Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Falling For Freedom

     "When I rise up let me rise up joyful like a bird,
       When I fall let me fall without regret like a leaf." Wendell Berry

     The words falling and fear seem to be inextricably tied to each other. Maybe it is because we also associate the experience of falling with another alliteration, failure. I have experienced debilitating, paralyzing fear in my life over failure. I have sunk into deep murky pools of self doubt and depression, waters that echoed with falling, fear, failure. There have been many moments where the struggle became so tiring I wanted to give up, give in, in every cell of my being wanting to sink down to the bottom and surrender to the dark. What I did not know then is that the pain I was experiencing had as much to do, or even more so, with my perceptions and judgmental notions as the facts of my situation. I had bought into the story that I was essentially, irrevocably flawed, that I did not have much to offer and felt the world at large was not on my side. I found it excruciatingly difficult to step into new situations, to move beyond old habits and behaviors or to accept that my successes in life were more than transient flukes. I was quite blind to my own goodness and potential, my gifts, and my fear of failure, of falling, kept me from growing or evolving. I was stifled and often depressed.

 On the other hand I have always had a warrior nature as well. Often in these situations of complete terror my warrior archetype has led me to say yes to things even when my insides were trying to run in the other direction. These situations of ominous opportunity have had various outcomes, some highly successful and some not so successful, but upon reflection every experience, even the ones which by some standards would be called failure or falling down, brought growth, insight, and informed my evolution. In fact I have realized that making friends with falling opens the door to amazing freedom and exponentially accelerated growth. The ability to take a step into fear and the unknown in order to explore the possibilities of life, and grow into our gifts is what we are called to in this life. In this one life to live (or this time around) we have a choice to risk and play, to experiment, expand, to fall and fly or to stay small and caged when the vast sky awaits.

  In my yoga classes I often do an inquiry which I call intentional falling. What we can befriend on a yoga mat we might just carry more and more into life. I begin this exploration by talking about falling. The fact of the matter is that we would have never learned to walk, to ride a bike, to climb or dance without the willingness and ability to fall. Next, we enter a balancing pose such as tree or uptavishta konasana (a seated balance where you hold your big toes and lift the legs up at a wide angle), hold for a breath or two and then playfully allow ourselves to fall, with a smile and a "weeee" or a "wooop". This falling becomes its own new form of warrior two or spinal rocking. This illustrates how when we allow, and flow with the course of life and energy, what might at first seem undesirable, a falling, a "failure", can surprise us and be a gateway to something beautiful, something brilliant.

Our power lies not in our holding on, but our letting go. Fall into freedom and learn how to fly.

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