravery it took the Lion to exercise the muscle of the heart. How to say the words that needed to be said, how to step up and be the light and how to take those leaps of faith. 

How do you think vulnerability fits into the role of a successful teacher and leader? 

When I sit in front of the classroom I become a mirror for all those who attend. After class they project so much love onto me because that is what they found in meditation or they project judgement onto me because that is what was revealed. I can’t take it personally and all I can do is keep showing up and listening more and more because they are me and I am them. 

What advice do you have for my readers who have a dream but are stuck or afraid to take the next steps to make them happen?

The world needs you and your artistic gifts. Seriously! No one else can do what you do and that is what you tell yourself next time you think your art sucks.

By sharing your art, you come into direct contact with your healing and your purpose.

What is your current spiritual/meditation/yoga practice like?

My own practice has been around the purification of the voice. Mantra meditations carry a healing energy within them that works like medicine for our soul. All through the day I am working with sound vibrations through chanting or playing my ukulele. My favorite mantra right now is the Mangala Charan : Aad Guray Nameh, Jugaad Guray Nameh, Sat Guray Nameh, Siri Guroo Dayvay Nameh. This mantra clears doubt and opens us up to guidance and protection with a magnetic field of protective light. Download the song Expand from the Heart Center by Jai Jagdeesh.

What projects are you currently working on?

September 5-9th I’m holding a five day / four night yoga, creativity and cleansing EARTH retreat, 20 mins outside Yosemite National Park. On this retreat I’m encouraging you to seek many mirrors, to look under the rocks, to speak to the trees and to be the one who listens. Every person, practice, meal, mantra and outing we encounter will offer some speck of knowledge that you can take home with you. It is not too late to sign up, email me for more information.

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What do you consider the most important part of the work you do? Reminding people of their beauty. Wake up! Don’t forget! We are fortunate! We are blessed! Remember? We have it really freak’n good.

If there was one thing you would want every student to learn from your teaching, what would that be? Stay present. Let go of the poor me, the what if, the woulda, coulda, shoulda and stay in the happy joyful present room. Meet me there.

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----------------- I will be joining Erica at her Earth retreat this September.  With her attention to detail, yoga style of vinyasa and kundalini yoga, and love of the Earth and of ritual, I know it is going to be amazing.  Erica lives in Hawaii and does not come to teach in California often - so if you are interested in joining, inquire today

Do you recharge when you're alone? and how I handle parties as an introvert

 
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Have you ever found yourself crossing the street just to avoid having small talk with someone you know?  What about hiding behind the bananas at the grocery store?

Do you feel rejuvenated after having a night alone?  Do you love having the house to yourself to recharge?

If you answered yes to these questions, you may be an introvert.

I know I am...I just spent the last 6 days at home alone while my boyfriend was in Colorado, and despite missing his presence, it was quite wonderful to have the house to myself.  I listened to music, read in my bed, and sang while I cooked.  I taught my yoga classes and saw a few friends throughout the week and spent the rest of my time alone in my house.  That was enough social interaction for me to feel totally satisfied.

I was called "shy" as a young girl, refrained from speaking up too much in school and avoided being the center of attention.  Unfortunately in our society, the "extrovert ideal" of having an outgoing and gregarious personality is often praised over being quiet or cerebral.  It was difficult for me growing up quiet and softspoken.  Sometimes I wondered what was wrong with me for simply being myself.

Luckily this year I found Susan Cain's book, Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking.  I was so relieved to discover someone researched the topic of introversion.  When I read her book I realized, I was not alone in my need to be alone.

I learned many introverted people are born that way, have a more sensitive nervous system, become overwhelmed easily by large groups and are more sensitive to public speaking.  One way to tell if you are more introverted or extroverted is to ask, "Do I feel recharged when I have time alone?  Or after being out and about with a big group of people?"

I learned being introverted is not the same thing as being shy. Many introverted people thrive on connections with others; they just prefer connecting to one or two people at a time, and need their alone time at the end of the day.  I also learned almost half the population is introverted.   So even if you aren't an introvert, you may be dating one, or have an introverted child or family member.

A great trait of being an introvert is a powerful ability listen.  I think that's why I love my new role as a health coach.  My clients feel safe to open up and tell me what is really going on in their lives.  They share their deepest fears, their biggest dreams and sometimes things they never heard themselves say before.  My clients leave the sessions feeling heard without judgement, and through my questions and listening, are able to come to new discoveries on how to reach their goals.

