Many years ago, I lived in the suburbs of Philadelphia and drove regularly to a meditation center just outside the city limits. There were various courses offered: courses on learning to meditate, yoga classes, things of this nature. And then one course was offered unlike any other. I don’t recall the name, but I will never forget the subject: FEAR. It was a course about fear.
I signed up right away (afraid I’d miss my space). On the morning of the course, I arrived to park in front of the building on the long street that led down to the center. Usually for programs there would be a smattering of cars along this road. Today, I couldn’t find a single parking place.
When I finally found a spot, I walked up the steps to the center. The line for registration was out the door. That’s when I had my “Aha!” moment: Oh, fear is everybody’s challenge. I thought it was just me.
I tucked my shoes in the shoe racks in the foyer, and a host showed me to a seat. The main hall was packed. The overflow hall was packed. The downstairs room used to serve meals now became the overflow, overflow hall.
When the program began, the facilitator (who happened to be a monk known for his sense of humor) asked everyone to think of one thing they were afraid of, and, if they were willing, to take the mic and share it with the rest of the group. People were very forthcoming and openly shared. This emboldened me and I raised my hand for the mic.
Taking a deep breath, I said, “Well, I’m afraid of making mistakes and also, being embarrassed in front of people.” The monk paused and said, “How interesting, because I asked everyone to give just one thing they are afraid of, and you just gave us two things, which means—you just made a mistake!” at which point everyone exploded with laughter. Just exploded. I was literally surrounded by laughter on all sides and even beneath me, from the people downstairs. People were doubled over laughing.
So now, not only was I experiencing my fear of making mistakes, but also my fear of public embarrassment. Two for the price of one. Just perfect! But, an amazing thing happened. I didn’t die. In fact, I started laughing, too. I laughed so hard I forgot myself. Here I was experiencing my fears and I was okay. It was so freeing.
I’m sure I will make mistakes writing this blog—some typos may slip by, and as hard as I try, some incorrect words might make it through as well. I’ll be embarrassed at times, I’m sure, but I won’t let it stop me.
As an artist, I’ve had to push past fear many times as I’ve tried something new or stepped out beyond what I thought I could do. My art has changed direction several times over the years, and each time this required the courage to take a leap, not knowing where I would land.
I’ve never been sorry for having leapt into the unknown and persevered with something new. The unknown is where real creativity (and life!) happens.