Monthly Archives: August 2010

A Meditation on Panic

Breathe in. This is panic. Breathe out. Panic feels like this.

I spent 40 minutes tonight meditating on the experience of panic. Something about my day set off the cascade of emotions and body sensations that I call panic – racing pulse, tightness in my chest, cascading thoughts, an edge of tears. I knew today was going to be hard. The rush to leave town is always hard, and I’d packed in an unreasonable amount of responsibilities into a 12 hour period. I’d spent the weekend partying with friends, so I was less prepared for Monday morning than I like to be. So when everything I’d planned took longer than anticipated, and I realized that I was going to be working much later into the evening than I would like, I freaked.

Even when I anticipate the hard, the bodily experience still overwhelms me. I can rationalize as much as I want, and I worked this strategy hard today. “This time tomorrow you’ll be on the boat. This time tomorrow all this will be put into perspective. In the broader scheme of things, will you even remember any of these things you are so frantic about today?” But rationalizations totally miss the irrational experience of panic.

I went to the dharma center tonight, mostly because I was too pissed to let my work interfere with my meditation practice. As I drove to the center, the tears welled up as I let myself feel the overwhelm that I’d been holding at bay all day. I arrived, sat down, and closed my eyes. Breathe in. Ah, panic. Breathe out. I see you, panic.

I sometimes expect meditation to “fix” my emotions for me. But breathing did not make panic subside. Panic increased when I actually let myself feel it. I let the tears flow as silently as I could, worried that I was interrupting other people’s time for silent meditation with my need to sob.

I covered my face. Oh oh oh, I’m so ashamed. Ashamed? I thought we were feeling panic? Why is shame showing up? I’ve learned to ask less questions, and just go with it. Breathe in. Ah, shame. Breathe out. Shame feels like this. I’m letting so many people down. So many depending on me, and I told them I would be there for them. And I’m not. They are expecting me to be there for them, and I’m dropping the ball. So many old feelings, old messages, old ways of being.

As I let the shame cascade, so little of it is about now. And that finally helps me feel a little better, knowing that I’m letting go of some old feelings, and I’m not really feeling that panicked and ashamed of my current situation. It’s hard when current situations trigger old feelings – my rational mind kept saying, “Really, I don’t think things are that bad. So why the hell are you freaking out so much?” And while my rational mind was completely correct, it was also true that my body & emotional self had some old freaking out to do.

Breathe in. Feel. Breathe out. Feel.


How do I want to be in the world? A mid-month check-in

Last month, I started sharing my Sunday ritual of monthly goal setting and the weekly check-ins. I’m trying mid-month reporting rather than weekly. This month I’m going to focus on three goals about how I want to be in the world.

August Goals

1. Be on an amazing adventure: This week, I told a whole bunch of new folks about my plans to move to San Francisco. Without fail, the first question is, “What are you going to do for work there?” For awhile I was trying to answer that question in detail, but it just kept me feeling “in limbo,” unsure what the next steps hold. This week, I just brushed that question aside and moved on to gushing about my opportunities, “I have a couple options, but I’m just not sure yet. But I’m moving to SAN FRANCISCO! I can’t wait for the people and the energy and the excitement!” It did wonders for my conversations and for my mood.

2. Build in time to rest and be satisfied, even when busy: I hit a couple of edges where I would start complaining to friends about my busy-ness, but caught myself before I went too far down that path. Internal self-talk: The important things are getting done. I’m spending time with people I love. Things are a little busy right now because I’m heading out of town most of the next couple of weeks. It’s okay to be extra busy in preparation for more rest next week.

When I let myself rest in this reality (rather than the reality of ZOMG I’M SO BUSY!), I find more time and space to write, to be with friends, to have the extra few minutes for someone, to take a walk, to just be.

I haven’t found the time yet to wash my dishes or clean the kitchen floor. LOL. I haven’t quite internalized how a clean house contributes to my feelings of peace.

3. Let go of the things that are not essential: So much learning last weekend about the power of letting go, of letting others step up to handle responsibilities they can more than handle. I managed a weekend meditation retreat for a solid and phenomenal group of people in their 20s and 30s.  Managing the retreat was perfect for me, because it helped me look at how much I just take on because it’s easier than asking for others to help. I was surrounded by generous spirits who just stepped in to help take out the trash, and helped with things they were actually more skilled at than I ever will be – like driving the Rhino (aka 4 wheel drive golf cart) or cleaning up spilled wax. The space around us was gorgeous and supportive and I spent the weekend leaning into the support and help of others and the world around me.

