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In honor of Halloween we have been thinking a lot of what it means to face our fears. Each one of us has all sorts of fears that we live with every day. Commonly shared fears include the fear of failure, the fear of disappointing others, the fear of not being perfect, accepted, known or loved. These fears deeply affect our relationships, our thoughts and actions, and ourselves much more profoundly than we often realize. It is not a weakness to be afraid. In fact it is often our own fearfulness that can protect us from danger. It is how one reacts and responds to fear that really matters. We asked the wise, lovely, and inspirational Desirée Rumbaugh for her thoughts on the matter:
KiraGrace: We love the motto you live your life by, "Love is stronger than fear." For someone who's never been to a class of yours, what does this mean in your practice and in your life? What led you to this belief? How does it play out specifically in your daily life?
Desirée Rumbaugh: Love is stronger than fear means looking deeply at our responses and our decisions to see whether they are coming from a place of love or from a place of fear. I have been led to this belief through taking courses, reading books, listening to lectures and working one on one with a therapist. Also, the experiences of going through a divorce in 2000 and of losing my son in 2003 caused me to ask a lot of questions about life. I had to face the tough stuff and I had to make decisions and respond to difficult situations. As I went through all of this, I began to see patterns or habits that came from these two different places. Any time I responded courageously with patience, humility or inner fortitude, I could see that it felt better, it was coming from love. On the other hand, when I reacted quickly, or when my lack of understanding and my words caused pain to another, I could see that it was coming from a place of fear that I was not good enough or that I wasn't capable, etc.
KG: Some of the most apparent and inspirational characteristics about you is your joyfulness, energy, and amazingly fit, strong body! It seems as if you have truly found the elixir of youth in a society that fears aging and death. What is your secret and do you have any advice for the rest of us?
DR: My secret is really not so very secret anymore. Many people now know that eating closer to nature, along with regular exercise, will make a huge difference in how we feel. If we feel good physically, we tend to be happier in life. This is how I come to my yoga practice nearly everyday, with the intention of simply feeling better in my body. I've learned to go with the flow of life and I'm always practicing being okay with whatever happens. I have learned that the stuff of life that knocks us to our knees also teaches and humbles us. This is why I love the question, "How is this happening for me rather than to me?"
KG: In a recent blog post on your website, you state that you are a strong advocate in the belief that we have the power to choose our thoughts. We are not simply passive victims of our sometimes scary thought-life, instead we are active participants. What are some basic steps that help people break out of problematic habitual thoughts? Sometimes it's hard to even realize you're doing it!
DR: Many wise teachers have told us that we create our own reality with our thoughts. If we think we can do something, we probably can and if we think we can't, then the writing is on the wall. I continue to learn this when I attempt a difficult yoga posture. I am grateful to have been taught that I could heal my physical body by changing my alignment and that I can change my experience of reality by looking at things a bit differently. We all tend to get fixed on only one way of seeing things. That is why one on one therapy is so valuable. We learn to question our thoughts and beliefs.
KG: What does it mean to live a life unmasked and be able to be at peace with pain and alarming emotions?
DR: Life is easier for people who are willing to be real and open. It is tiring to keep putting up a front and hiding the truth. It is important to me to have people in my life with whom I can openly share. Especially the people I live with and spend a lot of time with. I find that when I am willing to be open and honest with others, they too can let down their guard. Usually we all end up laughing.
KG: What does it mean to be strong and where does strength truly come from?
DR: Strong people have a lot of self awareness, therefore, they also have increased awareness and empathy for other people. Being strong means learning how to listen before speaking and to respond rather than to react. Strength comes from wisdom and wisdom is only gained through experience. I have learned to be patient with myself when I screw up because there is always much to learn in life. If I am easier with myself, I will automatically be easier with others. Being afraid of the darker parts of ourselves is at the root of some of our meanness. So is our tender self image. If I'm having feelings of inadequacy, then I'm more likely to be defensive and self-protective. If I can soften into who I really am in the moment, be gentle with the parts that I tend to reject, then I can let down my guard into a genuine and wholesome vulnerability. This kind of vulnerability, remarkably, is both freeing and empowering. It's the embodiment of love itself. Love is stronger than fear. There it is again.
KG: You so graciously shared with us in a previous interview that you were hooked on yoga after taking one class at an aerobics convention in LA in 1987. What is the special something that kept you going back all these years? Did it hook you physically? Emotionally? Spiritually? What has yoga been for you and what has inspired you to devote your life to teaching?
DR: Coming from a dance background, I was excited to learn that stretching and doing poses was a powerful form of exercise. I enjoyed it so much more than jumping up and down. So I guess it did hook me physically. I noticed that practicing yoga did something for me emotionally that was very intriguing. Many times in the beginning there would be unexplained tears running down my face in yoga class. I felt more in touch with my inner awareness and I was in great need of learning to listen to my inner voice. Before I got into yoga, I was into religion and I came mostly from my head. I tried very hard to be perfect and to be right and there was no room for failure or imperfection. I was very hard on myself and others and of course, I was never good enough. I am inspired to teach because it feels incredible to be able to pass along some of what I have learned. If something I say or do even benefits one other person, it is very rewarding.
KG: What is the best advice anyone ever gave you?
DR: When things are going good, enjoy! And when things are rough, feel the pain fully and then take whatever steps you can think of to move forward one step at a time.
KG: What KiraGrace outfit do you feel the most beautiful in?
For a truly special treat, Desirée shared with us three of her favorite yoga sequences! She is sporting a gorgeous look from the all new KiraGrace Glamour Goddess Collection which launches this week!!
Inspired by Meghan Currie and her video "Mad Love". Desirée does Vasisthasana, Urdhva Danurasana and Eka Pada Urdhva Danurasana, then one legged Ustrasana and finally Hanumanasana and then Eka Pada Raja Kapotasana 4.
Natarajasana and a variation of it
Vrscihkasana 1, or scorpion pose
Desirée Rumbaugh, creator of Wisdom Warriors TM, teaches from the experiences of almost three decades of practice. As a full-time teacher, she travels the world offering workshops, which are innovative and transformative, challenging and compassionate. She has a well-earned reputation for deepening the most new to the most seasoned practices, through humor balanced with a quest for authenticity.
September 2007 marked the release of her first DVD entitled Yoga to the Rescue, which is specially designed for those who have avoided yoga because of a lack of flexibility, low fitness level or chronic pain. Her newest DVD’s entitled Yoga to the Rescue for Back Painand Yoga to the Rescue for the Neck and Shoulders were released in January 2008 with wide acclaim. Desirée is also a contributor to various organizations and publications, including Gaiam TV, YogaGlo and Yoga Journal, where she was featured on the February 2008 cover. For more information, please visit www.desireerumbaugh.com.
All photography credit due to Mario Covic. Videographer and husband: Andrew