Susan's book helped me see the power in being quiet.  Many leaders throughout history have been introverts such as Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Eleanor Roosevelt, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates.  This year I've embraced my softer side by teaching more yin, restorative and gentle flow yoga classes as opposed to "power vinyasa".  Living in my strengths has connected me to a new sense of power.

I've also began to speak up more as a "quiet" leader, because I realized if only extroverted people stepped up to lead (or teach yoga), the world would be quite imbalanced (and exhausting).

However, one struggle I've had as an introvert is going to parties and networking events where I don't know anyone.  I used to think I "should" attend these events and felt guilty when I chose to stay home and read a book.

But, when I let go of who I thought I had to be, I discovered I can enjoy going out and connecting with groups of people I don't know.  I even found myself telling stories and being the center of attention sometimes!

So here is what I told myself to be more courageous, step outside my comfort zone and make connections with people I don't know...

1. You can leave when you want to 

I used to think I had to stay til the end of a party.  Then I realized I was totally free to leave.  I found when I gave myself full permission to leave as soon as I felt like I reached my social capacity, I started going to more parties and events.  I didn't feel obligated to stay somewhere I felt uncomfortable and made some excellent connections by being willing to show up.

2. You don't have to drink

I remember the first time I went to a bar in San Francisco and ordered a club soda with lime at the bar instead of an alcoholic drink.  Did you know it's free?  Just because everyone else is drinking, it doesn't mean you have to.  If you find yourself ordering drink after drink at an event, ask yourself, "Do I really want to be here?"  You may be masking the little voice inside of you that just wants to go home.  Try skipping the alcohol and listen to your instincts.

3. It's okay to connect with just ONE person in the room

I used to think I had to talk to loads of people when I went to a party or networking event.  Then I realized the event would be a total success in my mind if I could just connect to ONE person.  I started looking around for someone friendly and introduced myself.  When I was in conversation with just one person, there was less pressure to "impress" and I felt like I could sink into being myself.  I skipped the small talk, asked more meaningful questions and created an authentic connection.

So where could you be a little more courageous in your life? What have you wanted to do to step outside of your comfort zone?  Is there a networking event coming up around the corner?  Or a party you've been trying to avoid?

Or do you need to take a step back from your social life and recharge with some alone time?  Let me know in the comments...

Love, Meredith

PS.  Do you know any introverts who would appreciate this post?  Share with them with one of the links below :)

 

 

5 Steps I took to face my fear of teaching yoga

 
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I remember being terrified to teach my final class on the last day of my yoga teacher training.

I sat in the corner doing pranayama while my fellow teacher trainees gathered up their courage to teach.

Ever since my first yoga class, I felt inspired by my teachers, powerfully leading their class through the sequences. The thought of becoming a yoga teacher myself was terrifying, but I also had a little bit of excitement when I imagined it.

Up until my teacher training, my biggest fear was using my voice.

When it came time to give a presentation in middle school or high school, I had trouble finding my breath. I realized it was my body’s way of protecting me from the possible embarrassment of speaking up. However, by college I saw how this fear was holding me back in all areas of my life.

After four years of dedicating myself to my yoga practice, my curiosity and excitement about teaching grew, so I packed up my bags and went to Mexico for my first teacher training, ready to face my fear.

The supportive people in my training helped me begin to unlock the fear, but when my turn came to get up in front of the room to teach, I was shaking.

Fortunately, this time was different. The deep breathing practices I had learned in the training helped me find my breath, and I stood knowing everyone in the room wanted me to succeed. As I began to speak, I surprised myself with how much I knew and how poised I felt in the seat of the teacher. I discovered a new side of myself I didn’t know was there before.

Eleanor Roosevelt says, “The very next thing you need to be doing is what terrifies you the most.”

Over the years, I’ve taken this to heart and learned that when I feel fear (and a little bit of excitement), life is presenting me with an opportunity to grow.

I learned that we experience fear when we encounter an unfamiliar experience. When I faced my fear over and over again, it became easier each time.

Not only did it become easier, but it became enjoyable.

Unfortunately, after my training, my familiar fears crept in and I felt like I was right back where I started. I had a little bit of courage knowing I had done it before, so I decided the only way to get rid of my fear of teaching was to simply go out and do it, again and again.

I now teach five of my own classes each week. Facing this fear has prompted me to face other fears in my life, knowing I am fully capable.

