New responsibilities in my position at work are challenging my fears and insecurities and bringing me face-to-face with more inner work that I need to do. You see, the classroom is my comfort zone, and it is there with my students that I feel secure in the community that we create together and confident in the learning opportunities that I create and present for them. My new responsibilities take me beyond the classroom and involve planning and presenting professional development for my colleagues. Suddenly, the confident, competent teacher falls prey to anxiety that confronts her at every turn — anxiety that plays constant messages of self-doubt and perceived judgment. My old nemesis is back — fear of knowing and embracing my own worth. What learning is there in this for me? As my mind filled with anxious rehashing of what had happened prior to and during my first presentation to staff, I received a clear, direct soul message that told me exactly what I need to do.
During the days leading up to my first staff professional development, I was racked with undercurrents of anxiety. I was completely prepared in terms of what I was going to say and do with my fellow staff members; everything had been carefully and thoughtfully planned. Still, familiar whispers of self-doubt plagued me. I would wake in the middle of the night and in the morning, anxious about my presentation to my colleagues. Worries about how all that I had planned would be received lurked in the background of my mind, waiting for any moment during which they could rise and command my attention.
Instead of anticipating my first staff development, I allowed it to become an object of dread. The day arrived, and low-grade anxiety was my constant companion. Thankfully, the school day is demanding, and there is little time to worry about what lies ahead. Finally, the school day ended and it was time for our staff meeting. I was last on the agenda. I tried to still my pounding heart and to focus on the proceedings, but I couldn’t quiet the anxiety that had me in its grip. By the time I began my presentation, I was coiled up so tightly inside, I couldn’t think. I had my entire message planned and written out so that I could begin by reading. I had allowed anxiety to control me to the point that I couldn’t share with my colleagues from a place of knowing within me. I had to rely on reading from my prepared notes to get me started. As I needed to input staff responses, at first, my hands were shaking so badly that I couldn’t keep them on the keyboard. I persevered and pushed through it through the power of sheer will. It wasn’t that my colleagues made it difficult for me; they were responsive and involved in what I had planned for them. Rather, I made it difficult for me; the entire experience was self-created.
Even as my presentation ended and I received positive feedback, I couldn’t allow it to register. Instead, nausea and a feeling I can only describe as “stunned” gripped and stayed with me through the evening. I had no internal reading of how the presentation and activity had gone. The one who can read her students so well had no sense of how things had gone. I was in the grip of anxiety borne of self-doubt. The nausea and inability to “read” the workshop stayed with me through the evening.
In the morning, I was reflecting on Lesson 141 of A Course in Miracles: My mind holds only what I think with God. As I meditated on that message, the image of the previous evening’s staff meeting and the anxiety I had experienced came through, along with this very clear, definite message: Let go of your attachment to what others think. Let go, and follow your inner guidance. And in that moment, I knew the truth in this message. It nailed the contradiction of my internal struggle — my yearning to stand strong in my own quiet, inner strength and knowing, and yet still worrying about what others think of me and how they react to what I do. I realized that I had created the whole experience because of my egoic need for external approval and my lifelong struggle with self-worth. No one had criticized or judged me; I had done that all by myself… to myself.
The message I received reminds me of the inner work and awareness that I must continue to practise to ignore the need of my ego to feel acceptance and recognition from others and instead to focus on the true knowing that comes with following my inner guidance, which is always there for me in the moment that I ask. Again and again, I come up against this inner conflict: the voice of my ego that still clamours for recognition from a world based on misperception and illusion and the still, quiet voice of my soul that quiets this need and affirms my worth in the Divine Love that envelopes and guides me.
As I am reminded of the importance of this inner work, I am also reminded of the power I have to create my own experiences, positive or negative. I remember that this life is a journey that leads us ever closer to God, and part of my journey is developing the ability to ignore the incessant noise of the fears created by my ego and to focus instead on the quiet, loving truth of the guidance that I receive from my soul.
This is my work as I move toward another presentation at another staff meeting. The planning is done, but that isn’t my real work. It is in choosing what inner voice I will heed — the voice that rises from fear or love. I know what coming from a place of fear did to me last time. I choose differently this time, and my focus is coming from an inner space of knowing and connection to Divine guidance. I turn to the One whose guidance is always here for me whenever I choose, and I give the entire experience over to Holy Spirit. In that request, I know that I am guided, protected, and loved unconditionally, and that all will be well.
My dear sisters and brothers, I pray that as I share my inner struggles that my realizations and learning may connect with your inner knowing and help you on your journey. I share what I am learning because I know that the particular events, feelings, and experiences are not who I am. They arise as learning opportunities, which I can open into… or not. As I realize what is going on within me, I choose to learn and grow because my deepest yearning is to continue toward union with God — and it is there that you and I will be reunited in the Mind that created us. Namaste, my dears.