Eight years ago I did a really brave thing. After waiting and waiting to hear back from a big-time music manager about becoming his receptionist, I showed up to his office unannounced, and said:
“I didn’t move to New York to become a receptionist. I came here to be an artist and I want you to help me.”
I had never felt that kind of fear before. My body was tingling and pulsing from the inside out. I felt on FIRE. I felt on PURPOSE. I felt ALIVE. I also felt like I had to pee in my pants and throw up at the same time!
The courage it took to get me to that moment was a culmination of years of struggle; of settling into jobs that were nothing more than a paycheck; of taking what was given instead of asking for what I was worth. That moment was so much bigger than me. It was a promise to God/Universe...I will never give up on my dreams. I’ll do whatever it takes.
It also happened to be days after I had just gotten mugged. I was shaken, vulnerable, and angry. Mostly at myself. The the voice inside my head wasn’t “How could this happen to me?” It was, ”What do you really want from your life? Stop playing small. GO GET IT!”
The real epiphany came after re-telling that story to a friend.
“Don’t you think that was my big Behind-the-Music special moment?” His response, “No, that’s after the TENTH time you do it.” You mean I gotta do it another nine more times!! (and for the record, I did go back another time).
So, as I was thinking about my final act of fearlessness, I wondered: What would it feel like to go back and do some of my most scariest acts...again? How would it feel differently? Easier? Better? Worse? And would the outcome change?
In the next few weeks before my 41st birthday (Can you believe it’s been a year??) I will share what happened when I went back and....sorry, you'll just have to wait and see which ones I did again!
I’ve learned so much during my Fearless journey, but perhaps the most pressing lesson has been about compassion. Deep compassion. The stories we tell ourselves that cripple us into not going for what we really want...are really just “stories.” We all have them. The details of your stories may not look like the details of mine, but they still feel just as real.
The courage it took me to pose nude in an art class or hand-deliver love notes to strangers... is the same courage it took you to…(fill in the blank). It’s all courageous when you’re acting in spite of feeling the fear, shame, guilt, or embarrassment. No one is better or greater than the other.
I realize that now as most of my scariest acts were often a surprise to me. The fear seemed to uncover a deep, unhealed wound or shameful story about myself. And midway through my challenge, I started to feel different. Vulnerable. Exposed. Humbled.
I discovered a whole lot I didn’t know about myself. I discovered judgment where I didn’t think there was any. I discovered shame where I didn’t think there was any. And I discovered love...a deep capacity to love and be loved. For everyone. For the people in my life that hurt me, for the people I’ve held judgment towards and especially, for the deepest part of myself that felt unworthy.
I look at a fellow busker on the subway and think, how brave. I think of someone going to an AA meeting or a Cuddle party and think, how brave. I look at a homeless person sleeping on the side of the street and think, how brave. I wanted to understand my fear and by doing so, I've become more understanding of people that seemed "different" than me.
I will say one more thing about the above-mentioned story. At the time, I didn’t share that story with my parents or some of my friends because it didn't produce the "outcome" that I wanted. But, what needs to be celebrated is the action itself. I'm sure there are a million stories of courage that are never talked about or shared because of some story or rather, society telling us since they didn't produce the results we wanted, they aren't worth celebrating.
Who we are and who we become are a collection of these stories. These acts of bravery. These moments of choosing to act in spite of feeling fear. We do it all the time. We just don't think much of them. And that needs to change.
In the comments below, please share what courageous action you are presently taking, or have taken that forced you to act in spite of feeling fear. Let us all celebrate these stories in each other. That’s what I hope this journey will inspire. Compassion for all and the courage to share our brave stories.
Ok, I admit it...I was weirded out by the whole idea of “naked yoga.” Just who goes to these classes anyway? What are the benefits? Is it all just a gimmick? A peep show? And... could I make it through one of these classes without giggling like a teenager? I was about to find out.
Before signing up to my first co-ed Naked Yoga class, I had to fill out a little questionnaire online (which I assume is to keep the creepies out!). I sent in my little application, and was promptly accepted by the owner. YAY!!! I mean...I think?
On my way to the studio, I felt uneasy and nervous. I stopped by my nearest liquor store and purchased a package of plain M&M’s. WHAT?! I never do that! Maybe it was the nerves...or maybe I was regressing to a child...or maybe I just needed a sugar fix to calm me down. With each “M” I devoured, I shook my head in disapproval at both my decision to eat these candies and at what I was about to do.
I kept looking around the subway train anxiously ready to announce: I’M HEADED TO A NAKED YOGA CLASS!! SOMEBODY STOP ME! Because I told no one about this. I mean, not one person. This was all me. And I could back out at any moment...and no one would know.