I know how hard it can be to start out teaching, so I compiled this list to share the most important steps I took that helped me break through my initial fear. 

1. I Spoke the Fear

When I started telling people about my fear, it took away its power.

Before I started speaking about my fear, the fear was just in my mind, and I had no escape from it. However, when I started sharing with people about my fear of public speaking, I started finding solutions. I met other yoga teachers with similar fears when they were first starting to teach and I started feeling less alone.

It was so refreshing to get the fear out of my mind and into a conversation.

2. I Got Support

When I started speaking my fear, one friend recommended I see a voice teacher.

I liked the idea, so decided to take lessons. My teacher showed me how to use my breath lower in my diaphragm and taught me exercises to strengthen my voice.

After several years of teaching I began meeting other women who had completed a yoga teacher training but had not yet started teaching, so I created a program for new yoga teachers to openly share their fears, strengthen their voice and practice teaching. I called it the Young Women’s Yoga Sangha and started offering the program in the Bay Area. I saw that when these women talked about their fear, they were intimately supported by each other, and that support gave them the courage to face it.

When I didn’t have anyone to talk to about my goals and dreams, my mind started telling me, “I’m not good enough, I don’t know enough, I can’t do this…” and almost convinced me not to do it.

Having a consistent supportive people in my life encouraging me, made the next steps so much easier.

3. I Celebrated My Successes

I did not go out and face my biggest fear right away; I started small.

I taught my family and a couple close friends. I then felt ready to face the fear in front of strangers after having those key positive experiences first.

Every time I took a step to face my fear, I celebrated my success and reminded myself of those successes every time I felt afraid to move forward.

4. I Let Go of My Story 

Before having a regular teaching schedule, my story was, “I can’t do this, I have never been good at talking in front of groups, and therefore I will never will be good at it.”

This was not even true! Just saying it out loud felt crazy. It was a story my mind made up to keep me “playing small.”

When we live in our story, we tend to procrastinate. We’ll be on Facebook, check our email again and again, or distract ourselves with food, alcohol, sex or anything else we can use to avoid taking action.

So how did I get out of my story?

First, I recognized that there was a story, then I wrote it down until it had no meaning anymore. I saw the words, and what it really was, a story.

Marilena Minucci says, “Your story can hold you hostage or it can set you free. You get to choose.”

Make a choice to write a new story, and remind yourself of that story every time you see your old story play out. Be held accountable, speak the story, and write the story as much as you need to see all it is is a story, and then let it go.

In the book Daring Greatly, Brene Brown talks about cultivating the bravery to just be in the arena. Being in the arena shows you are living in alignment with your values.

No matter what the outcome is, you are daring greatly and living your truth of courage.

When I faced my fear, connected to what I value and wrote a new story, I learned that whatever the outcome was, I was setting an example and becoming an inspiration just by taking action.

5. I Connected to My Bigger Picture and Vision for Myself and For the World 

The biggest step I took to face my fear was ask, “Why is it important for me to face this fear?” and “Why is it important for me to make this next step?”

When I asked “Why?” I saw that the purpose of teaching was actually more important than my fear.

It became painful not to share the knowledge I had learned. I saw it wasn’t about me anymore.

If I wanted to create a more conscious and compassionate world, I needed to face the fear.

If I wanted to help people live without pain in their body, I needed to face the fear.

If I wanted more people to rest and love themselves first, I needed to face the fear.

When I approached my fear from this place of service to myself, and all the people who could benefit from my teaching, it became much easier to feel the fear and do it anyway.

{Published on elephant journal}

 

Facing that fear will make you feel more alive. Here's how to do it.

 
courage-comfort zone-esalen

A few weeks ago I went to one of the most beautiful places in the world, Esalen Resort in Big Sur, California.  I wanted to celebrate my birthday in the most relaxed way possible.  Over my three days there, I soaked in the hot springs, received a massage, and slept a lot, but by the end of the three days, I didn't feel as great as I wanted to.  I felt more sleepy and lethargic than when I arrived!  I wondered, "Why don't I feel like my normal alive and passionate self?  Is it possible to feel too relaxed?"

It wasn't until a week later on the phone with one of my health coaching clients that I realized what was missing.  This client came to me to balance her hormones naturally.

She hadn't had a period for over a year, so we worked together to make changes in her diet and lifestyle.  Within a month her period started and she was ecstatic to have her hormones back on track. We then focused on her relationship to food, and she started feeling better both emotionally and physically.

