“I’m not ready.”
“I don’t know what I’m doing.”
“What if nobody likes it or I’m not a good writer?”
These questions haunted me for the past several months, as I got up the gumption to finally write my first post for Positively Positive.
Candor, self-disclosure, and transparency are my preferred teaching tools. No need to uphold an idealized version of myself—not helpful for you or me.
Yes, I was nervous to put myself “out there.” Every time I break open and expand, I’m met with self-doubt, fear, insecurity, and a comparing mind.
For my first post, I decided to tackle my self-doubting questions head-on and share some tools I find useful when battling the nasty voice of uncertainty: practical advice meets neuroscience meets spirituality.
Ask yourself: How do you handle the anxiety around a difficult transition and trust the unknown? Do you freeze (procrastination, excuses), run (avoid, deny, lie), or attack (irritable, critical, blame)?
The anxiety we feel when starting a new job, relationship, or hobby comes from fear—fear of the unknown; the haunting dark place we cannot see. We’re conditioned to crave structure and order. That was a good thing for our ancestors trying to survive in the jungle, but it’s a huge source of stress in our twenty-first-century lives.
As we move through life, perception becomes reality. Our brains lay down tracks (neural pathways) based on our reaction to stimuli, ultimately etching a kind of habitual memory.
The Good News: Comfort Zone
Thanks to these pathways, we remember how to get to work every morning, pay our bills, and make our favorite meal. We form distinct patterns in how we communicate, relate, and what we expect.
The Bad News: Out of Comfort Zone
When something threatens this order and doesn’t fit into the pathways we’ve carved, the natural reaction is fear, constriction, avoidance, or running the other way. Fight or flight. The matrices of our brains don’t know how to process new experiences or thought forms. Result = panic.
The ego gets attached to the roles we play, and when these roles change, deeper questions of self-worth arise: “Who am I?”, “What am I doing?”, “How will this ever work out?”, “Will I be good enough?”
Luckily, the brain is capable of laying new pathways, a concept known as neuroplasticity. When you begin a new job, you may be anxious and fearful (i.e. you don’t know what to expect or how to respond). As you become accustomed to your new boss, coworkers, and office and learn new skills, anxiety slips away until eventually you go about your daily routine unfazed.
The new becomes known. We reclaim comfort.
When my Fear Mind tends toward anxiety, these three steps help me find the path, stay present, and enjoy the beginning stages of a new venture.
1. Beginner’s Mind: Start by Stopping
Yoga recognizes the wisdom of chronology and progression, known as krama, the natural evolution of all things. Everything in life goes through three primary phases: beginning/birth (Brahma), middle/growth/expansion/sustaining (Vishnu), and dissolution/ending/completion (Shiva). Your first responsibility is to simply recognize the stage you’re in and allow yourself to be there. Acknowledge that you are in the beginning and know it will evolve.
Embrace what Buddhism calls the Beginner’s Mind. Think of the first time you tried a new hobby and didn’t know what to expect. You were completely consumed with the rawness of the present moment and were forced to pay attention, just to keep your head above water. In this present-moment awareness, you learned by staying focused on the task at hand and not letting distractions of what was (the past) or what would be (the future) take over. Present-moment consciousness allows you to be completely open to every moment and all it has to offer.
Let yourself just be in the unknown. In yoga, Child’s Pose is a metaphor and reminder to empty out and reconnect to the breath, body, and this moment. Like a newborn child, embrace the magic and wonder unfolding in every moment—unadulterated by memory and expectation. Stop beating yourself up for not having the answers! Know that within the Beginner’s Mind lies the fertile soil of all new growth. Start by stopping!
2. Don’t Miss the Magic. Relax, Breathe, and Let Go
Take a few deep breaths and relax into the unknown. Let go of expectations. A scary place to be, no doubt, but also a land of infinite opportunities.
When starting a new relationship, job, or venture—especially something you’ve never done before—you have nothing to compare it to. In fact, the more you try to squish it into a box, the more you limit the possibilities. This minimizes the magic of what is. How much do we miss the magic of people right in front of us because we’re comparing them to someone else?
When you watch a baby, the wonder in her eyes and delight in her smile light up a room. This is because she’s untainted by past impressions and completely enamored by the magic of every little sensation unfolding before her. Pay attention and enjoy.
3. Be Patient. Simply Take the Next Right Action
Every step moves you forward. Each action you take prepares you for what is to come. You don’t have to know how you’ll get to your goal. As Ram Dass says, “The best preparation for later is to be fully present right now.”
When you look back on your career, how could you ever expect to have your skill-set mastered before you even started? You only learn by doing. The key to getting where you want to go (and figuring out where you want to be) is to simply do it. Do the next right thing and the next step, and the step after that, will unfurl before you.
The big challenge for me was to finally write this! Now, I’m excited about contributing to this community. I invite you to please share:
- What are you just beginning?
- What are you most afraid of beginning?
- What specific tricks keep you flowing through the sea of change?
- What is your next right-action step (however small)?
And please ask me any of your burning questions!
Elevating personal growth as a lifestyle, Ashley Turner, M.A., brings a fresh approach to yoga as a modern-day psychotherapist with a soulful take on celebrating the body’s wisdom and inner spirit, translating complex themes into practical, real-life tools, and is known for challenging clients from the inside out. She is the co-author of Aroma Yoga®: A Guide to Using Essential Oils in Your Practice and Your Life and creator of the best-selling DVDs Yoga for Weightloss, Yoga for Stress Relief + Flexibility, Power Yoga, and her latest Yoga Bootcamp. Ashley is also available on Facebook and Twitter.
*Photo by stevendepolo.