Then, my mind flooded with concerns….What will my parents say? Or my fellow yoga teachers? Or my students? I mean...what if someone I knew was in the class?? Agggghhh!!! The embarrassment!! The humiliation!!! I almost got up from my seat when…
The song, “Can’t Keep My Hands to Myself” started playing on my iPhone. I looked down to see who was singing and there, staring back at me was a naked Selena Gomez in a half-seated-sorta-twisty-yoga-pose.
She spoke to me: “Girrrlll...you got nothing to be scared of...I’m only sixteen and I’m like, naked all the time! Like, for no reason at all! Me and T-Swift go naked everywhere together. You’ll be fine.”
Sometimes, when we don’t know the reasons why we want to do something, we just have to follow our own curiosity. And in this case, my “curiosity” was in the form of Selena Gomez. And that lil' pep talk worked!
I walked into Bold & Naked Yoga in Chelsea with a fresh sense of confidence. I am FORTY! I’ve been naked in front of strangers before in fearless act #29. And this time, everyone will be naked with me. I have nothing to worry about. Until, I opened the door...
“CHAAARRRLLLLEEENNNE!!!!” My stomach dropped. O-M-G!! My worst nightmare has come true. Somebody KNOWS me here!!
“Hey girl, ohhhhh...you’re going to take this class!! Hmmmmm...YOU GO, GIRRRLLL!! I’m about to teach the all men class upstairs, while you all get your groove on down here (he laughs).” I felt somewhat relieved to know it was just a fellow yoga instructor. He assured me, “I’ve done it a million times...you’ll be fine!!”
I peeked around the lobby area and there, standing all around me were NAKED PEOPLE EVERYWHERE!!! Um...excuse me? There’s no changing area? Nope. There’s no separate screen to disrobe? Nope. I just have to take everything off...in front of EVERYONE?? YEP. Oh geez.
And then, before I could say, “Is there a bathroom?”….I saw a PENIS! And another PENIS. And another PENIS. And ANOTHER PENIS!!!! OMG! THERE WERE PENISES EVERYWHERE!! I felt like a five-year old and wanted to scream, “NOOOOOOOOOO!!!” For the first time in yoga, I was outnumbered. For every five penises, there were only one pair of boobies. So this is where all the guys are!! They’re in NAKED yoga!! Figures.
I took a deep breath and started undressing. First my shoes, then my socks, then my...and…well...done.
I grabbed my mat and rolled it out in the back of the dimly lit studio. I kept looking forward. I was there for me. Not to peek at anyone’s...well, you know.
The teacher was a woman, which was also a relief. And she was naked, too. The lighting was, well, entertaining. First, it started as a red color, which I didn’t mind as it hid all my cellulite on my thighs. But then it changed to blue, then yellow, then it got progressively brighter and brighter. I kept wondering if by the end of class, there would be a big spotlight on us all and we’d win a celebratory hand mirror like, HEY! YOU DID IT!!! YOU PRACTICED YOGA NAKED IN A BIG BRIGHT ROOM! But alas, that didn’t happen.
Once I got over the room, the lighting, the naked butts in front of me...I actually started to get lost in the flow. Yoga is where I feel safe. And this was no exception. Even though everything outside of me was...well, exposed. Everything inside of me was the same. And I actually started to feel amazing. And powerful. And alive. And...free.
I began to marvel how effortlessly my body moved through each pose with ease and control. I looked at my breasts, my stomach, my thighs, my legs, my arms in a way that I had never experienced before. I felt humbled. I felt grateful. And I wondered...Why was I so hard on myself? On my body? I need to be kinder, more loving, more appreciative. Because I don’t want to look back when I’m Eighty and think, “Damn...I looked good! Why didn’t I really know that then?”
By the end in savasana, I felt so relaxed and comfortable and at peace. I couldn’t believe how far I’ve come. From the shameful tears of exposing my belly in a yoga class to standing on a pedestal for artists to sketch me nude to now, lying naked with other naked strangers...I really shocked myself. I never, in a million years would have guessed that I would actually enjoy this.
When the class ended, I made a quick dash to the bathroom to get dressed. I just didn’t feel comfortable chatting with anyone...naked. I waved good-bye to the teacher and jetted out the door. I had the experience I wanted. And that was enough for me.
Thirty-nine acts down...one more to go. This is my Forty.
These blog posts are part of my #40daysoffearlessacts Challenge. When I turned Forty on June 6th of this year, I decided to STEP-UP my life and created a "40 Days of Fearless Acts" challenge. Follow along as I step out of my comfort zone, do things that scare me, that I've never done before and/or are just plain silly and make me laugh!