(This picture is of one of my yoga instructors, Helen Summer, hanging upside down in a “suspended pigeon.” I could do that when I was five years old.)
I have fallen all over the world. There is no telling how many times I’ve tripped, or otherwise lost my balance, and fallen. Falling itself doesn’t bother me. A generalized fear of landing on my face AND knocking my front teeth out does. Having lots of opportunities, I’ve learned what I fear and what actually happens are not the same…
- At a Louisville, KY dog show, with 4 fingers underneath a 60-pound Otterhound’s collar, I had a solid grip when she bolted for her wire crate. That stuff about let go or be dragged is true. Mild cuts, bruised knees, slight black eye. Teeth fine. Favorite sweatshirt ripped.
- On the Norfolk Broads, near Ludham, England, I fell between the boat and its mooring. Huge and colorful bruises to a lot of my body. Face and teeth fine. Laundry.
- While facilitating The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People at the SC Education Lottery, I tripped over an electrical cord and went to my knees. Face, teeth, and knees of new silk slacks fine.
- Carrying a bucket containing 1.5 gallons of “used turtle water”, my foot went down “funny” on the last brick step and I landed in a wet heap on a twisted ankle. Face and teeth fine. Laundry.
- Teaching a yoga class, I saw my left big toe catch in the right leg pants hem. It was just a soft tumble to hands and knees. Face and teeth fine.
- On Unter den Linden, where Hitler marched troops in former East Berlin, I went airborne then crashed down on the stone street between two double-decker buses. Hands and knees scraped/bruised injured C5 & C6, stunning 10-week black eye. Teeth fine. Broken sunglasses.
With all the falling, what am I doing hanging upside down?! Here, in the gap between the fears (the pre-fear of what might happen and the post-fear of what could’ve) I am present with what is. The ultimate liberation is being free from our own minds. This is where I’ve found my comfort zone, in the gap.
With the focus on breath, muscles release, body softens and lengthens, mind quiets. In this moment, there is no fear. I reached back with both hands gently taking hold of my foot. BOTH HANDS!! Not the white-knuckle-death-grip on the side of the swing or extending one arm toward the earth.
This wasn’t like the times before when I’d fed emotionall and physical fear with multicolored chunks of imagination. Nope, this time I let go and someone digitally caught the exhale.
In the gap, suspended above the earth, both hands to my foot, eyes closed. Face and teeth fine.
Helen Summer is a life-long learner. Her professional background includes leadership and personal development. In her encore career, teaching Yin Yoga and Restorative Yoga, Helen specializes in assisting others release their relaxation response. www.InnerPeaceYogaMethod.com