It was 3 minutes before I was to go on stage to deliver my speech at the National Speakers Association of D.C.’s taping session. Facing the stage were 3 video cameras. On the floor in front of the stage, a photographer clicked photos repeatedly. In the audience, rows of seasoned professionals sat listening. I was the twenty-fourth speaker, the next to the last one.
Adrenalin surged through me out of control, accompanied by my pounding heart and a high-pitched chattering voice warning of probable failure.
Over the past 8 years I have been an intimate student of fear. Fear was a constant companion in facing the death and illness of my partner. Then it repeatedly challenged my courage in the next several years as I learned to ride my own motorcycle, downhill ski, and fly on a trapeze. This companion has the ability to awaken me in the middle of the night from sound sleep and intrude on peaceful moments.
Wanting to gain control of myself, I knew it was fruitless to banish this familiar friend.
Why Welcome Fear?
Following Thich Nhat Hanh’s teaching, I smiled and then spoke to Fear as my friend. “Welcome, you’re back! Thanks for coming because I’ll need you on stage to add more energy to my words and presentation.”
What I said was true. Performers know the value of transforming their pre-performance jitters into fuel for their on stage deliveries.
But I knew that Fear’s voice–the one telling me how the audience won’t relate to my story and will judge me harshly–had to be over-ridden by a better voice.
I shut my eyes and envisioned this audience filled with close friends who I hadn’t seen for a long time and were excitedly waiting to meet me and hear my story.
I saw myself enjoying talking to them. I filled myself with genuine warmth for these people.
Next I grounded myself. I directed a wave of positive energy from above my head down through the center of my body into the ground deep below my feet. This broke the chaotic pattern of racing adrenalin and created an energy stream I understood and could control.
The announcer began my introduction. It was show time. I walked onto the stage.
Five short minutes later, my speech was over.
Shocked by the applause at the end, I exchanged broad smiles with the audience who had truly transformed into genuine friends.
As I exited the stage, Mike, the organizer of the program, took me aside. “That was one of the best presentations of the day. You did a great job.”
I enjoyed his words, but more important I was excited that I had proved to myself that my internal friend “Fear” could be used as an asset and not an enemy. She’s just one of many internal characters that I carry inside me.
The Real Pay-Off
It’s fun when our learning from books and teachers are tested. These basic truths no longer belong to others. Instead they’re transformed into our own wisdom.