Practice Makes Presence
Last year, I took some steps to improve my professional life. I was in the "caring business" and had built a nice body of working helping others and training staff to do the same. The trouble was, I began to have panic attacks at work. For the most part I was able to hide them well and keep working. Then I stopped working and then they wouldn't hide any more.
I have had battles with panic since I was a kid. When they visited last spring, a google search led me to Tara Brach and her work Radical Acceptance. I read it, loved it, talked about it, but mostly misunderstood it - all because of decades of my personal experience. From that panic ridden work chair, I couldn't have been more unprepared to embrace mindfulness and any form of acceptance. This is no fault of the author or the book, it was like playing Chopin to a six year old who has just opened a keyboard at Christmas. We can hear the beauty but our stabs at imitation are murderous to the ears of everyone around us.
Eventually, a treadmill taught me that I was truly stuck. Rather, the treadmill on the gym that I joined in January where I had a notable, non-work panic attack. Over the Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend I browsed through Psychiatrist's listings on my cell phone. I found a local therapist with specialties in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy. In our first meeting, she kindly asked if I was interested in her help. She wasn't done asking when I blurted out "Yes, I need your help." So much starts with those four letters H.E.L.P.
Since then, I have started to take my therapist and a few trusted others on a tour of my past, re-read the works of Tara Brach, and embraced the message of Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn. The concepts are flowing. the intention for mindfulness is growing; however, the implementation needs practice. This practice will take the rest of my life and I am okay with that. There have been several moments where the limited skills I have developed in mindful presence have captured moments that I would have otherwise missed. My gratitude for presence growing.
For reasons that will be discussed further, I grew up in an emotionally chaotic environment and choose to ignore strong feelings, and learned to fear emotional outbursts. I choose to believe that I could do the best for my sister, my parents, and later for my own family if I was the strong stable one. This meant I should be impervious to my pain, but strong and supportive of others. It was never in my intention to hold my self in such low esteem. By denying the real experience of tumultuous times in life, I was torturing myself. This over driving sense of survival was killing my future but only after it murdered my awareness of the present moment.
Dear reader, I do not make claims to have originated any insight in this blog. I am a mimic, a mime, and a thief. Like Robin Hood, I hope I can steal some wisdom from the emotionally rich and connect to the emotionally poor. Others do this for me, and while I may never meet all of them, allowing them their place as allies in my life is the foundation for practice makes presence.
May the life you save be your own.