Wednesday, July 6, 2011

an anticipatory stress story

Summer: the time when the heat and sun allow you to melt all stress away. For the teacher and student summer is the time when you recharge the battery, get to the list of home and garden improvements, and watch all of last year's box office hits on DVD.

I gave myself permission to really relax over this past week. Prior to that I of course was a busy bee with performances and all that it entails. So, I allowed myself sometime to NOT be productive. Instead I attended Yoga classes, slept anytime I felt like it, stayed up late, watched movies, gardened, read and found a new Zen meditation center. Life was looking good. Even my chronic jaw pain had nearly disappeared. For two whole days I didn't check my email. In fact, I didn't go online at all. I was free.

Then guilt set in and I knew my inbox was gathering messages. So, I decided to check my personal email, which inevitably lead me to work related issues and then a waterfall of nerves and anxiety pummeled me. In denial I said I would get to bed and deal with it tomorrow after I lead the meditation. My body and mind had other plans.

I was up at 5:00am (after going to bed at 1:00am) this time with the relentless knocking of pressure keeping me awake. This pressure, even during my vacation, felt very very real. It seeped through me and I came to understand that this feeling is the feeling I associate with the rest of my school year, over 3/4 of my annual life. I felt immediately like I was underwater. That my to-do list was as long as it ever was before and there was no way I could get to everything. I tried to go back to sleep, but decided getting up was far less painful than actually getting up and onto the computer.

I did some of the work, and of course it begot more work and reminded me of more things I needed to get to before the summer was over and "the real school year began." Before I knew it I was tearing myself away from the computer screen in order to make it to my own meditation session at the Yoga Nook.

I was in a crummy mood. My spirit felt crunchy and my skin felt heavy as I drove to the studio. I felt myself dropping into the familiar place I know as depression and as usual once there I didn't know or want to get out. My intellectual self told me I should "Let it go!" But, my body and spirit do not know how to listen to my intellect. That is the addiction element to depression. Like a drug, once you are high, you never think to come down even if you know it is unhealthy. It is an illogical drive, it taps into some deep part of the brain and takes hold. And, here I was being held by this invisible set of hands.

By some miracle, I had the room to myself for the meditation-- I felt relief that I didn't have to lead anyone toward peace and calm in my current state. I sat down. Lit the candle, rang the bell. Eyelids fell to nearly closed. I surrendered.

Within moments I felt relief. I felt the urge to apologize to myself for giving into the stress, I said it again and again to myself "I am sorry. I am sorry." Then I felt "It's ok." Never before, had I found meditation to transform me like that, to make me feel safe and loved for who I am as I am. For the rest of the 45 minute period I watched my thoughts dance around from topic to topic, free from the grasp of stress or depression. I don't mind that thoughts bounce around during my meditation, because they move like butterflies beautiful and light, never staying so long I wish they would go. I don't expect all of my meditations to be as this one was. But, I am grateful for this experience.

Now, I am only half shadowed by the darkness that woke me up this morning, proving that a great moment is only that, a moment. But, I now have new cause to look at how I work and how I relate to work. There is something to be discovered there.


  1. I think it should be everyone's goal to be able to separate work and home life. It is almost an impossibility as a teacher, I fear. We are tethered to school and students in a way people who work 9-5 jobs will never understand. Somehow we have to not let it bother us that people "need" us during our breaks. I guess as we get older we'll be able to say, "I will be unavailable the entire month of July" and then actually let ourselves be. Or maybe it is not in our nature.

  2. Looking back from a lifetime of teaching I know that the obligation to others can be handled; in fact, it becomes a strength when put into perspective once decades have been lived. Without obligation to others one can easily discover another black hole.