Off the Mat Yoga

What Those Naked Nightmares Teach You About Anxiety and Fear

Got your attention didn’t I? Remember those nightmares from high school and college, the ones that came up right before the big class presentation or the “it’s-worth-80%-of-your-grade” test? You know the ones. All of a sudden you are at the front of the class, and  three sentences into the presentation you go completely blank. Then you realize that everyone is staring at you. And the reason everyone is staring is because you forgot to put clothes on this morning! Suddenly you wake up sweating, shaking, breathing hard, and scared to death. Then you realize it’s nowhere near the presentation or test date, and you are so relieved that it was only a dream. But that dream was so, so very real.

When was the last time that happened to you? For me, the last time was a couple of weeks ago. And it shook me to my core. Most of my nightly dabbles into the dream world are quickly forgotten upon opening my eyes to a new day. But this seemly real movie-in-my-head stayed vivid after the credits rolled by. Imagine you are there with me, watching this production from somewhere off stage. I am center stage, facing two beautiful people in front of me. There is a very large audience of family and friends behind this couple. I am conducting a public ceremony. The ceremony is one of the most important experiences this couple will do together in their lifetimes. It is also one of the most important things I will ever do in my lifetime. Everything is perfect. It’s time to start. I take in a deep breath, open my mouth to speak, and suddenly my mind erases all memory of what I was to say. I look at my notes and they are blank. All that was practiced before hand has disappeared. I may be naked, too. I don’t know. Luckily for everyone watching this production, that part is a bit fuzzy. AHHHHH! (That’s a scream.)

So why would this throwback dreamscape return to me and invade my nightly slumber? That question wasn’t hard for me to answer. You see, a few days after experiencing this jolting dream, I would conduct the marriage ceremony for my niece and her fiancé. I have done many important things in my lifetime. I have successfully finished both high school and college. I have married. I have been witness to the birth of my children. In my profession, I have helped deliver other people’s children and been present at death. I have saved lives. I have spoken to national audiences. I have taken oaths to serve my country and community. But I had NEVER, ever married anyone.

So, how did this dream preamble occur? About eight months ago, my niece asked me to marry her and her fiancé. This request came out of the blue. I was stunned, and I was honored. What I was not: a minister, Justice of the Peace, or the captain of an ocean-going ship authorized to marry anyone!

What was I to do? No way in hell was I going to disappoint such a lovely couple. It was time for a big shout-out and thank you to Al Gore for “inventing the Internet.” You can find anything on the Internet. You can even find instructions to become a legally-ordained minister with the right to solemnize a marriage! After a bit more research I was able to find a church that would ordain even the spiritual-loving agnostic that I call “me.” After confirming the church was recognized by my state, it was time to leap to the cause. My niece was ecstatic. And so was I – now that I knew I could do this.

But could I? Could I really pull this off? Could I look into the loving eyes of my beautiful niece on her special day and actually pull it off? The question was moot. It didn’t matter. It had to be done. It was going to happen. It was time for a cleansing breath. Thank you, Yoga.

After that cleansing breath, and maybe a few more, and maybe a sip or two of some liquid courage, the temporary anxiety left my head and “got down to it”. I wrote and rewrote the sermon (probably 50 times) and I started practicing its delivery anywhere I could speak out loud and where no one could hear me. I found myself talking to the tools on the garage wall, the pots in the kitchen, and even to wild horses while backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail. And all went fine until the night the “naked nightmare” returned from high school and college. And it shook me to my core. I woke up sweating, panting, and panicking. For the next two or three nights, the nightmare scenario would repeat itself. However, each night it did not seem near as frightening as the night previous. By the last night, even standing naked in front of this anxiety-inspiring crowd seemed rather OK. Why? Confidence and acceptance. The love of my niece and her confidence in me led to my own acceptance of the possible. Those nightmares were nothing but brief challenges of the mind.

I am happy to report that on May 29th, 2016 I watched my niece and her fiancé look into the eyes of the love of their lives as I pronounced them wife and husband.

Oh, just so you are informed – no one was naked in the real life movie!

What’s the latest fear you’ve overcome? Namaste, friends!

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  1. Michael Duncan

    Michael Duncan

    July 23, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    To the Photo/ Title editors: Thank you for always placing the best photos with my short essays. I have enough trouble being creative with words. Thank you again. Michael

    1. Chelsea


      July 25, 2016 at 9:08 am

      Love doing them! Thank you so much for sharing your experiences with us! 🙂

  2. Amanda


    July 24, 2016 at 9:11 am

    This is not my most recent overcoming by a long shot, but it was the one that taught me the most: At the end of the 8th grade, we had a graduation ceremony. I was supposed to sing (in a small group) a song during the ceremony. The same day was the regional track meet, which goes until late in the afternoon…we knew it would be tough to get back in time. I spent all day focusing on my events, then I was focused on getting home and streamlining my preparation process and getting to the event. I got there just as it was starting. I sang, ‘graduated’ 8th grade, and so on. Later at the dance, my date asked me if I was nervous about singing, and I thought. “Hm. No.” And I wasn’t: because I hadn’t had time to think about it. Doing it isn’t nearly as frightening as thinking about doing it. 🙂 Congrats to your niece! What a special opportunity for you to perform the ceremony!

  3. Megan Reddix

    Megan Reddix

    July 25, 2016 at 8:47 am

    I just went through this a little over a week ago! I taught my very first Yoga class (which had to be filmed as part of my practical exam for my 200-hr YTT). I slept horribly the few nights before my class. I wrote my lesson, I spoke my lesson out loud, and I practice my lesson. I did everything I could think of to make sure this class was perfect. In my dream I froze. I didn’t move. I introduced myself and then everyone just sat and stared at me. I don’t think I was naked, but I was crying. Just sitting in front of a group of people I have never met before crying hysterically. I would wake up with tears in my eyes and my nose all stuffed up. The day of my class, I actually DID forget my lesson plan. But with three of my close friends scattered throughout the class (one immediately to my right, the other to my left, and the last in the back row, straight across from me), I felt encouraged. Because I forgot the majority of my plan and I wasn’t “allowed” to use notes for the exam, I just had to wing it. Overall, the class went perfectly. I had so much great feedback and everyone is excited for the next class, even me! So even if you have those scary dreams about forgetting everything, they can come true. I just needed to mindfully make the best of what I had. I know Hatha Yoga. I know what worked for me as a beginner and what works for me now that I am more advanced. I used both. I offered variations and modifications for everyone in the room. And it worked!

    1. Amanda


      July 25, 2016 at 9:18 am

      Yay, congrats on teaching your first class! 🙂 <3

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