Most of us are familiar with the Escape Room where we have to solve a series of puzzles to free ourselves from the confined spaces. If you can’t manage to solve some of the puzzles, you are unable to progress to the next challenge. Most of the time, we leave the confined spaces with one or two puzzles left unsolved. Likewise, in our day-to-day life, there are times when we try to avoid or run away from our problems, the issue will stubbornly make its way back to us again.
In chapter 2 of Patanjali’s sutra on “minimising gross coloring that veils the self”, the coloring (Klesha) that struck a chord with me is Dvesha (Avoidance). For me, it all started with “The Three Little Pigs” when I was seven years old. Then, my uncle prepared Christmas presents for my cousins and I, but in return, we had to recite our favourite story at a family Christmas gathering. I chose three little pigs as that was my most favourite fable. Although I recited a number of times and I could story tell even without looking at the book, I still felt butterflies in my stomach as Christmas drew nearer and nearer. The day before Christmas, I was in a nervous wreck, I cried uncontrollably and refused to turn up the next day. I never got my Christmas present and I regretted not turning up when I saw my brother with his lego set.
As I grew older, I thought this issue of public speaking would get better and I would grow to be more confident. It got worse. I was very afraid of presentations, public speaking and turning up for events or meetings late (for the fear of people looking at me). There was a couple of times when my name was called in class to present or explain concepts and I would freeze. I wish I could jump into a trench immediately. My stomach will twist, my heart will skip many many beats, my hands will shake, and my mind would go blank. It’s like taking a roller coaster, when the carriage descends, I open my mouth but always end up with a silent scream in my heart. I end up giving one word responses and my teachers will be shaking their head in dismay. This affected my confidence and it got very unhealthy where I started to get conscious of people looking at me and I would unconsciously protract my shoulders when I walk. In certain instances, when I was reprimanded by the teacher for something which I did not do, I was too afraid to even explain or articulate my thoughts. I always felt trapped and upset for being misunderstood.
Entering Uni helped me to overcome some of these issues. There were more presentations than before and I had to force myself to keep practising in front of the mirror to build my confidence. I would take deep breaths to calm my mind and try to focus on articulating just one thought. I continue to practice this today even at the workplace. I still feel jitters when I have to summarise discussions and present sometimes. This is something I need to work on to overcome. As Master Paalu said, “it’s all in the mind.”. I have chosen to believe what I have created. It was like a self-fulfilling prophecy where I was certain that I could not present or do public speaking well. This problem which I have created and ignored has brewed into a disease that clouded my mind.
As I thought and dug deeper into my problem, I realised I was probably afraid of making mistakes in front of people, afraid of criticisms, afraid of how people look at me and most important of all, afraid of feeling these emotions that results from these problems – fear, embarrassment, humiliation and foolishness. Instead of acknowledging these issues, I preferred to take flight and isolate myself. Now that I have come to terms with my problems, I shall be like the third little pig in the fable, with patience and perseverance, build my courage and self-esteem day by day against the strong huff and puff of the big bad wolf (challenges in the future). I shall keep trying, start doing meditation to calm my senses and slowly and gradually, I am sure I will unlock the traps from within and escape from that room in my heart.
Junni (Apr to Jun TTC 200 hrs)