Last week, I took a roadtrip with my boyfriend. He struggles with anxiety and is working towards flying on planes. In the meantime, we drive. He hasn’t been to Los Angeles for several years, so this was a pretty significant adventure. The prospect of leaving terra firma and adventuring into the wilds of the United States held the potential for serious discomfort.
We had our moments, of course. All evolution requires some growing pains. There were times with then anxiety would come on, and he would have a choice: open to possibility (that he would live through this moment, that he could survive distress) or close down in fear.
Although his boundaries are far more tangible than most of ours, we all have possibilities that we’ve shut off in order to stay comfortable. We all have places we don’t go, because we “don’t do that,” or we “can’t do that.” Some of us refuse to sing in public (or even sadder, in the privacy of our own home) because we’ve come to think we can’t. Some of us unknowingly put limitations on our ideas of personal success and happiness. We may shy away from something that we’d actually like to do because we are pre-supposing that we won’t be able to do it.
It’s almost easier for my boyfriend. He can see the border between Canada and the United States and determine to step over it. Some of us have been living with our self-imposed limitations for so long that we no longer even recognize that they’re there.
In our practice, we can use our discomfort as a stepping stone to possibility. When we’re in the throes of a pose (say, a strength-challenging hip opener like Warrior II), we can take the space to respond to the discomfort rather than shy away from it. When our thighs start burning and the mind jumps in, “abort, abort!”, we can instead explore the possibility of remaining in the unknown. The inhalation becomes a doorway to greater space and literally creates more space in the body. By engaging in the breath and staying present, we can actually use our anxiety in order to open to possibility.
And then, take this ability to create possibility from your fear into the rest of your life. What neglected corners could use a little loving sunshine?