However, at this particular session she shared, "I'm feeling so much better in my body and with my relationship to food, but I still feel like there's something missing....  I don't feel vibrant...and I don't feel as ALIVE as I'd like to."

I thought for a moment and replied, "You know, the times in my life when I feel most alive are when I face my fears.  I used to be so afraid to teach yoga.  It was one of my biggest fears, and now, every time I do it, I feel so alive and proud of myself.  Do you have anything like that in your life?" 

 

She replied, "No, I think that's it!  I need to do something that scares me!"   So I gave her an assignment that night to start thinking about what would both excite and scare her. I thought back to that weekend at Esalen and realized that was it.  I wasn't being challenged enough.  It was nice to relax and all, but I didn't feel totally alive and vibrant because I wasn't challenging myself. I realized, I need to consistently step out of my comfort zone in order to feel totally alive.  Even Eleanor Roosevelt says, “The very next thing you need to be doing is what terrifies you the most.” {tweet it} It's kind of like the universe is pointing you in that direction! So what's something that scares you?  Can you commit to facing that fear, knowing how good it will make you feel?  Or do you feel stuck and the idea of facing your fear is too overwhelming?

If you are curious about how to face your fear, and want to fully step into your power, join me tonight for my free teleseminar  at 6 pm pacific for "Power," the second class in a series of 3 free phone calls.  You'll learn 5 truths about fear, inspiration to feel the fear and do it anyway, and my 5 action steps to stop procrastinating, face your fear and move forward with your life!

You'll also hear more details about my upcoming group program where I will be guiding an intimate group of women to face their fears to make their vision a reality.

I'd love to hear your stories about facing fear below in the comments.  What is your fear?  How did you overcome it? and how did that make you feel? Share your story! Can't wait to hear from you...

Love, Meredith

_____

About the Author:

Meredith Rom believes in the power of self-love, gratitude, and vision to create a life of magic. She is a women’s empowerment coach, yoga teacher, and author.

Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here.

 
courage-fearless-self love

"Love is what we are born with. Fear is what we learned here. The spiritual journey is the unlearning of fear and prejudices and the acceptance of love back in our hearts. Love is the essential reality and our purpose on earth. To be consciously aware of it, to experience love in ourselves and others, is the meaning of life."

~Marianne Williamson

What if our whole spiritual purpose was to unlearn all the fear in our lives?  Fear is not something we were born with.  When we were children we were full of love, curiosity and joy.  The world was an enchanting place full of mystery.

So what happened over those years as we grew older?  We learned fear.  Our conditioning from society showed us there was much to  be afraid of.

In the book, The Mists of Avalon there is an enchanted island surrounded by thick mists.  The only way the mists would part and a ship could find the island was if the people on the ship believed the island was there.

This is symbolic in our lives as well: there is enchantment and sacredness in each day, but we won't be able to see it unless we believe it is there.  The miracles won't happen unless we believe they exist.  There is a whole mystery of the universe at work, but sometimes we are living too much in our fear to realize it~

 

 

Give Yourself Total Permission to Fail

 
courage-brene brown-self love

“You want folks to like, respect, and even admire what you’ve created, but your self-worth is not on the table.  You know that you are far more than a painting, an innovative idea, an effective pitch, a good sermon, or a high Amazon.com ranking.  Yes it will be disappointing and difficult if your friends or colleagues don’t share your enthusiasm, or if things don’t go well, but this effort is about what you do, not who you are.  Regardless of the outcome, you’ve already dared greatly, and that’s totally aligned with your values with who you want to be.”  

-Brene Brown from Daring Greatly

You are not the same as the value of your ideas, and just in putting your ideas out there, you are daring greatly.  You are an inspiration.  You are living in line with your values no matter what the outcome.

How does this relate to being a yoga teacher?  Getting up in front of the room to share your heart is vulnerable.  Doing anything that is close to your heart is vulnerable!

However the pain of not doing it, will eventually outweigh the risk of doing it anyway.

This has been a motivation in my life.

I am growing fast and coming up with all kinds of ideas to spread my knowledge and help women overcome their fears, including this 6-month group program for women, but a few weeks ago, I realized my fear of failure was preventing me from even trying.

I want to have a career where I teach people to align their body, open their heart, face their fears, let themselves rest and love themselves first, but if I don't put the word out about my programs, services and offerings, just because of the fear of failing, I never give myself the chance to succeed.  

