Prickly stuff

I bought a pair of shoes I’ve convinced myself won’t leave my feet aching within an hour. What else do I need to do to prepare to attend this wedding? Relentlessly anticipate any emotional discomfort attendance may cause me, of course. I want to go and be a presence of light and love and peace but I know I can be prickly and go quiet and sullen at the slightest whiff of something that hits what Michael Singer would call my “stuff.” (Isn’t it funny how the people getting married think their wedding is about them?)

This particular wedding should be easy. I love the bride and I’ve met the groom who seems like a wonderful person. I’m happy they found each other. But this one also ticks a lot of the boxes in which my stuff is packed. Will I hear things said in the church service that I find alienating? Yes. Do many of the wedding participants work in politics and hold views diametrically opposed to mine? Yes. Will the majority of people be strangers making this my least comfortable social situation? Yes. Are some of the participants, the non-strangers, people I struggle to relax around? Yes. Is this three-day event taking place several hundred miles from my home thus requiring a 12 hour drive each way? Yes. Really, what could I possible have to worry about?

According Singer, nothing. I’ve been rereading his book Untethered Soul. He’s wise but it’s his bracing honesty that gets to me. “If somebody does something that stimulates fear, you think they did something wrong.” Yes, I do. Ask my partner she’ll confirm that. He’s talking about the fears lodged deep inside us—fear of feeling less-than, of feeling that we don’t belong. It doesn’t take much for someone to stimulate those fears and my immediate reaction is to blame them with a certainty that suggests I genuinely believe they have complete knowledge of my psyche and are deliberately trying to upset me. This pattern of reacting with defensiveness and anger illustrates Singer’s observation, “We’re really not trying to be free of our stuff; we’re trying to justify keeping it.”

Months ago I gave up my beloved strategy of rehearsing angry conversations with imagined adversaries, conversations from which I emerge wounded but morally superior. I’m going a little further this time and letting go of the illusion that imagining eloquent retorts is a meaningful substitute for taking action. When my attention goes in that direction I’m spending my precious energy to justify holding on to my stuff. With my new strategy I focus my early morning mediation on energy flowing through me so I can put my fists down, put my new shoes on, and open my heart chakra.

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