“At some point, the pain of not doing it becomes greater than the pain of doing it.”
~ Steven Pressfield, Author of The War of Art
I have always felt an intense shiver through my body in moments when action is required. The feeling has been with me since childhood. To this day it haunts me, rearing its disastrous presence whenever I want or need to engage in an activity, role, or experience. In most instances when I have this sensation, I do everything in my power to reason why I did not want to pursue it in the first place. Yet, no matter how watertight the narrative I create or quality of bullshiet I feed myself (and others), the feeling remains and over time has grown stronger. After all these years, I recently sat with this penetrating sensation, and I began to feel overwhelmingly weak, vulnerable, hurt, and painfully out of control. However, through this process, for the first time, I was able to face this feeling and give it a name: Apprehension.
Reflecting on my relationship with apprehension, it is agonizing to realize how much it has controlled my life and decision making. Everything from playing video games as a kid to not accepting promotions in my work life. For instance, during the holidays when family members suggested we play a game of charades, I would immediately tense up and decline participation. I would lie back on the couch and casually state, “You all know I am overly competitive and won’t be able to separate myself from this.” My family would nod in agreement and allow me to nonchalantly watch from the sidelines while they bonded over board games. They never suspected I was actually in the corner struggling with intense feelings of insecurity: ultra-sensitive to losing, being wrong, and looking foolish in the process. However, they would never suspect anything because I was a nationally ranked competitive basketball player from the age of fifteen years old. Moreover, every time I was asked to do anything outside of my comfort zone, which caused me to feel the sting of apprehension, I played on that perception of me being all-world. I guess that’s what my Spiritual Teacher, Rohiniji, meant when she said to me, “You put on a show to cover up that you’re a chicken.”
The best solution (or so I thought) to combat apprehension is to create a narrative that supports your moving around it (i.e., running away). In my case, I never thought of myself as a “chicken”; instead, I was merely cautious in my approach to the situation. For example, when I worked at Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, in both circumstances my managers offered me the opportunity to manage bigger teams. I turned them down numerous times because I did not want to short-change the people I would be leading. I knew my heart was in psychology, not finance, and one day I would leave banking for good. So I did not want to put myself, my colleagues, my manager, and the organization in a detrimental situation. I turned down more money and higher status for the betterment of others: I was being selfless. Bullshiet! I was apprehensive and scared to death of being accountable for all of those careers, and I did not want the emotional responsibility that comes with it. This constant apprehension ultimately led to my managers being frustrated with my high potential and lack of commitment (their words), and I subsequently separated from both firms.
My managers and coaches always saw potential but never called me out on my bullshiet. Fortunately, I cannot say the same about Rohiniji. During an EU Satsang in mid-May, she jumped all over me, saying things like, “You’re one of the biggest bullshietters I have ever seen,” and “You win bullshietter of the month!” The latter was kind of hurtful considering my birthday was in two weeks. No one wants to win that type of award during his or her birthday month (lol).
Nevertheless, two things transpired as Rohiniji asked me myriad questions I could not answer and called out my bullshiet: (1) I felt wrong in every response I gave, and (2) I felt utterly foolish in front of people I know. These are the primary drivers that trigger me to concede to apprehension and not step out of my comfort zone in the first place! However, something interesting happened the moment I felt the agony of apprehension transforming into to anger. Rohiniji said, “Maurice, I truly love you, but you have to…” I do not recall in detail what she said after that because I was so caught up in a new feeling that replaced the intense sensation of apprehension: Love. Once Rohiniji shared that essence with me everything else washed away, and I found the solution.
Despite finding the solution, I messaged Rohiniji months later and asked for help to deal with my apprehension. My 2018 goal was to write a short book, but I felt paralyzed whenever I even thought about writing. She challenged me to be with my apprehension, all of it, and write something to her. I was frightened. My grammar is terrible. She is a grammar hawk. I sat with my experience. I was shaking. I wrote it anyway. From a different place. It felt right. During our next EU Satsang, instead of chewing me out, Rohiniji thanked me for writing authentically and opened the floor for me to share my experience with the class. I was grateful. But then Rohiniji asked if I would like to turn it into a blog post, and apprehension racked my entire body. She smiled. She knew. Another challenge. Another lesson. The solution is simple, but the moment-to-moment practice is not. The journey will be arduous, but the apprehension (and other vibrations) will slowly dissolve with each step I/we take. I am just thankful Rohiniji is here to guide me along this path … and lovingly call out my bullshiet.
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