While traveling in Bali, we had plans to attend an Ecstatic Dance event at the Yoga Barn. I had never attended an Ecstatic Dance and I was petrified. Lucky for me, it was sold out by the time we got there.
I ended up meeting someone outside who knew me only from Burning man and my online presence. I told her that I was deeply relieved that it was sold out because I was so anxious about attending.
She smacked my knee and started laughing hysterically.
It took me a second before I realized that that my statement was so out of character from her perception of me that she assumed I was making a hilarious joke.
I was flattered that she thought I was so self confident that a moment of weakness would be laughable. Alas, that perception is far from the truth.
When I was younger I was crippled by social anxiety. And while I am better now, I still struggle with it at times. In many ways, the impetus for my flamboyant appearance was to combat my shyness. You simply cannot be a wallflower when your hair is the color of a petunia. It turns you into a walking conversation piece.
When people approach me, I can avoid putting myself out there and risking rejection. That fear of rejection has played a powerful role in my life.
It is not just rejection, but any judgement. Off being laughed at, mocked, or considered uncool.
Intellectually I know this fear to be childish and absurd?—?but when it kicks in, it elicits a visceral response. I feel weak, unsettled and off balance. I feel a weird ickyness in my head, neck and shoulders.
It is not always present, but when it I feel it, it is strong. The fear, and my desire to avoid that feeling has has kept me from so many activities. It has robbed me of so many connections.
I’ve only asked a women for her phone number a handful of times…and only after several rounds of drinks.
I have avoided countless social events because I get nervous not knowing what to expect.
I don’t even parallel park my car because I can’t stand the idea of someone watching me and judging me if I do it poorly.
I had a significant shift in my perspective 5 years ago in Baja Mexico.
I was visiting the resort town of Playa Del Carmen with my friend Dmitry.
We were spending our days relaxing and discussing philosophy. Dmitry had just read “The Book” by Alan Watts so our conversations were a blast.
At night we went to a discoteque. There were people from all over, locals and vacationers. Tons of people filling the dancefloor and having fun.
I wanted to dance, but I felt petrified. I pictured myself dancing next to a woman and her rolling her eyes at me as she turned away.
I was observing myself and feeling disappointed. When I confessed my headspace with Dmitry he shared some Watts-laced wisdom.
“You know that there is no separation between you and the rest of the Universe, right? You are experiencing the Universe as John right now, but you are also me and that bartender and that tree. So why not go out there on the dance floor and get to know another instance of you? Introduce yourself to yourself! Wouldn’t you like to meet you?”
Something clicked in my head. Of course I would like to meet more of myself. My heart is open and want to love more. If someone responds to my open heart with judgement or disapproval, that has nothing to do with me. Or I should say it has nothing to do with the “Me” that is experiencing the universe as John right now. At times in my life I have been close minded and judgemental. I can forgive myself and love that old version of myself. Just like I can forgive and love that judgemental version of myself on the dancefloor…if that worse case scenario actually came to be.
So I went out to dance. I was met with smiles and had a blast. The surf pounded rhythmically against the shore 100 feet away, people from around the world bounced to the beat. And a billion versions of myself all expressed themselves perfectly as the Universe?—?just like they did in December when I finally made it into an Ecstatic Dance class.
Of course, I forget that Oneness every day.
And that remembering and forgetting…loving and forgiving…that cycle remains part of my human journey.
Maybe it *is* all a hilarious joke.