fearless

What You Need to Know About Love & Fear

 
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“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance... ~ John Lennon Of all the places in the world, I read this quote pasted on the wall of a port-a-potty at a music and yoga festival in the forests of Oregon.

The quote stayed with me one evening when a friend of mine had an anxiety attack.  She began to feel oversensitive to the lights and sounds of the environment around us and her mind filled with fearful thoughts.

I brought her back to our tent with another friend.  We soothed her, listened to her, gave her pillows and earplugs, and reminded her to breathe.

Soon, she began to feel better.

As we called in grounding, soothing energy for her, we heard a woman outside with a baby.  My friend went outside to see who it was.  It happened to be someone she knew, so we invited her into the tent with us.

She said her name was Love. 

Instead of staying up late on the dance floor, we chose to relax in my tent, three women learning from Love.

We asked Love lots of questions, and when we asked her about her experience giving birth she shared, "It was a constant practice of being present.  As soon as I let my mind wander to the past or worry about the future, there was pain..  But when I was fully present, everything was fine."

I realized this insight also applied to my friend who had the anxiety attack - the anxiety only became worse for her when she immersed herself in worried thoughts about the future.  

However, as soon as she came back to the present, focused on her breath and the loving people around her, she relaxed.

In every moment we have a choice - to choose fear or love.  We can choose to be stuck in the past, worry about the future, or we can be fully present in the moment.

Fear exists in the future.  Love exists in the present. {tweet this}

This is why yoga and meditation has been such a valuable practice for me.  I can now catch my mind when I spiral into worried thoughts, and I naturally come back to my breath and the sensations in my body.  This immediately brings me back into the present moment, and I realize everything is fine.

When you find yourself full with worried thoughts, how do you come back to the present moment?  What helps you remember to choose love over fear?  I'd love to hear what works best for you in the comments below.

I am excited to be back to teaching three weekly yoga classes in Sonoma County this month (details here).  I am also getting ready to travel and teach at Burning Man and Erica Jago's (now full!) EARTH retreat in September...

I'm sure I will return with many fresh insights and stories for you.

Until then, sending love, Meredith

 

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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EARTHpromos_instagram4

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

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

 
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"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~

 

 

The Golden Gates of Fearlessness

 
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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.