Build Your Leaders

Postcard from Asheville

December 2012

I have a confession: I don’t have enough to do. Time is heavy, and I am anxious. It’s fourth quarter, I have little work, and much of my self-worth is based on being productive and recognized for it.

I look for ways to stay busy. I check email and post inspirational quotes on Facebook. I surf other people’s Facebook postings seeking opportunities to offer encouragement. Maybe service will sooth my anxiety and boost my sagging self-esteem.

I paint. I lose myself in color and form. Am I painting for the joy of it or am I just filling time?

“Become a human being, not a human doing,” I read. I see the wisdom in these words, but how I can “do” being? What am I supposed to do with my time? Sit on the sofa?

I sit on the sofa and anxiety quickly joins me. “Befriend the anxiety,” a friend who is a therapist suggests. But how do you befriend anxiety? That’s like choosing to spend time with someone who constantly criticizes you.

I read once that anxiety is fear in disguise. What am I afraid of? The only way to know is to face it, but once I’ve faced it, what’s next? Will the fear dissolve, and I’ll finally find peace?

I return to sofa and sit. I listen to the voices in my head:

“You should be doing something productive!”
“It’s a beautiful day, you should be outside.”
“Why aren’t you working? Are you lazy?”

Their words are loaded but do not find their mark. Remembering what I’ve learned in meditation, I watch them float by like clouds on a windy day. I sense my body. My breath is shallow; my spine constricted, and my shoulders are tight. I take a deep breath and release the tension.

I become aware of my surroundings. The sunlight pierces the leaves splattering droplets of light onto the warm, white concrete patio. I breathe in the beauty, I bask in the stillness, and I am at peace.

I try to hold on to this exquisite moment. Immediately, it slips away, and the anxiety returns. I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and start over.

I tune into my thoughts and breath, and I scan my body for sensation. I see the sunlight on the patio, and I hear the birds. Stillness. Peace returns.

Perhaps I’ve just learned one of the secrets of life: peace comes only in the present. The more I am present, the more I am at peace. Anxiety will return. Anxiety is a part of life, but so is peace, and I can access peace anytime I choose.