A couple of months ago I was asked to give the weekly talk at the temple which is due this coming Saturday. Being a layperson, this is not considered a “dhamma” talk. At the same time, my teacher Bhante Sujatha always has told me that it’s all dhamma. And therein lies a bit of my conundrum.
When I was initially asked to do this, I was honored and mindfully excited. But as the weeks have passed, my mind created more and more stories about this and I observed my anxiety reaching epic proportions. Not because of speaking in public, as I have a lot of experience with that. But all due to the content of that which I would be speaking. I was questioning everything. Did I have anything to offer the sangha, would my words be mindful enough, can I speak without ego, and how can I present this without making it a dhamma talk if it is in fact all dhamma?
As the date approaches, I can see that my meditation practice is increasingly disturbed. My body is definitely reacting to this with tightness in my chest and all over tension. Every monkey in my mind has been let out of their cage for what seems to be a real monkey palooza! Returning to the breath, I see that one more monkey got loose, and off I go to chase him. “This is crazy”, I think to myself. What is the big deal? I simply get up and talk to the people about my path and how I got here, right? Well, you would think that it is nothing more than that until you get in my mind.
Things like humility, mindfulness, compassion, wisdom, gratitude, and ego are all bombarding me with a sense that this is much more than just a story about David (And who is David anyway?). And if our words meant very little, then why would I bother to write this or why would we ever have dhamma talks? Words are very powerful, and even with the best of intentions, the lack of skillfulness can turn many words into unwholesome reactions. (This gives me a new found respect and appreciation for how beautifully the monastics always seem to accomplish this)
Fully understanding that I cannot control what others think or feel, I still know that there is a certain gravity that is present in what I speak.
Perhaps this is a wonderful lesson for me, but for now I cannot see it clearly. And if it is all ego that is causing this anxiety, then I have more work to do than I had even imagined. For now, I think I will just sit with my monkeys and try to make friends with them. The rest is yet to unfold. Stay tuned!