Through re-reading Daring Greatly, I saw that even if I fail, at least I was honoring my values of taking risks and facing my fears.  Just in doing that, I will be an inspiration.  And I will open the doors to my own success.

Let this be motivation for what you want to do or create.  Give yourself total permission to fail, because ultimately it's not about winning or losing, it's simply about being vulnerable enough to put yourself in the arena.

 

Love is stronger than fear

 
courage-yoga-darkness

Everyday, every moment, you are presented with a choice.  You can choose to stay stuck in fear, or you can choose love, over and over again.

This year I’ve started making choices to create my own path.  When I used to think about leading a workshop or seeing clients one on one, I would sit in tremendous fear.  Now, I see a choice.  I can choose to dig a hole for myself and sit in my fear, or I can catch myself and choose to believe I am loved and supported in exactly what I want to do.

We are presented with so many choices even in just one day.  When we see ourselves beginning to dig that hole of fear, we can choose love instead.  Our job is to choose love over fear, again and again, every step of the way.

Ask yourself if your motives are in line with the higher good of all beings, and take action.

Choose to see the good in yourself, and take action from that place.

If what you are after is in the highest good for yourself, and other beings, it becomes your duty to serve that good.

Try this affirmation:

It is safe for me to be powerful and take charge of my life in positive ways. 

Integrate this into your yoga practice.  When you practice with dedication and focus, you become closer to integration and connection.  Light enters where there was once darkness. 

 

 

The Golden Gates of Fearlessness

 
courage-san francisco-fearless-yoga

A photo of me from three years ago in front of the Golden Gate Bridge, the first month I lived in San Francisco

"Fear can only exist in the absence of our own action."

Imagine something you've always wanted to do, but were afraid to...

Fear is a powerful emotion.  It prevents us from doing so many new things.

However, if we are willing to take a risk just once, and face our fear, the next time around is so much easier.  Facing our fear just once makes us more fearless...

Fear is just unfamiliarity.  It arises when we haven't done something before and can't possibly imagine ourselves doing it.  But, fear can only exist when we are not taking action towards it.  It's our choice whether we will continue to live in a life surrounded by fear.

Last week I was faced with one of my familiar fears - driving a long distance on a highway, by myself.  My friend was having a baby shower in the city, on the other side of the golden gate bridge, and no one else could drive me.  I had never done this before and just thinking about it made me afraid.

Growing up, my mother discouraged me from driving on highways.  I thought she was just looking out for me, but I realized, it was a phobia she had and never wanted to face herself.  Over the years, her fear instilled itself in me, I developed the same phobia, and avoided highways at all costs.

Recently, I realized this fear was only holding me back.  I moved from the urban centers of Berkeley and San Francisco to Petaluma, where I needed to rely on highways almost everyday.  It was a fear I could no longer avoid.

I've taken small steps to face the fear in the last few months, and started driving down to Mill Valley by myself once a month to visit a friend. I came clean with my fear to my partner - and he showed up with a lot of compassion.  Sharing the fear, and facing it one little step at a time was, I realized, the only way through it.

But when it came to driving to San Francisco - the fear arose again within me.  Driving over such a big bridge and navigating the city for the first time seemed daunting.  But, I didn't want to let my fear hold me back from seeing my friend.

 I decided to do it anyway.

The ride down was scary for sure - I felt my adrenaline, and I even called my partner to navigate me through the streets of San Francisco when I was feeling insecure.

But I did navigate the streets, I did find a parking spot, and I did make it to the party.  I noticed walking back to my car what an air of FEARLESSNESS was within me.  I faced the fear, and felt invincible because of it.

Just facing the fear once, made driving home so much easier.  I felt confident and at ease.  

As I approached the golden gate bridge, the sun was setting, my tunes were playing, and I felt so accomplished.

I think life is all about facing fears.  It makes us feel alive.  Our adrenaline starts going, our mind becomes focused, and we are totally present.  

Crossing over the golden gate last week helped me see how capable I really am.  I can rely on myself. I passed through those golden gates of fearlessness.

 

5 ways to say "YES" to life

 
courage-brene brown-yoga-yes

This post was also published on elephant journal

I took a yoga class yesterday and the theme was simply "Yes, please."  Showing up to class in so many ways is a big yes to life.  It is saying, "YES" to look at our emotions, our fears, and thought patterns in order to move past them.

