At the desk, 9:59 a.m.
In the last month, I've been called to a variety of stages. I've posted on blogs, written guest posts, and been ask over and over again about things I truly care about - serial fiction.
It's funny because my friend Kathleen has said for years: "They will be calling." Of course, all of this maybe the brush of leaves falling from the Amazon tree. Either way, it's not easy for me. I want to write. I want to hang out at home. I want to do what I usually do. Instead, I'm called to the stage.
In turn, I'm showing up. Sometimes, I'm brilliant. Sometimes, I make stupid mistakes like calling Fast Company - Fortune Magazine. No judgement. That's just what happened. And yes I fixed it. But everyone I knew had seen it.
Jacob, almost seventy, was in the mid-stages of Alzheimer's disease. A clinical psychologist by profession and a meditator for more than twenty years, he was well aware that his faculties were deteriorating. With his wife's help, Jacob attended a ten-day meditation retreat I (Tara Brach) was leading. A couple days into the course, Jacob had his first interview with me. We talked about how things were going both on retreat and at home. His attitude toward his disease was interested, sad, grateful, and even good-humored. Intrigued by his resilience, I asked him what allowed him to be so accepting. He responded, "It doesn't feel like anything is wrong. I feel grief and some fear about it all going, but it feels like real life." Then he told about an experience he'd had in an earlier stage of the disease.
Jacob had occasionally given talks about Buddhism to local groups and had accepted an invitation to address a gather of over a hundred meditation students. He arrived at the event feeling alert and eager to share the teachings he loved. Taking his seat in front of the hall, Jacob looked out at the sea of expectant faces in front of him - and suddenly he didn't know where he was or why he was there. All he knew was that his heart was pounding furiously and his mind was spinning in confusion. Putting his palms together at his heard, Jacob started naming out loud what was happening: "Afraid, embarrassed, confused, feeling like I"m failing, powerless, shaking, sense of dying, sinking , lost." For several more minutes he sat, head slightly bowed, continuing to name his experience. As his body began to relax and his mind grew calmer, he also noted that aloud. At last Jacob lifted his head, looked slowly around at those gathered, and apologized.
Many of the students were in tears. As one put it, "No one has ever offered us teaching like this. Your presence has been the deepest dharma teaching." Rather than pushing away his experience and deepening his agitation, Jacob had the courage and training simply to name what he was aware of, and most significantly, to bow to his experience. In some fundamental way, he didn't create an adversary out of feelings of fear and confusion. He didn't make anything wrong. We practice Radical Acceptance by pausing and meeting whatever is happening inside us with this kind of unconditional friendliness.
In 2004, when I was thinking about starting this blog, I listened to a live panel by Marketing Profs. Of course, there wasn't YouTube or VideoStreaming or even FreeConference call. This was a conference call that was fraught with Ma Bellish issues.
At one point, the moderator asked that some guy named Seth Godin what he thought.
The moderator asked again and then seemed to panic.
A few minutes later, Seth Godin came on the line. He laughed and said that he had put his phone on mute like a good panel participant and forgotten it was on. While we heard silence, he'd given the best answer of his life. The moderator gave a weird nervous laugh, but Seth Godin laughed and went on to answer the question.
He'd just shown up, made a mistake, and laughed. If he could just show up and be present to his experience, I could too.
That's when and why I decided to start a blog.
And now, I'm answering all those calls by just showing up.
Speaking of which: Tomorrow, I'm hanging out on a panel of serial fiction publishers at Google Plus. I'd love it if you could join me.