Last week I was scheduled to make a brief speech in front of about 200 people. Normally, I enjoy speaking in public but sometimes it can make me a bit anxious.
And this turned out to be one of those times.
I woke Friday morning feeling my nerves racing around in my belly like fiery little sparks. I consciously worked at taking my mind off the event, focusing instead on my immediate tasks.
I had emails to write, phone calls to make. I wasn't scheduled to speak until the afternoon, leaving for the venue around 4 pm.
At about 2:00, I quickly glanced through my emails and spotted one from a coaching client I currently have. Since January, he and I had been working on resolving an issue with one of his employees.
The employee was not doing a satisfactory job. Instead of firing him in January, my client chose to see if things could change and had spoken with the man on several occasions as well as given him two formal reviews.
None of his interventions had succeeded and recently he'd let the employee go. My client had copied me his response to a recent email from this disgruntled employee.
As I read both what the employee had written as well as my client's reply, my entire insides roiled. His former employee had refused to take any responsibility for being fired, was blaming my client and choosing to be a victim.
I was appalled but worse began feeling a panic run up my throat.
I was angry about my timing -- reading it right before the speech -- and shocked by the level of physical discomfort I was feeling. After all, the email wasn't even addressed to me!
Why did criticism launched at someone else have this effect on me?
I got up from the chair wishing I hadn't read the email and began pacing - trying to work through my discomfort and manage it so I could show up and speak from my heart later that afternoon.
I began using the tools I know -- I breathed deeply in and out- calming myself down. And as I did I asked, "Why is this upsetting me so much?"
The answer I received was that it was simply triggering all the times I've had to let an employee or customer go and been personally attacked, criticized or blamed. I was astonished that someone's unrelated words could have this great an effect on me.
About 30 minutes later, I got into my car needing to pick my daughter up from school. I kept mindfully breathing when I remembered the Course in Miracles lesson I'd read that morning.
Simply stated it reminded me that I am one with God.
I began saying this to myself over and over again. "I am one with God. I am one with God." And as the words sank in, I felt a calm begin to permeate me.
My affirmation morphed into "I am one with God. No one can hurt me."
Then it hit me -- by reading that email I'd fallen into fear. It had triggered the place in me where I felt attacked and needed to defend myself and my client.
As Marianne Williamson suggests -- I prayed for a miracle -- and my miracle was to remind myself that I am one with God and no one can hurt me. She describes a miracle as a shift in perception from fear to love.
Well you can guess what happened.
I even began to see the author of the original email (the disgruntled employee) as one with God. By the time I arrived at the auditorium, I was ready to be there - in my heart. I no longer felt angry or wronged.
The event went off without a hitch and I participated in my small part, able to be fully present. I felt relief as well as immense gratitude for the opportunity to show up differently.
Instead of holding on to the fear, I was able to gracefully move through the emotional obstacle. I used the opportunity for growth and came out on the other side with humility and love.