We were about to make Canadian history: the first Living from the Heart course day on Zoom.
Audrey, Brent and I had put in extra hours rearranging the material, learning how to do break out rooms, and prepping the participants. We asked them to be patient with us and with themselves as this was a first.
At 8:30 I tried to join the participants who were checking their equipment before we began at 9:00, but I couldn’t get into the meeting. Then I tried to text Audrey, who was our Zoom host, but my cell phone went blank. My heart pounded, my cell phone was unresponsive and the circle on my screen kept circling and circling and not letting me in.
My mind flooded with what-ifs. What if I couldn’t join? What if they have to manage the day without me? What if I’ve done something to my account that caused this?
Finally, after ten minutes of mind racing and jittery panic, my face appeared along with the invitation to join. Everything was fine. I could relax.
A few days later, I had another episode of sudden, irrational panic, when Fred wasn’t where I thought he would be, and I couldn’t get ahold of him on his cell.
“I was listening to a lecture by Tara Brach and she said, ‘Anxiety is the portal to freedom’,” I said to my spiritual director after telling her about my episodes of panic. “She encouraged us to welcome anxiety, feel it in our bodies, and listen to it as if it were a vulnerable child. She asked, ‘What does your anxiety want to hear from a kind soul?'”
My director asked me the same question.
“I hear: ‘This is hard.'” Tears filled my eyes and rolled down my cheeks.
In that hour, we listened deeply to my body, God, and the words and images that came to me while tears continued to flow.
At first, God brushed away all the guilt, blame and shame I felt about being anxious. That brought tremendous relief.
Then God came close and wrapped his arms around the tiny, panicking baby in me and soothed me. He was so grateful for my anxiety. It was my anxious cry that helped him find the part of me that was buried under the leaves of guilt and blame. God matched my panic with his desperation to comfort me.
To God, my anxiety was not something to be feared or shunned, but a guest to be warmly welcomed and treated with honour and respect.
As I step back and look at my life, I’m often in what Tara Brach calls “the trance of fear.” Anxiety constantly murmurs below the level of consciousness. It compels me to rush and causes me to judge.
Now I see that anxiety knocks at my door whenever I’m aware that I’m rushing or judging. It bursts in uninvited when I’m in a full-blown panic.
These moments are gift.
These are the moments when I hear the tiny baby in me crying and God and I can go to her.
Every time we do, we re-make history.
After I finished writing this, I wondered why this story was given to me for my Good Friday post?
Perhaps it’s because this is what Good Friday is about. God, who can’t stay away, comes to earth, walks with us on the road, and goes with us into our pain to set us free.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honourably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
translation by Coleman Barks
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Have you noticed the sky is bluer? Clouds are clean and fluffy. Daffodils are coming up on school grounds in beds so perpetually trampled that no one knew there were bulbs underground. The earth is breathing a sigh of relief as fewer planes, ferries and cars are in motion. Now that we can’t shop, work or visit as much, more people are walking and biking–enjoying the beauty around them. The blossoming trees blush, delighted to be given so much attention. There’s some divine love mischief happening on our earth. “Now I am revealing new things to you, things hidden and unknown to you, created just now, this very moment. Of these things, you have heard nothing until now. So that you cannot say, Oh yes, I knew this. –Isaiah 48:6-7 (Jerusalem Bible)