Okay. You might not want to read this one. And fortunately it's Sunday, when not that many folks read this blog anyway.
Today I have decided to blog BEFORE I meditate. Because there's something I need to process, and if I don't do it before I meditate it's sure to eat up my meditation time. Which is a problem because processing is more of an egoic, thoughtful activity, and when all those brain cells are this busy looking back and analyzing it's very difficult to step into the sort of refreshing spacious awareness that meditation brings.
So here's the deal.
As I mentioned earlier, I was invited to read a poem to start off a city council meeting earlier this week. And it went well -- I felt really good afterwards. My husband asked what it was that felt good (he always asks such good questions!) -- was it the thrill of reading aloud and doing it well? At first I said yes, but then he pointed out that must mean I enjoy reading for the blind (one of my volunteer activities) and I realized, well, not exactly (I have to read the local newspaper aloud to my computer, and it can get rather tedious and time-consuming).
So then, he said, it must be the thrill of performing before an audience; the attention. Well, yes, I thought, there's certainly some pleasure in that. And at first that felt a little creepy -- am I just looking for applause? I thought about it some, and it felt like it was more about the invisible connection I feel when people seem to "get" what I'm saying; when something in the air or in a face indicates that something I've said has resonated, or opened up some new perception. But perhaps I was just refusing to face the truth of that need for approval.
And then, yesterday, good friends had come to visit, and my husband pointed out that they videotape all the Council meetings (can you tell where this is going?). So of course my friend wanted to watch. I found the site where the videos are stored, started up the session, and there I was, right after the pledge of allegiance. And even though she was sitting there, enjoying the reading and the poem, doing all the same things the audience had done, I was in agony.
I couldn't hear the poem at all. I could only see that face: the receding chin, the sagging jowls, the crooked teeth; the contortions of expression as I responded to the emotions of the poem and shared those responses outward.
It was excruciating.
So last night, when I was slated to read the poem again with all the other poets whose poems were posted in store windows around the town, I found I was wrapped in a gray fog of self-absorption. I couldn't step beyond "me" to interact with the other poets (none of whom I knew). I could hear and appreciate their poems. I was calm about my own reading, not anxious or stumbling or blushing. But I couldn't step outside my fog: as I read, even as I projected my voice and made eye contact with the 60 or so people in the auditorium, there wasn't that flow that had so exhilarated me on Wednesday. I could only think of what they must be seeing as they watched me. And cringe inside. After the reading I hurried back to my car, not staying to interact.
That's how caught up I can get in appearances. Still. Sigh.
But as I write, I can see the good news, too: The reason the first reading felt so good was not so much the appreciation, or the being in front of an audience, because all that was there last night, as well.
The reason the first reading felt so good was because the poem, the spirit of the poem, was flowing through me, from Source to the audience, and I was -- as a conduit, a channel -- energized by that flow. It was presence in the moment, the LACK of ego, the OTHER-awareness that was exhilarating.
I'm still carrying those mental images of my face. But I am reassured to think that the pleasure of that first reading was engendered, not by the need to win approval, but by the love that poured through me to the audience.
Perhaps I should watch the video again and see if I can forget the face and feel the love.