Over the last year I've realized many ways to show up and give life a big "YES," so I thought I'd compile some of my favorites:

1.  Let Yourself Be Vulnerable

I just finished reading the book, Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown.  It's all about how to live as a "Wholehearted" person.  Through Brene's research on shame and vulnerability as a social worker, she came to the conclusion vulnerability actually opens us to greater connection.  It's so often we want to see vulnerability in others but are afraid to show it in ourselves, when it is really the key ingredient to leaning into life and feeling connected.  Opening to vulnerability shows us our courage and human-ness.  Vulnerability is the pathway to innovation, creativity, success and a Wholehearted life.  

When I opened myself to vulnerability all I found was how much support was waiting for me on the other side.  Vulnerability has shown me compassion in others, and the strong community I have supporting me.

2.  Treat Yourself to Something Special 

This is one of my homework assignments this week from The Artist's Way.   Being luxurious and treating yourself does not have to be expensive.  A new body butter or even a box of raspberries can go a long way in helping life feel luxurious.  This week I went out and bought myself and a couple friends beautiful handwoven Mexican bracelets. They only cost $1 each and have brought me so much joy in such a small package.  Try buying a small gift for your inner artist child and you'll be surprised what a difference a small investment can make.

3.  Be Flexible 

This has been a big one for me while travelling.  You have to be open to your plans not working out, and be willing to act spontaneously, accept new offers that come your way.

One day this week, I wasn't wearing a watch on the beach, and was disappointed when I realized I was 15 minutes late to the yoga class I had been waiting to go to all day.  I hate showing up late for class, so I let it go. I went to the main pavilion to check my email, when a girl came up to me and asked, "Did you do your yoga teacher training at Yandara in Baja?"  Why yes, I did.

It happened to be a girl I met two years before in Mexico, and suddenly here we were again running into each other in Mexico.  We caught up and she told me she was here on retreat with her yoga teacher from Massachusetts. I told her I missed my class that morning and she immediately replied, "Hold on, I'll go ask our teacher if you can join our retreat for the morning!" She came back and said it would be fine and I got to spend the morning practicing yoga with an old friend.

Sometimes our missed opportunities open the door for something so much better. We need to stay open to what the universe brings to us if our plans don't work out the way we wanted them to.  When we shut the door to spontaneity and flexibility, we shut the door to miracles.

4.  Share Your Needs

On my last night in Mexico, I was planning to go out to a nice dinner with my boyfriend.  We only had enough pesos with us to pay for our room and cab ride the next day, so we went on a walk to the ATM to get a little extra cash for dinner.  When we got there, we found it was out of service. We were told to go to another place, a 10 minute walk away, and boom, there, 2 more ATM's out of service.

There we were without enough money for dinner, and no actual way to get it on our last night.  To say the least, I was feeling crabby.  Michael suggested we walk back to the kitchen of the community where we were staying.  When we got there we realized we had a couple eggs left on our shelf.  Then Michael started speaking in Spanish to the people around, telling them the ATM's were broken and we didn't have enough money for dinner on our last night.  People immediately started sharing their tortillas, tomatoes and avocados with us to fill out our last meal.

I realized we build up these stories, "I can't bother that person" or, "No one would want to help me," when actually, if we are willing to take the first step, be a little vulnerable and share our needs, people are generally happy and willing to help us.

5.  Make Powerful Requests 

This was a lesson I learned a couple months ago after reading Mathew and Terces Engelhart's book, Kindred Spirit. Making requests is empowering.  We need to remind ourselves that the worst that can happen is we receive a "no." Receiving a "no" does not mean we will lose love!  Try using the affirmation:

I make powerful requests as an exercise in worthiness and remember that “no” doesn’t mean anything.  I build my self-worth by making powerful requests and get at least one “no” everyday.

Who knows, you might even receive a big powerful "YES," but you'll never know unless you ask!

 

Top 5 Regrets of the Dying

 
Courage-buddhism-no regrets

I took a yoga class with one of my favorite Bay Area teachers this Sunday, Kimber Simpkins.   Her theme this class delved into darkness, in order to find more light.  She told us about an article she had read, about a woman in Australia in Hospice care who wrote a book called, The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying.

She read each of them aloud to us before the class, and reminded us throughout.  Read them through, and ask yourself, do I fit into these?  How can I make a positive change in that area of my life?

From the blog inspirationandchai.com:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. 

This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn't work so hard. 

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. 

Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. 

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness.

You can read the inspiration for this article here