This month marks 15 years of marriage to my awesome husband, so a few weeks ago he surprised me with a trip to Atlantic City to see John Mayer; probably one of the only modern day guitar players I’d care to see live. I couldn’t have been more excited, until he told me it was all general admission in the small theatre; cue cartoon screeching sound.
I don’t do general admission- not because I’m a snob, but because I get really claustrophobic. After working at MTV for 10 years and growing up in the music business, I was lucky to avoid the mosh pit scene down below, usually watching from the side of the stage, or sitting at the sound board during general admission concerts. The thought of standing in a huge sea of people who are yelling and slinging beer makes me feel extremely uncomfortable and anxious.
However, the thought of disappointing him after he made all these plans was worse than smelling like beer and getting my foot crushed by a pop-tart in spikey heels; so I agreed with an enthusiastic smile.
In an attempt to make it a fun-filled evening, I decided to try something the week before we went. After seeing the power of my meditation practice work in so many other situations that used to get me all fired up, like the DMV, my children harassing me, or getting stuck in traffic for hours, I brought the fear of being packed like a sardine in a small space to life on my cushion.
I imagined myself at the concert, surrounded by people on all four sides. They were singing, dancing, screaming “I Love You, John!” and spilling their drinks all over. Instead of immediately feeling trapped, irritated and suddenly wanting to get sucked into a hole in the floor, I imagined myself at peace with what was going on around me. I concentrated on my breath, focused on the imaginary concert, and immediately felt a sense of lightness. I knew if this sense of calm translated into real life, then I’d be fine.
My meditation practice has taught me to always come back to the present where you have the choice to stay calm and breathe, or blow things out of proportion. I figured this would be the perfect situation to test it’s effectiveness, as it’s much easier to stay calm on a cushion in my yoga room than in an uncomfortable situation.
We dropped off our bag at a cute boutique hotel, and then went out for an incredible sushi dinner; I even won $100 playing roulette on the way to the venue in the Borgata- like Kenny Roger’s said: “I know when to fold ’em.”
We walked in a half hour before showtime, and I waited for that constricting feeling I usually get when I walk into a crowded elevator or the Barney’s Warehouse sale. Nada, cool as a cucumber. My husband figured I’d want to stand in the back where there was more room, but no, I took him by the hand and we walked halfway up into the crowd, center stage.
John appeared, and the crowd seriously went wild; I thought the girl next to me was going to pop a vocal chord, she was screaming so loud- right in my ear. I smiled and laughed at how tense I would normally be, now trying to cultivate the exact opposite feelings I typically would have. Every time I felt people getting too close to me I tried to take a few deep breaths; and even when I ingested a huge cloud of pot smoke, I came back to that place of feeling safe and calm on my meditation mat. (maybe due to the cloud I was engulfed in?)
Beer was spilled, feet were stepped on and yes, at one point I did want to smack the girl next to me who would not stop screaming, “John, I NEEEEEED your autograph!” But I survived; actually I more than survived, I had a great time.
You see, there is that moment I’ve learned, between action and reaction, and you have a choice. To go back to your old patterns and get paralyzed by fear, or use your newfound awareness to “Keep Calm and Carry On.”
“Fear is a friend who’s misunderstood” ― John Mayer, Continuum
Love and Peace