I’ve written a lot about my journey through an anxiety disorder, medication trial, and intense fear. Airplanes have always triggered immense anxiety for me. We are totally powerless on airplanes, and powerlessness is not a feeling that I have ever embraced by any stretch of the imagination.
I go on one vacation a year, which involves flying. I get a feeling of uneasiness about one hour before the flight -- I begin to feel my heart race as I enter the narrow aisle toward my seat, and as I settle in, I find myself scanning the plane for possible problems (as if I would actually know the first thing about what is typical for an aircraft), searching for some semblance of control over my environment.
Eventually a full-blown panic attack would take hold as the aircraft began to ascend.
On Anxiety Pills And Hot Yoga
I decided that it was self-loving for me to take a low dose anti-anxiety pill before each flight. Each year, I would take my pill and that feeling of powerlessness would become more bearable. I spent a lot of time avoiding new experiences due to intense fear.
But as I began to cultivate a meditation practice and discover hot yoga, I learned to trust my body. My physical body became an intuitive communicator, rather than a submissive vehicle navigated by fear.
A large part of hot yoga practice is learning to embrace our environment in the hot room. At first the heat felt oppressive, and all I could think of was how difficult the conditions were. Eventually, I learned to really BE in my physical body. I now held the ability to know the difference between fear and my body’s physical signals that I might need to lie down, take a drink of water, or ease up in the depth of a certain posture.
Eventually, an amazing thing happened: I began to go from being in my mind, to then being in my physical body -- and at times, during certain sublime moments on my mat -- I began to release both body and mind as I learned to truly connect with something greater.
Yoga Means Union
Yoga is designed to prepare the body for meditation. Moving meditation is the goal of yoga. Yoga means union, and as we progress in our practice, we begin to experience prolonged periods of union with our higher selves. We move beyond asana practice to really creating a consciousness connection in meditation.
I began to really tune in to when I felt fearful and what was real intuition in decision-making or self-care. As I’ve uncovered signals to help me tell the difference, I began to experience more joy and release my fears of powerlessness.
Here are a few ways we can tune into our emotions and determine if they are fear based or true intuition:
1. Where do we feel it?
I find that location is a huge signal for me. Am I feeling it in my heart center? Is it a gentle feeling from my heart that feels right for me? Very often when I’m over thinking or analyzing a situation that feels off for me, I am not feeling any sensations emanating from my heart center.
Intuition is a feeling of knowing but we don’t quite know how we know. Intuition is not a result of over-thinking -- our logical mind is not involved. Even during yoga practice, our body can become intuitive as we begin to naturally align our physical body with our breath-linked movements. Our intuition takes hold gently in the physical body, whereas fear is aggressive to the body -- we feel shaky, sweaty, our heart pounds…
As we check in with our physical body, we notice where we feel these sensations. Are they triggered by thoughts or is there a general feeling? When we take a deep breath and check in with our heart, we begin to discern if the feeling is from our heart space.
2. Does it involve our deepest desires?
When we truly desire something, we feel attachment to our desires. We fear that they may not manifest in our lives until we can cultivate the wisdom of trust. Our deepest desires can trigger thoughts of fear, and we then translate those fears as intuition that we’re not “meant” to achieve our goal.
That is NOT intuition. That is our fear-based thought that we are not meant to attain our desires.
Very often, we mistake fear for intuition. We may then attract obstacles because we are holding the vibration that we are not meant to have what we desire. As we check in with our thoughts, we can begin to observe if they are related to something we want or fear losing. That is usually a telltale sign that it is our fear taking hold, not our intuition.
3. Are we practicing self-love?
Does this feel right? “This” could be anything from a relationship, a new friendship, a job, a potential new home…
The less we analyze, the more we know if we’re using our internal guidance system. We know if we’re walking down the street and an inner wisdom tells us not to walk in a certain direction, or talk to a certain person. We always hold that ability to intuitively know what feels right and good for us.
Self-love is tuning into that knowing instead of analyzing it. When we are responding fearfully, whether it is ego-based fear in a story that we tell ourselves about an outcome, or instinctual fear like my fear of flying, (which is ultimately fear of annihilation) -- it does not feel right or good. We do not feel in alignment with our higher self.
Intuition feels self-loving. Fear does not.
Meditation, yoga, and spiritual practices of present moment awareness have helped me overcome intense fear, and learn to tune in to my intuition. Last month, I sat on an airplane (medication-free) in a state of total surrender, and can honestly and sincerely say that I enjoyed it.
As I looked out of the small window at the luminous clouds, I began to ponder the cosmos, and there was now intense gratitude where there was once intense fear. When I arrived at my destination, I even tried a waterslide that drops 60 ft. into the water.
As I crossed my arms and allowed my body to fall, I felt nervous but my intuition told me there was nothing to fear. The water slide is called the Leap of Faith.