Having fear is part of being human. The trick is to not allow your fear to drive your choices. Being brave doesn’t mean there is an absence of fear. It means you are afraid and you are doing it anyway.
Yoga practice allows us to build the skill of facing our fears. The seemingly small practice of pushing our boundaries on the mat strengthens our abilities to do the same in our life. There is a terrific article in Yoga Times addressing this very issue. Facing our fears gives us the freedom to be brave.
There are a lot of things to be afraid of in this world. I avoid watching the news for that very reason. It’s not that I do not want to be informed. It’s that I don’t want to be terrified.
I have to remind myself that broadcast news is a business driven by viewers and the more terrified or titillated we are, the longer we are likely to watch. It is the job of the news program to evoke deep emotion from us as quickly as possible, resulting in the broadcast rule, if it bleeds, it leads.
Lately, the news has been particularly bloody.
For weeks I’ve been thinking that my gentle yoga-based Sunday blog was not the place to process the beheadings, wars, and daily acts of violence that seem to be escalating in my news feed.
Today, I decided I would be a hypocrite not to acknowledge it.
Violence is born from fear. Fear of losing power or control. In turn, violence is used to create fear in others. Actions born from fear are usually wrong and often destructive. It’s a vicious cycle.
Some of us live with it daily, close to war zones or facing battle. Some of us see it on the news. For those of us who observe it from afar, we can not afford to be ignorant of what is happening. The sad truth is that we are all vulnerable to this violence.
I learned that on September 11, 2001, when I stepped out of a deli a mile from where the planes hit. I saw the pillar of smoke rising from the World Trade Center. I watched the second plane fly into the second building. I smelled the acrid air and saw people in shock, covered in dust making their way north up Sixth Avenue.Twenty hours later, I got back to my apartment in Queens. I stayed there for three days. I couldn’t imagine going back to work in Manhattan.
Then, I realized that hiding in my apartment wasn’t going to stop my fear. I had to choose between letting my fear paralyze me or getting out there and living, terror and all.
I got out there.
Now, I see the terrible images floating in my news feed online. It makes me want to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head. It makes me want to home school my daughter for the purpose of never letting her out of my sight. It makes me want to avoid all travel.
That isn’t what I’m going to do. Not because I’m fearless, but because I refuse to let my decisions be controlled by my fears. I will not miss out on all the good things that can happen, because I’m afraid of the bad things that might happen. That is my miniscule act of bravery.
The truly brave people are the ones that continue to head toward those dangers and conflicts driven by beliefs much stronger than their fears.