A new year has dawned and as I put away the last of the Christmas decorations, I feel a sense of cleansing; a new year to tackle things not accomplished in the previous one. For me, 2013 represented struggle but also personal growth. Much of my struggle revolved around fear and then I noticed the 13 present in the year’s number.
In a general Google search about the symbolism of the number 13, I learned that it “cleans and purifies or brings test, suffering and death. It symbolizes death to a matter or to oneself and the birth to the spirit: the passage on a higher level of existence.” For the superstitious, this number is often equated with fear and represents bad luck or misfortune. There are rarely 13 floors in a hotel, some people fear bad luck on Friday the 13th and horror movies love to exploit this day with terror and panic. So in summary, the number 13 leaves us with fear, testing, suffering, and death leading to cleansing, purification and birth of the spirit. Renewal.
Over the past year I held a load of fear in my heart that I am learning to let go the last bits of but it was also a cleansing and purifying year. While the year’s end held similar struggles to its beginning, I was better equipped to handle the trials and be resilient and tolerant and not shaken to the core, emotionally and physically. I learned through the year to let go of things I cannot change or fix, to not be afraid to ask for and express what I need, to feel love during relationship discord and to accept that while I may feel hurt, I remember that every person wants happiness and freedom and that we are all connected.
Lokah samasta sukhino bhavantu
My fears and hurt led to insomnia in the early part of the year then fear of not sleeping took hold of me throughout the rest. I feared not being able to control difficult situations, of being misunderstood, and of losing things that I thought I needed. I feared that relationships would not be what I wanted, that I was not accomplishing all that I sought and that I was losing a grip on myself.
I heard recently on NPR an astronaut describing how he and his colleagues overcome their fears of going into space. He said the key to managing fears is to dissect the risks until they become manageable. By managing the risks, we neutralize our fear. If astronauts can neutralize their fears, which I imagine are vast, through dissection of risks then I should easily be able to do the same with mine.
Yoga became my avenue for dissection last year as it pointed me in the direction of clarity, focus and answers when I feared there were none. It reminded me of my breath that levels me during those hard times that used to bring on physical shaking when anxiety took hold. I saw the benefits of my practice during a recent high anxiety time; I did not get the physical reaction I have so often gotten in the past: shortness of breath, sweating palms, and a nervous shake when angry.
Yet, I struggled recently with marrying the yogic concepts stated in Patnajali’s Yoga-Sutras (which I have only read a few) of allowing myself and others to be and of letting go while still proactively stating my needs. In life, conflict inevitably occurs and trying to meld balance and love with the need to handle a difficult situation is challenging. The truth is that struggling in a tug of war for a held belief or want only wastes our energy until somebody gives up and the other falls in the mud, both lose. The tighter we hold the taut rope, the more pain we cause to all involved. But when we address our conflicts with love, both parties can truly let go and be free from struggle, allowing what is without the pull.
And that is how my year ended; letting go of the rope and accepting what is versus what I thought needed. The minute I and my loved one let go, my heart opened and my body felt instantly relieved, as did hers. Saying goodbye to familiar fantasies feels sad when you are still holding them close but once they are gone, we open up to so much possibility that otherwise would not have been available.
My goals for 2014 are to neutralize and dissolve my fears and to live my life with love, trust, and presence of heart. I intend to learn to detach from things and situations that are out of my control. I intend to increase my yoga practice and make meditation a regular practice at home, beginning weekly and increasing to daily. I will not be afraid of failure or other challenges that do not go as planned. I will focus on the fact that a life without risk of the heart, mind, or body may be safe but holds little reward.
And I will live by Patanjali’s words to live with freedom and openness of heart while dissecting risks like an astronaut letting go of fear when there is nothing left to control.
(I also intend to eat less sugar, eat more fruits and vegetables and drink more water like the rest of the world.) 😀
Happy New Year…make it great!