In Yoga Thoughts

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more so that we may fear less.” – Madame Marie Curie

There are undoubtedly things in life that I fear, but before this week I would never have said that I feared tomatoes.

We spent all day Sunday at the river watching our girls row. The regatta was running an hour behind schedule which meant there was no way on earth we would have time to go to the grocery store and make dinner. This was how we wound up stopping in for dinner at a little restaurant in town famous for its welcoming atmosphere and wide array of home-cooked Italian fare. I was so exhausted that I could hardly choose my meal. The owner suggested her ravioli and I said, “OK” without a thought.

(This is where the tomatoes come in.)

When our meals arrived, I noticed the sauce on my ravioli had whole, cooked cherry tomatoes in it. I sighed and thought, “That’s alright. I’ll just push them aside.” You see, I really can’t stand the feeling of cooked tomato skin. In addition to the texture freaking me out, I’m a little afraid the skin will stick in my throat and make me gag. (I know. I sound like a six year old child.)

As I’d been promised, the first bite was delicious. It was actually better than delicious. I sat back and looked at my meal, which was also beautiful, and thought, “Why would Paola put those damn tomatoes in the sauce?” As she is an amazing cook, there could only be one answer: because the whole tomatoes made the sauce better.

In that instant, I remembered a conversation I’d had with my good friend and yoga pal that same week. She has been healing from an injury and was struggling to bring herself to move into the posture where she got hurt. I asked her what she was feeling. She gave me an immediate one word answer: “Fear.” I said, “Is it the kind of fear that is keeping you safe or the kind of fear that is holding you back?” She just stared at me. When she finally responded, “I don’t have a clue!” we both knew she had some work to do getting to know her fear.

The next day, before we practiced, she thanked me for asking her about her fear. She’d actually done a lot of thinking about it. Fear, she said, had always been a powerful motivator for her. It was how she learned all the jumps, inversions and flying feats that she did as a gymnast and a cheerleader. It was odd for her to discover that this fear (which was the fear of getting hurt again) felt like a wall that she didn’t feel inspired to try to get around or over. This fear left her feeling like it might be just fine to never do that posture again.

In the kind of yoga we practice, skipping postures is a big “no no,” so I laughed and she laughed with me. Then she asked me if I would help her into the posture that was scaring her. I said, “Sure! We’ll take it slow and easy. Just see how it feels.” And that is exactly what we did. In addition to facing down her fear, she found that the posture didn’t hurt! It turns out that this particular fear was holding her back.

As I thought about our conversation, I realized two things. First, fear is never (ever!) a motivator for me. Whether fear is keeping me safe or holding me back on my yoga mat, the sensation of being afraid for me ranges from colossally heavy to absolutely paralyzing. I was suddenly jealous how my friend usually experiences fear.

Second, I realized that my fear of the tomatoes scattered across my plate was neither heavy nor paralyzing. In fact, it felt downright stupid. I have been enjoying Paola’s cuisine for fifteen years and she has never steered me wrong. My second bite of the ravioli included one of the whole cherry tomatoes.

Oh. My. Goodness.

That tomato burst in my mouth with a sweetness and tang that brought the rest of the sauce to life. It was absolutely the secret ingredient. To think I might have missed out on that because I was afraid the skin of the tomato would make me gag made me want to laugh out loud. I carefully divvied up the remaining tomatoes so that as many bites of ravioli as possible would be paired with that same sweet explosion.

In perhaps a less dramatic way, like my friend, I had faced a fear. More importantly, I figured out that I don’t want to miss out because I feel afraid any more.

Amy

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