With a lump in my throat and a pit in my stomach, I had a classic case of butterflies. (Who knows why being nervous is equated to beautiful delicate creatures? It felt more like a tsunami in my stomach!) A month ago, I greeted the news of being asked to present at a storytelling event with excitement and enthusiasm. Now, with the event only four days away, I was overly nervous and slightly nauseous at the idea of standing in front of a crowd of over hundred people and being able to actually say anything intelligent.
I had planned to have lunch and interview Miranda Chapman for an upcoming piece for the blog, AwakenEveryday.org. I first met Miranda at Copper Beech Institute in West Hartford, Connecticut and was immediately drawn to her energy. During her yoga classes, I felt as if her voice found places hidden in my soul, like listening to the sweet sound of a famous composer’s concerto. I had been looking forward to hearing more about Miranda’s upcoming annual retreat called, “BUILDING RESILIENCE AND SELF-CARE THROUGH MINDFULNESS PRACTICE” and to simply reconnect. However, at that very moment, I was quite sure full-body hives were eminent. I kept thinking I should cancel and spend more time preparing for my presentation. I decided to go to lunch instead. Miranda had always been an incredible source of both inspiration and grounding– and I was in desperate need of both at the moment!
The retreat will allow participants to notice, “when you get into this place where you start burdening yourself by creating a story and become overly attached to what something should look like or how it should be. When we find ourselves in this space, we have a very distinct desire to compare ourselves to other people, or to previous versions of ourselves or future version of ourselves.”
I felt like Miranda was speaking directly to my situation, even though I had not mentioned it yet. I was building up a story in my mind that wasn’t true. I had prepared enough and I really did want to be a storyteller. Why was I suddenly full of such anxiety?
“This can become incredibly heavy and starts to build this unhelpful seriousness around us. I know this from my own practice when I was focused on how I can prove myself. It wasn’t a light-hearted energy. There was no humility in it. I have always liked looking for moments of pure joy.”
Oh. Humility. Adding a light-heartedness to my approach. I had forgotten these elements. I realized it was like that time I checked in the rear-view mirror to see if I had a hunk of kale in my teeth. After I flashed my grin and it looked clear, I forgot to reset the mirror and kept driving. All you see when you look in it is your own reflection. Suddenly I forgot to focus on who and what I was around and instead was just focusing on me. This creates a very limiting and myopic view.
Miranda is masterful at creating a welcoming space and building a safe environment. I love that she “walks the walk” in her own life, too. She shares her gifts by traveling to the Hartford jail and other underserved populations in Hartford through the generosity of an Aetna Foundation grant. Not adverse to hard work or tough situations, Miranda and her husband have spent the last year building their house with their own hands while living in a trailer on their land. (To learn more about her experience, read here.) She recently returned from a two-week silent meditation retreat and points out that the “effervescence of being alive that is inherent in play and the quality of presence” invites us to find the balance between all of these elements in our lives. It reminded me of the quote from Albert Einstein, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” Play allows us to find the intersection between these two ways to live by remembering the magnitude of the gift we have been given while inviting curiosity and child-like wonder into our days. This retreat will include traditional yoga poses and meditation, but also creative practices to welcome in laughter and focus on self-care.
I had been taking myself way too seriously and I had forgotten the element of play! My mind had become rigid by reciting my story over and over for the event. I knew every word, but it wasn’t coming from my heart. I had been focusing on how I would perform, instead of how to be fully present. Play is a form of doing something with your whole being and being so present that you are unaware that your body, mind and heart are in alignment. The upcoming storytelling event would be filled with an audience that would want to play! I could feel my excitement again. By taking on this light-hearted approach, my words would be able to be felt, not just heard.
With a hug good-bye, I was thankful for my time with Miranda. I realized how easy it is to create stories that don’t serve me. I loved how taking the time to connect had shifted my mindset. I was excited and ready to do what I needed to do to get up on that stage!
Update: I absolutely loved the experience of telling a story in front of a crowd at a SpeakUp! event and I will be back on stage in September. I wish I could say all the butterflies disappeared, but I think instead they helped transform my fears into action and took flight! Hope you will be joining me in the audience for the next one…or maybe you will be the next storyteller? I can’t wait to see you there!
To learn more about “BUILDING RESILIENCE AND SELF-CARE THROUGH MINDFULNESS PRACTICE” with Miranda Chapman, click here.
To find out more about upcoming SpeakUp! events and/or to pitch your story, check out Storytelling at www.MatthewDicks.com