It is said that when the Buddha came out of his meditative state, having "awoken", he made a simple gesture with his right hand - raising it to shoulder height, palm facing outwards.
This is Abhaya mudra, the mudra of fearlessness.
What is it to be fearless? It's not about risk taking, or living on the edge, or extreme sports. It's not to be confused with foolishness - the fearlessness here is the ultimate one: the release from the fear of suffering eternally through the wheel of samsara.
This liberation from fear is at the roots of the yoga tradition. In a state of samsara the mind/soul is endlessly wandering around and around the wheel of birth, suffering, death and rebirth into the same suffering. The eightfold path of the Buddha, and later that other eightfold path proposed by Patanjali are like roadmaps to lead us out of suffering, to liberate our souls from the fears that weigh us down. Fear of pain, fear of loss, fear of not being enough, doing enough, achieving enough. Fear is the force that constricts the heart - it is the opposite of love, and surrender.
Often the yoga journey takes us to the edge of our fear. Whether it is our fear of falling over in a balance posture, our fear of hurting ourselves or being hurt, our fear of being 'inadequate' in an asana posture or meditation, or the wide-open heart that fears being wounded, the practice is constantly bringing us in touch with our fears. This is a good thing, because without fear, how can we truly surrender to fearlessness?
As I write this I am embarking on another step in my yoga journey - my level 2 teacher training. It's a huge step, and yet one that feels completely the right way to deepen my knowledge of yoga asana, pranayama, and pratyahara (posture, breathing and withdrawal of the senses), as well as yoga therapy, ayurveda and restorative yoga. One thing is for sure: it will take a lot of fearlessness to get through it! And the only way out, is through.
Over the next 6 weeks I hope to blog about it more, and share some of the great knowledge that my new teachers are sharing with us. But for today, I leave you with this: for just a moment in your day, go with fearlessness into the world. This is not to say that you should suppress your fears - on the contrary. Acknowledge your fears. Explore them. Seek to understand them, so that for an instant, you may let them go. In the space that they liberate then, may you find a moment of peace.