The day after Labor day was one that was filled with stress for me. Over the course of the past few months, I managed to schedule 8 library talks for the month of September (the culmination of 8 months worth of work: four months to make my slideshow and then compose my talk, and four months of slowly building up courage, writing a proposal, looking up contact information, and sending (and re-sending) my letter out to 109 libraries, two Appalachian Mountain Club locations, and 6 high schools and colleges). I was lucky that the projectors at the five places I have presented at so far have have an HDMI connection. However, seven of my eight upcoming talks only have a VGA connection. I have been EXTREMELY worried about this because of my experience at the library in July in which I could not get my iMovie slideshow to play due to a resolution error with this type of connection. In the past few weeks, I have spent countless hours communicating with various library directors, trustees, and IT departments, as well as visiting Best Buy and Apple stores. On Monday, it seemed as though I was going to have to buy my own projector, which would be a huge expense for me, as well as a lot of time researching models and hoping it would arrive before Tuesday!
I also just discovered that I did not receive dental or vision benefits when I applied for MassHealth insurance earlier this year, and with a dentist appointment scheduled on Tuesday and the need for more contacts around the corner, I knew I was going to have to find several hours to start the application process with them again. I also had to drive all the way to Cambridge only to have no one show up for the class I was scheduled to teach yet again, which never makes me feel good. And in general, I am still feeling stress about how I will be able to make a living during these upcoming months.
Although I have finally managed to work my way up from teaching one yoga class a week for the past couple of years to five beginning in June and now 7 in September, in combination with my eight presentations this month, I still need to make 2-2.5 times more income per month in order to cover my basic living expenses, pay taxes, have a couple of dollars of spending money, and then finally begin to save a few.
I was happy that by the evening, I had managed to subdue my stressful feelings and feel thankful for the challenge in front of me- because really, that is all that it is- a challenge. This summer, I learned that there are many people in the town I live that have never had to work a day in their lives because of the money they inherited from their families. This fact astounds me. It is something that I can’t even fathom. I wondered for a moment what I would do if my life was like that and I quickly became grateful for the challenges and opportunities to grow that I have been faced with in not having this kind of security. I am starting to learn and remind myself that there is no limit to what I can offer and that the harder I work and the more confidence that I build within myself, the more I will receive back.
Late that night, my friend Amanda posted the following on Facebook:
“I cry at the illusion of it all to awaken to the preciousness of each moment .
I was meditating tonight after a particularly challenging end to the day. With my husband pursuing his business and our savings dwindling, we are faced with tough choices. I was allowing all my feelings to bubble and one that was coming out strongly was rage. I meditated on this and saw coming into my vision the tiniest particles we as humans are made up of. Protons, neutrons, etc These particles I understood are the same particles that make up the trees, the air, the stars the universe – this great expanse called life. I felt rage around the understanding of how all we hold onto is an illusion. All our masks, our judgment, differentiation of this and that. I felt how similar and yes insignificant we all are yet at the same time how brilliant that makes all of us. I cried at the pain of so many humans mistaking their brilliance.”
I almost couldn’t believe how parallel her expression was to my day and its ending! It is so important to keep reminding ourselves not to close in around fear. The more we can remain soft, open, and trusting, the more we can allow into our lives. Her meditation experience reminded me of the one time that I sat in meditation in my living room for an hour a couple of years ago. It was the first and only time that I have sat that long. Whenever my legs began to fall asleep or become painful, I would remind myself that it was only temporary and that I could sit through it. My mind kept wanting to attach to particular thoughts, but I would keep gently reminding myself to return to the focus on my breath each time I noticed that happening. After 45-50 minutes, something changed. It was like a thick, dark velvet curtain was drawn over the front of my brain, after which, whenever my thoughts tried to wander, they were immediately stopped. I COULDN’T think about anything! If my mind tried, it received a message that was similar to- “Wendy, your little problems don’t matter.” Instead, I felt part of an incredible vastness. It was a very peaceful, very connected to the entire expanse of the universe feeling.
It’s a process to remember to take a step back whenever we are feeling stress. We often bring more suffering to ourselves than is necessary. Because what will happen in the future can not be known, most of the energy spent worrying about how things will play out is really just wasted energy. When we bring our awareness back to our breath, back to the present moment, and understand that everything in life contains a mixture of good and bad, we can return to a calmer, more peaceful state very quickly.