When Fear is Upon Us - Healing Samskara


What if you found out your worst nightmare is a figment of your imagination? Something you made up in your mind, and do everything in your power to prevent – but, that you’re fighting a non-existent fight?

Several months ago, the thought entered my mind to close my maternity clothing business - and I immediately pushed it away.

No, that would mean defeat, failure, giving up – and worst of all, having to actually tell people. I stood in my bathroom, blow drying my hair, and thought back to the very beginning – placing the first large fabric order, wiring the money to the fabric mill, and arranging shipment to the manufacturer. It felt like the first irrevocable threshold of starting a business, a line I had crossed and something I couldn’t take back. The fabric was bought and paid for; it would ship to the manufacturer, and designs that took me 2 years to finalize would be sewn into clothes.  Until then, my business wasn’t real – it was an idea, a creative process. It held no weight.

Unlike the arrival of the first 21 boxes of inventory – 5 styles, 3 colors, 4 sizes... all stacked up nicely in the alcove at the top of the stairs. I feared the weight from the clothes would break through the 100-year-old floorboards of our 2 bedroom, Chicago apartment. I feared the weight in my chest would never go away. 

This was all happening at the same time I was having babies. During my first pregnancy, we painstakingly transformed the second bedroom into a nursery – replacing the queen-sized guest bed with an all-white crib, matching changing table, and yellow gingham curtains. 19 months later, we added a second crib and a second baby, carefully rearranging furniture so everything fit. Our master bedroom was just down the hall, and we could easily hear both babies crying without a monitor.

I lay awake at night riddled with guilt, listening to babies breathe and rustle blankets down the hall. A brand new mom starting her own business – how selfish is that? What if it doesn’t work? What if it takes up too much of my time? What if my babies never understand what I did for them?

And my biggest fear of all, What if none of it matters?

I stood in the alcove behind the living room couch and stared at the neatly folded inventory, individual clothes tucked safely inside poly bags and stacked according to size and color inside clear Rubbermaid bins. My gaze scanned the room and landed on swaddle blankets and infant sized diapers, stacked adorably on one end of the couch, out and ready for use. I wondered in awe at how I had accomplished such a thing.

These clothes were mine? I can barely sew a button on a shirt.

And the babies? Who thought I could take care of two babies?

According to yogic philosophy, Samskaras are our scars, our karma - mental imprints that we inherit or create through our experience. Indelible marks that dictate our behavior - and make habits that are so hard to let go of, we cycle through them over and over throughout our lives. We repeat the same pain, dig deeply into the scar, and mindlessly traverse the same, familiar groove.

The Sanskrit definition of Samskara also means rite of passage - the new path towards awakening – by crossing a threshold, we can heal the samskara, and shift a behavior. By intentionally letting go of old patterns, even if it feels wildly uncomfortable, we free up our mind and illuminate our soul to accept a new behavior – to carve a new imprint.

When I walked into my first AA meeting, the heavy church doors begged me, are you sure? I struggled to pull one open - Yes, I am sure. I am sure I can’t stop on my own. I am sure I need to be here. My worst nightmare was upon me. And yet, there was giddy freedom in the act of surrender. In sitting down, in letting go, in shaking hands and announcing my name.

When I told a girlfriend I was getting a divorce – that I had found out about my husband’s affair, “Oh my GOD,” she replied. “I’m so sorry – that’s my worst nightmare.”

“Well,” I said, “it’s not mine – at least not anymore.” My worst nightmare was upon me. But for the first time in a long time during my marriage, I could see clearly.

A few days ago, I jogged by the lake in the crisp Fall air, headphones blasting in my ears, and I blurted out loud – “I’m closing my maternity business.” The wind caught in my throat and I started to cough. I stopped running and pulled out my headphones.

Suddenly, the scar had been illuminated rather than raked over and prodded. My worst nightmare was upon me, yet the surface of the lake still rippled under the breeze. A man painting his deck railing listened to country radio from a speaker nearby, and my feet were still planted firmly on the ground. I placed my headphones back in my ears, and started running again.

We can make anything up that we want to – and we do. We pick our fears, lock them tightly in our mind, and let them ruminate. We sling them comfortably over our shoulder, and let them dictate our life decisions – I can’t close my business because that would mean giving up. I can’t get divorced because that would mean I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain. I can’t ask for help in motherhood, marriage or addiction because that would mean I couldn’t do it on my own.

Letting go of the things I never thought I could means they no longer hold weight. They will no longer distract me, wake me up at night, and threaten to occur. I no longer have to prevent them from happening.

At the end of yoga class, I lay in Savasana, Corpse Pose. I forget about all the poses I’ve done, and I let them go. I let go of the pose I held strongly and steadily. I let go of the pose I struggled to stay in for 3 long breaths. I let go of the pose that caused me pain, and the one I melted into fully. I let go of the balance pose I came entirely out of - the one I clawed and gripped at in order to stay lifted, but fell out of anyway, onto my hands and knees, just as the teacher walked by and reminded me, “It’s ok.”

I continue across the threshold, shining light on my Samskara. Completely, and unashamed, I let go.