"Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit and think about it. Go out and get busy." - Dale Carnegie
For those of you who don't know me, I'm Emily, and I'm a Community Builder at Shine Maple Shade. I've been practicing at Shine for 1 1/2 years now. I just returned from Kenya with a group of SHINE teachers for Africa Yoga Project's igolu Personal Power & Wholeness Seva Safari.
When Wanda posted about this amazing opportunity to travel & be of service in Kenya with AYP, my intuition told me to sign up. I committed to the trip in March and spent the next months fundraising and telling everyone about our trip. But nothing would prepare me for the experiences and feelings that would come during my time in Kenya. Though I knew little of what I'd be doing in Kenya during those months (and days) leading up to the trip, I wasn't scared. I wasn't nervous. I knew in my gut that I was going to the right place, at the right time. For one of the first times in my life, I had no expectations. I wanted this experience to be completely organic, to arise and meet me for exactly what it was and for who I was. As Alissa mentioned in her earlier blog post, I believed that if I simply showed up, everything would fall into place. And it definitely did.
But even though you make the move to show up, it doesn't mean it will be easy. It doesn't mean you won't be scared. It doesn't mean you won't face challenges. And just because you show up, it doesn't mean the demons in your mind won't be there to greet you at every turn. On this trip, I became well acquainted with the voices in my head that tried to tell me I could not do things simply because I was scared.
So what was I scared of? Well, I wasn't scared of traveling 20+ hours on two planes to a new continent. I wasn't scared of driving & walking through the slums of Nairobi. I wasn't scared of the wild animals we saw on safari (okay, maybe I was a little scared of the hippos...and the monkeys). I wasn't scared of getting sick (the doctors here in the US really try to scare you out of traveling, I swear). No, I found out that I was terrified of building desks. Yes, building desks with hammer and nails.
We showed up to the service site in the slum called Kangemi where were greeted by the amazing AYP teachers & our angelic service leader, Samson. After getting situated, I looked around and saw many different sized wooden planks, hammers & nails, and I got scared. My heart started racing as if I were in a truly terrifying situation. As I looked around, the demons in my mind began to rattle off a long list of things which included (but were not limited to) the following: "I don't know how to build desks", "I can't get dirty", "I'm not strong enough to hammer these nails", "I grew up too 'girly' for this kind of work", and "I'm not smart enough to remember which planks go where". And then underneath all of that surface level stuff, what my demons were actually trying to tell me was, "The desks you're building will NOT be perfect, so you probably shouldn't even touch a hammer."
You see, I've struggled with perfectionism my entire life. I've beaten myself up time and time again for not doing everything exactly how it "should" be done. And there I was, standing in the dirt with everyone around me banging nails into wood, heart pounding and contemplating how I could find a way to complete some other part of the project (one that didn't have anything to do with building desks). I wanted to find something "safe" to do that I'd be "good" at. But I quickly realized that wasn't an option. So I had a choice to make: help build the 40 desks that would mean a whole new world of learning for a few hundred children, or sit in the dirt and do NOTHING because I wouldn't ever build them perfectly.
In that moment, I realized that I could recognize that my fears were there, but I could take action anyway. I didn't know what the outcome would be, but I did know that my desire to serve would carry me through. I soon learned that the incredible people serving around me were also there to carry me through.
Lisa was the perfect desk building partner for me. She and I laughed at ourselves and joked about not being the best carpenters. Then in between our laughter, Lisa said, "You know what? I'm 100% okay with being me." This was a profound statement to me because as Lisa was true to herself, she created the space for me to be okay with "being me," too. I loved how she showed herself compassion just as one would show compassion to a best friend. Her comment reminded me that all I needed to do was to just be myself, and in doing so, my work would be meaningful.
The next person who helped build me up was AYP teacher James (Jamo). He was helping Lisa and I build the last of the desks. We were having a hard time getting a few of the nails in straight, and the demons in my head started back up again, telling me my efforts weren't good enough. I remember saying "Sorry I'm so bad at this," to Jamo, to which he patiently replied with a chuckle, "You are fine! You are great just as you are." I was taken aback by these simple yet significant words and his belief in me. He didn't care that the nails weren't straight. He cared that we were there, and he cared about the kids that would benefit from the work. He let me know that my efforts were enough and that I was enough. And that was all I needed.
I learned that when I shifted my focus away from myself and my demons, the more energy I could give to caring about those I was serving and the higher purpose I was there for. This not only enabled me to be successful in building the desks, but it allowed my heart to be filled up in ways I didn't think were possible. The desk building experience opened me up to connection with others on an authentic level and showed me just how much we need each other to be successful in life's many endeavors.
I am so grateful for Lisa & Jamo, and also Alissa, Kristen, Wanda, our leaders Patrick & Cate and Daniel McCall, the AYP Teachers, Samson and all of the other incredible people who made me feel like family. The paradox of serving is that though you seek to help others, you are the one who is helped the most. I found that to be 100% true from my trip to Kenya. My life has been forever changed by the love of these people who aren't afraid to go out in the world and get busy changing it for the better.