As soon as I returned, I felt compelled to break up again with my on-again, off-again beau. It has felt pretty final this week, though all my friends have said, “We’ll see how you feel next week before we’re sure about this one.” This relationship has been the struggle between two maxims:

  • “Good is the enemy of great. And that is one of the reasons that we have so little that becomes great. We don’t have great schools, principally because we have good schools. We don’t have great government, principally because we have good government. Few people attain great lives, precisely because it is easy to settle for a good life.” – Jim Collins in Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t
  • The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good – Voltaire. “It’s usually better to shoot for ‘good enough’ today than to aim for a perfect decision next week.” – Get Rich Slowly

Today I feel like my life is too full of great things, the best things – I don’t have much room for that which is good but not great.

How Do I Choose to Be in the World?

Last month, I started sharing my Sunday ritual of monthly goal setting and the weekly check-ins. This month I’m going to focus on three goals about how I want to be in the world. I will still track some of the more concrete goals internally and may report on them mid-month or end-of-month: How is a key project moving forward? How is my freelance vs. regular work income panning out? How am I incorporating writing & exercise since I’ve been struggling with these? But I’m curious what it will be like to focus my sharing on three goals that are key living a full and enjoyable life off trajectory.

August Goals

1. Be on an amazing adventure
2. Build in time to rest and be satisfied, even when busy
3. Let go of the things that are not essential

How is the Great Check-In Experiment Working?

This July, I thought I’d let you all in on my monthly goal setting and the weekly check-ins I do to see if I’m on track. I wasn’t sure if this would be kind of boring or kind of interesting, an experiment or a long-standing ritual. I’m trying things out rather than waiting til I have them perfected.

What worked? Regular attention to the blog inspired other posts and writing. I learned some new lessons by taking the extra effort to write about this publicly rather than just notes to myself. I’m even more impressed than normal with everything that went on this month.

What didn’t work? Tracking 6 goals publicly feels like a lot. I couldn’t explain things as in detail as I would have liked to for the rest of you who don’t live inside my head. I felt like my posts got a little repetitious.

The month in review

1. Be pro-active about negotiating job & housing. Feel great about my future story.

I started the month by talking to my regular job about moving some new responsibilities with me to San Francisco. Even if that was all I did this month, that was a huge deal!

I spent much of the month realizing how boring my story can get when I start to feel busy. I’m trying out new stories about exploring new frontiers. I’m a pioneer woman, an astronaut, a pirate, and Amelia Earhart. I also remembered how hard it is right before all these new ways of being really land, when I am in the no-man’s land where neither the old pattern nor the new pattern feels comfortable.

2. Focus on closing up past gigs, and only taking on new gigs that PAY WELL.

I learned some lessons in freelancing: Pay attention to the energy of the gig early on. Drop projects where I’m not feeling fully excited about how the interaction is going. Even if I care about the larger project. Even if I think I can help people learn how to do this differently. It’s just not worth the energy suck.

I also am learning that “closing up past gigs” is kind of laughable. Things linger, they “may” turn into something more, they “may” get serious about wrapping things up. The gigs that I want to close up are some of the ones where the energy is wonky. I may need to be more forceful than I want to be about wrangling them to a close.

3. Get blogging services online

It seems like my Community Resource Center blog post on Rural Philanthropy Days was eons ago, but that was just at the start of this month! I also did update my services page, so this was a complete check-off-the-list success. I realized this month that with all my other projects I’m juggling, I just don’t have the space to also pay attention to the creative energy of blogging. I need more room to be bored.

4. Pay attention to Fiscal Reform Committee regularly – get very focused on the next right steps

I think I did very well on getting focused here. I made a lot of phone calls this month to get folks oriented toward starting advocacy in earnest, and we have officially made the decision to move forward with that. I also took the initiative to make the contacts with the business community that needed to be made, got the campaign down here, and got the presentation moving forward again. A lot here for one month, even if it always feels like there is more to do. Part of getting focused on only the most essential steps is being willing to let go of the non-essential steps. I need to stop pretending I’m going to get back to those other steps.

