Archives: fear

Time to Reframe?…

Frame

As a multi-disciplinary artist who’s constantly in one phase or another of the creative process, I’m used to the point at which fear rears it’s gnarly head and roars ferociously in my face. It tends to show up right before I’m about to share a new creation with someone outside my inner circle. And, in the past (prior to my regular mindfulness practice…) this more often than not would halt any further forward momentum. I’d either stop working on the particular project, or I’d end up sabotaging it in someway.

Thankfully, I’ve learned how to mindfully persevere through challenges and keep marching my projects forward. My meditation practice has helped me build the necessary “muscles” to sit through the soul quaking fears that arise—riding them out and letting them move through me without destroying my work or myself in the process. And I’ve made it through this phase in my creative process enough times now that I didn’t think it was possible it could stop me again.

But the second I start getting cocky and stop paying close attention—I always get knocked on my ass.

Which is exactly what happened a few weeks ago…

I was deep into preparations for my solo show debut in the Hollywood Fringe Festival – 10 days away from opening night, when the fear kicked in. But this time, it wasn’t just fear. It was soul-quaking, debilitating terror. Nightmares for a week straight—all about loss of control and not knowing how to get myself out of life-threateningly dangerous situations. I’d wake up with crippling anxiety every morning, petrified of a judging audience doing nothing but seeing my every mistake and ripping both me and my show to shreds. No matter what I did, I wasn’t able to shake my fear.

And then, I had a dream in which I was faced (once again…) with the eminent threat of death. In the dream, an omniscient voice said to me “you have the power to change the way you’re experiencing what’s happening that will change everything for you.” Still panicked, I shouted back to the voice, “But I don’t know HOW!…”

When I woke up, the voice stayed with me—its’ words resonating throughout my day. Maybe there’s a way I can shift my point of view and reframe the way I’ve been seeing this upcoming solo show performance…

Later that day, I was chatting with a dear friend and fellow mindfulness geek, and it occurred to me that, instead of seeing the audience as a group of critics out to judge and scrutinize every mistake I make—I could choose to see them as a benign group of supporters happily cheering me on and wishing me success, instead.

As soon as I saw the choice I had in the situation, something immediately opened up for me. I was able to connect to my role as a creator and reframe my experience from the point of view of sharing the gift of my story—a gift the audience wants to receive.

My fear then shifted to excitement and joy. And it happened in an instant.

From that point forward—my anxiety evaporated, the nightmares ceased, and I felt genuinely excited about sharing myself and my work with the world.

I then consciously chose to focus my attention on this excitement (that part was key). Sure, my mind darted back to the terror and fear every once in a while. But I was able to catch myself, let the fear move through me—and then bring my attention back to the joy and my intention of creating a positive relationship with the audience, instead.

Looking back on it now, I can see how what I did was simply apply a variation of the mindfulness meditation “technique” to my difficult situation—consciously disengaging from the challenging thought (or negative mindset, in this case…), letting the thought/mindset dissipate, and then redirecting my attention back to a more helpful anchor (the idea of giving the gift of my story to the audience).

The voice in my dream was right. I really do have the power to change my experiences. Now the real trick is remembering I have the power!… 😉

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Mindfulness is meant to be shared. Please join me and a growing number of other like-hearted souls in celebrating mindfulness as a way of life. Share this post with your friends. Participate in The Mindfulness Diaries’ growing Facebook and Google+ communities. And share YOUR personal journey with mindfulness in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!

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Finding One Another

Mysteries

I have something to admit.

All those feelings Sharon Salzberg mentions in that quote featured above—I’ve been feeling them. Big. Time. I’ve been seeing (and experiencing) lessons in impermanence left and right. And it’s got my metaphorical panties in a wad. Sure, from a philosophical standpoint, I “get” that it’s the nature of things. Change is the only constant. Yada, yada…

But I’m still struggling with accepting this fact. I constantly find myself trying to dig my heels into some semblance of firmer ground, stubbornly refusing to acknowledge that it’s all just sand slipping through the hour glass. And I’ve been avoiding sharing any of this with you because there’s this little voice inside me that keeps saying,

“You’re a mindfulness facilitator. You should have a handle on managing your angst by now. The people who read your blog don’t want to hear about all the uneasiness you’re facing. Chill out, buck up—and get your act together!”…

But then there’s this other voice that eventually kicks in… This kinder, gentler one that recognizes the aforementioned voice as an old pattern of being—my “Shit” bubbling up and running its old familiar script from decades of living with little to no self compassion. This kinder, gentler, other voice is the personification of my mindfulness practice kicking into high gear. Helping me let go of the stream of self judgments. Gently guiding my attention away from all the “shoulding” I do on myself.

And reminding me that I’m a mindfulness facilitator—not a saint.

So, I’m doing the best I can to take care of myself right now. For me, this entails meditating daily, spending a good deal of time in nature, exercising my body, eating healthy foods, and exposing my mind to things I find spiritually soothing (like reading one of the myriad books on mindfulness at the public library). Of course, doing any of these things when I’m feeling off-center is usually the last thing I want to be doing…. But I do them anyway because they, inevitably, prove helpful in shifting whatever negative pattern might be messing with my mojo.

Case in point—the other day my Shit was particularly loud when I woke up. Confusion? Check!…Fear? Check!…Self-doubt? Double-check!… And getting out of the house to go for a jog seemed like an insurmountable chore.

But I did it anyway.

While I was jogging, I decided to stream a random episode of one of my favorite spiritually-minded podcasts, “On Being.” As I was cooling down (and still feeling somewhat angsty), I hear Sharon Salzberg say the quote up at the top of this post. And it literally stopped me in my tracks.

In that moment, I saw how tightly I’d been holding onto my struggles in an effort to protect myself from being judged for having them. But, in my effort to protect myself, I inadvertently cut myself off from what could potentially help me feel less alone in the process: other people.

And I was also reminded that the truly compassionate thing to do when I’m having a hard time is to be open and truthful about it… Because allowing myself to be vulnerable not only helps me manage my struggles—it just might help someone else feel less alone in theirs….