Intimacy with Fear and Moving Closer to Your Truth: Salutations for the Remover of Obstacles

By Ashley McGee, November, 2019

A significant part of my personal journey in becoming a yoga teacher has stemmed from my intimacy with fear and my desire to move closer to my truth. Since university, I found myself fighting personal fears and obstacles – fighting for respect as a young woman, fighting to “make it” in NYC, fighting to be “successful,” fighting to prove myself professionally, fighting to make a six-figure salary by the time I was 30, fighting to climb the corporate ladder, fighting for credentials and fighting to make a name for myself in my industry.  While essentially achieving these conventional ideals, I was caught in an unhealthy vortex within the NYC hustle. I knew I was not the best version of myself. Yet, I was fearful of what would happen should I break away from these conventional goals.

Over the past two and a half years, I’ve been trying to live more fearlessly, moving closer to my truth. In 2017, I accepted a job offer to build and run a film production company, warning my business partner that I intended to eventually relocate to LA sometime in the future. After 12 years in NYC, it was time for me to move to LA for a lifestyle change. After working at the production company for a few months, I moved to LA while still running the company remotely with my business partner. Taking a step back from the office punctuated my re-evaluation of what is actually important to me in my life and what is the true meaning of “success”. I have come to realize that “success” is achieving happiness and inner peace – which are more valuable than surface-level things such as money and job titles. In December 2018, I handed in my resignation at the film production company, not knowing exactly what I would do to make a living.

Last autumn, I felt the calling to become a yoga teacher and decided to devote my energy to achieving this goal. I completed a 200-hour teacher training at Yoga Shanti this summer and, just recently, taught my first Community Class. While putting together the sequence for my class, I (by no coincidence) came across the chant (and mantra), “Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha,” which translates to “Salutations for the Remover of Obstacles.” I incorporated the chant into my class as it has deeply resonated with me in my personal journey becoming a yoga teacher. While in teacher training and in teaching my first class, I became very intimate with fear – fear of failure, fear of vulnerability and my perfectionist tendencies haunted me. When  giving reasons/excuses as to why I didn’t think I was ready to teach, my YS teachers/mentors responded, “You are never going to be ready”(ha!) and told me that I just needed to dive in and start teaching. So, I did! Achieving that alone felt really GOOD. But, as Rodney says, my work and the journey have just begun!

In Pema Chodron’s book, When Things Fall Apart, she discusses intimacy with fear and how fear is a natural reaction to moving closer to the truth. Pema says that to be fully alive, fully human and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. As a result of my personal intimacy with fear and striving to move closer to my truth, I’ve begun to drop ideals of who I think I ought to be or want to be, or what I think other people think I should be. It’s as if I had amnesia and have now awakened to remember who I really am.  I’m touching the simplicity and goodness of things and realize that, fundamentally, we are not “stuck in the mud.”  I find that certain things in life are not such a big deal as before nor are they as solid as they seemed.  Many of life’s dramas have collapsed. I find that I am not as tense and anxious, living as though my life was spent in a dentist’s chair.  I’m not cheating myself out of the present moment and am more present in my activities and thoughts.

This experience of my opening has begun to benefit myself and others. It’s not just about my individual liberation, but also how it creates a bigger halo effect. I’ve encountered my heart more than ever. Making friends with my demons, who brought insecurity, has led to an understated relaxation and joy. Life feels spacious, like the sea and sky. There’s room to relax and breathe and swim, to swim so far out – I no longer have the reference point of the shore. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been and I feel like I’ve LIVED more in the past year than I have in a long time.

So, this November, I hope we can all:

  1. Think about what we are fearful of and aspire to get to know that fear, become familiar with it, look it in the eye as a complete undoing of old ways of seeing, hearing and thinking.
  2. Reflect on any obstacles holding us back from realizing our true selves, our living purpose. Focus on dissolving those obstacles, letting go and creating space for new beginnings.

In Pema’s book, she says the most difficult times for many of us are the ones we give ourselves. I’ll be teaching Community Classes at Yoga Shanti in November and would be honored for any readers to share their practice with me and help me learn and grow as a teacher. I’m forever grateful for the education, inspiration, mentorship and support from the YS family. Admittedly, I aspire to be any iteration of Colleen someday (ha!). 🙂

Ashley McGee

Ashley McGee began practicing yoga twelve years ago.  She values yoga as a timeless, pragmatic science and union of the physical, moral, mental and spiritual well-being of humans. She is inspired by Yoga Shanti’s dedication to integrating eastern healing arts into the western medical paradigm and achieving precise anatomical alignment. She completed the Yoga Shanti 200-Hour teacher training this summer and is currently teaching the community class in Sag Harbor. She also teaches at Hamptons Hot Yoga, Southampton.  Her classes integrate an Iyengar-based approach, vinyasa flow, meditation, inspiring music and spiritual philosophy. Ashley currently resides near the beach in Montauk and is using the winter season to learn to play the harmonium, so she can integrate chanting into her classes. She can be contacted at: | coming soon: @ashleymcgeeyoga /

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