5. Make $900/week

I got over some of my awkwardness of “It’s gauche to talk about how much money you make. Much less in a public forum!” But it still feels a little awkward, and while I may continue to track this goal on my own, I might not include it in my regular check-ins in this forum. It was good to see that over the 5 weeks of July, I averaged $925/week! More good information that one down week didn’t bust my goal.

6. Find a balance of movement, meditation, friendship, art, & laughter that supports my busy life

So much going on here, I don’t know how I feel that I work all the time? Trips to Silverton, Boulder, Chaco Canyon. Meditation classes and energy work. Connecting with new and old friends, over laughter and hard stuff. Writing, music, reading fiction. Some movement in walking, hiking and Dance of Shiva – a good amount even though my body craves more.

I do weekly check-ins rather than just at the end of the month because my pattern is that I literally forget what I did earlier this month. It feels like 3 months ago to me, perhaps because I have so much packed in! It settles me down to see that “Yes, I am living a full and balanced life. Yes, I am setting and reaching my goals.” It helps me remember to be satisfied.

Another Sunday, Another Check-In

In the spirit of sharing rituals, I thought I’d let you all in on my monthly goal setting and the weekly check-ins I do to see if I’m on track. It feels a little bland,  but for now, I’ll trust that it will develop into something fabulous as we go. I’m trying to practice just starting things, rather than waiting until they are perfect. Here goes!

How did we do this week?

Sunday again? August? It’s been a good week and a good month, but part of why I like to check-in against my goals is that it all goes by so fast. Sometimes I lose track of what I was even thinking about a week ago or a month ago. This keeps reminding me that I’m moving forward.

1. Be pro-active about negotiating job & housing. Feel great about my future story.

I’ve been trying out new stories all week: My life is full of great things. I’ve spent the day doing important and fantastic work. Life is good. I still don’t completely believe myself, but I’m in fake it til I make it mode. According to  Metaphor Mouse, I am on a grand adventure,  exploring new frontiers, opening myself up to change.

2. Focus on closing up past gigs, and only taking on new gigs that PAY WELL.

Two projects are in crunch time – today’s big concert and next weekend’s meditation retreat. I’m a little sad because they are two of my favorite projects for the people I get to work with and the way that I feel really honored to be part of it – either through getting paid what I’m worth or being really seen and cared for. Intention: only take on projects that meet these criteria. My time is too valuable otherwise.

3. Get blogging services online

A midweek post here, and writing 3 pages every morning. I signed up to follow Rosetta Thurman’s Build a Blog challenge. I’m not sure how much time I have to really implement much right now, but even if I just follow up on a couple suggestions, it will be forward progress.

4. Pay attention to Fiscal Reform Committee regularly – get very focused on the next right steps

Another phone call this week that I knew was the right one to make – some conversations are just better over the phone than over email. You can’t convey presence with someone’s frustration over email. A presentation draft was sent off, and a couple meetings are getting scheduled. Those were the most important things to have happen, so I did well to focus on them.

5. Make $900/week

I’m still feeling the awkwardness of “It’s gauche to talk about how much money you make. Much less in a public forum!” Yet being off trajectory is about pushing back against some of these societal rules. My intention here is to track my mix of salary and freelance income so we can all better understand what it looks like to piece together enough income to pay the bills and enjoy life.

I made $935 this week. Whoo hoo! A combo of regular job ($618) & freelance ($317) . I felt like I worked more than that, but taking a day off from my regular job cut into those hours quite a bit. I need to watch how I cut back on those hours to do some freelance work.

6. Find a balance of movement, meditation, friendship, art, & laughter that supports my busy life

A trip to the Puebloan ruins of Chaco Canyon was a highlight this week. I resonated most with theory that this was a spiritual center where many people could gather together to share their different traditions, stories, and ways of being. I could just imagine people filing in from all directions through several “gates” that open into the canyon. This place was a central hub of a vast civilization for 300 years – longer than the United States has been around.

Music in the Mountains was also great this week, inspiring me to download new sheet music and pretend to be a concert pianist for a few minutes. There’s a part of me that’s really sad that music is such a small part of my life right now, when it was a daily part of my life for 10+ years. I often say that I was more well-balanced, grounded, and able to make good decisions in high school, compared to college and now. I wonder how much playing music daily influenced my life balance at that time?

Sharing my weekly check-ins feels like it’s helping me feel safe, more comfortable. I’ve got a lot going on internally from being in limbo, and it’s a bit scary to put that out for 6 billion people to see. Thanks for your love and support in this process!