Illustration by Molly Askey-Goldsbury
Illustration by Molly Askey-Goldsbury
By Bryn Bamber
I sit my desk, terrified to pick up the phone. My life is not in danger. I am about to call a reporter about a potential story. But my body and head are vibrating. Will the reporter think I’m an idiot? Will my boss be okay with this?
After staring at the phone number pulled up on my computer screen for a while, I dial the number. The reporter’s voice is warm and she recognizes my name from our interactions on Twitter. She says the story is likely to get picked up. I breathe a sigh of relief.
I thank her, hang up.
In the chapter on Liberation in Yoga: A Path to Awareness Swami Radha writes,
Yoga is a path of liberation, and liberation has to begin in the here and now of our daily lives. We have to liberate ourselves from our own self-made prisons. These are prisons of attachments, concepts and habits, and the compelling forces of the mechanical reactions and untested beliefs.
My untested belief is that if I follow my intuition and show others who I really am, they will leave me. The fear is so strong that when I consider following my intuition, my whole being vibrates.
I’ve spent a lot of my life biting my tongue, not rocking the boat and trying desperately to please. As I sat looking at the reporter’s phone number, I seriously considered dropping the idea completely because it was too big of a risk.
But that is not the way I want to live. I want to trust my intuition and to take risks. I want to be able to tell others how I feel and what I believe. I want to live a full and meaningful life. How can I gather the courage to do this?
Later in the chapter she writes,
How can new decisions be made? First get all of the facts together about what you want to do. Generate options. Pay attention to your emotional responses to the various possibilities because where your joy is the greatest, there you will succeed – even if you think you have little to offer or you have little capital to enter into any new business or professional venture.
I notice how my fear of upsetting others has kept me from doing what I really want – both in my current job and in exploring next steps in my career. In my current job, I often ask for my supervisor’s permission even in decisions that I’m authorized to make because I want her to approve. Since my supervisor can be busy, this stalls the process, makes the work take longer and sometimes the opportunity passes because I don’t act on it quickly enough.
In my next steps in my career, I am in the process of starting a life coaching business but it terrifies me. It has taken me almost a year to gather the courage to say these words out loud. I haven’t taken an official life coaching course. I feel unqualified and that I will be judged if I tell others. But as I begin to run sessions with family and friends, I find it really is what brings me the most joy. I want to continue.
Later still Swami Radha writes,
There is no sudden miracle where all of your negative characteristics just drop away. It is a Western misconception that if you meditate eight hours a day like the yogis in India all your shortcomings will disappear. They won’t. We have to work on ourselves. God will not do it for us. No true teacher will do it for you. You must take responsibility for yourself. You are the doer of the wrongs actions in the past, so you are also the one who can undo them.
And this practical advice gives me hope. There is no grand or miraculous solution to my problem, but my work is to keep going. Every time that I feel the fear of not wanting to make the phone call, or not wanting to write about my business but do it anyway, I am making progress. I am beginning to undo the years of making decisions out of fear, and that’s all I really can do.
Sometimes I search for the big and deep answer but what I find is small, simple and do-able. You are doing okay, the teachings say, keep going. Keep paying attention, keeping feeling the fear and choosing to move forward.
Liberation is not some spectacular phenomena that happens when we suddenly become enlightened but a daily on-going process. The steps towards liberation happen one at time and as much as I sometimes wish there was, there is no magic trick or short cut.
The gift is that the steps forward are do-able for all of us. You start where you are and take the first step, then your second, then your third. You keep doing the next right thing and slowly build a life filled with more meaning and purpose.
Swami Radha writes,
It is my prayer that you all have the courage, the determination and the persistent to undo your self-made prisons. Awareness is the key. Recognize the key. Find the door, put the key in the lock and open the door.
Courageously step into that new freedom.
Bryn Bamber is an educator, writer and Yasodhara Yoga teacher who is obsessed with bridging the gap between dissatisfaction and the desire to live a life filled with meaning. Her writing has been published in Scratch Magazine and at brynbamber.com.
Read her other articles in Finding Yoga.
“I pause and think maybe I should try a different tactic. Maybe I should look at the situation from a yogic perspective. Why has the Divine presented me with this situation? What can I learn?”