A Clean Mind

Blogging about a less stressful way to live…

Dude, I Had Anxiety! pt. 1

The wildest thing happened last Thursday night… This generally peaceful therapist blogger guy had anxiety! It was so cool… So what did I do? Exactly what we talk about here at A Clean Mind! Why do something else? I let it be there with no story, no mind chatter. And it took a couple of hours, but it eventually passed. I thought that sharing this experience might be able to illuminate some things for some of you. Here’s the summary, though – we can have anxiety (or whatever else we don’t like) with A Clean Mind or without. I chose with, and it really was no big deal. Now for the story…

I’m a mandolin player and I usually play once or twice a week. I’ve played hundreds of gigs in recent years, so they’re really no big deal. They’ve mostly been in bars and restaurants, though (mostly restaurants now – earlier hours). So it’s background music, and I like it that way. Actually, I love it that way. I get to play awesome music with my friends that people can enjoy while they’re out with their friends. It’s all very relaxed, and everyone wins.

Last week, I had the wonderful opportunity to play the album release party for an excellent singer songwriter from Pensacola (living in Canada now) named Tanya Gallagher (http://tanyagallagher.com – feel free to buy her album, too – and I don’t get a cut, by the way). The band consisted of Tanya, me, my awesome jazz guitarist Billy Howell, and an exquisite cellist named Ayla Green (by the way, the cello freaking rules!!!). We rehearsed once a week for about 4-6 weeks and learned the entire album, and then we played it straight through at the event.

Now it’s gig time. It’s a couple of hours before the show, and I’m doing some last minute things like making the cheat sheets for me and Billy (which I could’ve done two weeks earlier, or at least the day before, or at least that morning, or at least shortly after lunch – you get the picture). As I’m marking up the set lists with some notes, I notice that my heart is pounding! And there’s a tightness in my chest as well. I didn’t tell anyone – I just noticed it, breathed, and kept doing what I had to do before the show. The clock was ticking. By the way, that’s the moment of truth – when you first notice something you don’t like. That’s when our autopilot minds start to freak out, and it happens in an instant. When you’ve been practicing this stuff for a while, though, that happens less and less. It did not happen at all this time, only because I’ve been practicing. I got tired of freak-out mode years ago, so I sought out some answers and then practiced. No big deal, just practice.

When I had finished the cheat sheets and everything was totally ready, it was time for the opening acts. I was sitting down and my heart was still beating really fast. So I took the time to go into it and practice what I preach. I witnessed this pressure in my chest and relaxed into it. It did not go away, but I didn’t make any problem out of it – none. I simply allowed it to be there. I was curious, though, why it was there. And the obvious hit me – I don’t play gigs like this, ever. There were 150 totally silent people there listening and watching. There were several video cameras as well. And there was audio recording equipment. To repeat, I don’t play gigs like this, ever.

To compound things, Tanya was moving to Vancouver five days later. This was her “farewell Pensacola” show, and it was quite the love fest. Anyone who knows her knows that she’s a very good, kind, awesome person to the core, and this is revealed by her many friends. There were lots of eyes watching. What’s more, at this particular gig, I had a pretty prominent role. She was front and center and I was standing to her right, just a few feet away. The other two musicians were seated to the sides of us, since they play sitting down. It was the perfect storm for me to have a pounding heart.

After all was said and done, the gig went really, really well. We were as pleased as we could’ve been, and we really enjoyed working together, too. And the anxiety was gone sometime after we started playing. It’s pretty much the same thing as being nervous before speaking in public. I love public speaking, and this feeling is a normal pattern for me that goes away after I get started. No problem.

My point here is that we can make a big deal about this kind of thing or not. We can let our mind tell stories about it or not. These are choices that many people don’t know they have, because the world we live in totally makes a big deal about this and tells stories about it. The fact is that there was nothing wrong. There was no problem. And there certainly was not any kind of mental disorder requiring medication.

I’ll post some videos on the Facebook page for A Clean Mind… if they turn out well! I think they will. And I posted a pic of the infamous set list/cheat sheet if you’re interested. I really enjoyed playing Tanya’s music. In the meantime, though, we’re going to do something cool. We’re going to take a deeper look at why Ashley might’ve had a strong reaction before the show, while someone else might not have. We’re all different, after all. And yes, that was third person. It works.

We’re going to use something called the enneagram, which I might’ve mentioned before or not. I’ve been planning on writing about the enneagram, so this is a great way to do it. It’s an old tool that we can use to identify our core patterns and then bust ourselves. Because it’s just a pattern! So next will be a general post on the enneagram, and after that will be part two of this post so you can see it in action.

If you’re curious and have some free time, you can search “enneagram” on the internet and read about it. There are also various free online tests to try to figure out which number you are. I’m not an expert on this by any means, so I’ll just provide the basics. One book that I like, though, is called From Fixation to Freedom: The Enneagram of Liberation by Eli Jaxon-Bear. It takes it pretty deep, and I like deep. He’s a spiritual teacher who believes that who you really are is eternal, immortal, changeless, already perfect spirit, though. So if you’re not down with that, then maybe stick with something else. He might mention reincarnation as well. Even if you’re not down with that, though, what he writes about each of the nine points, or character fixations, is pretty powerful. I’d say anyone could benefit. Now I have some more writing to do…


All anybody really wants is peace. The good news is that peace can be learned. I’m serious. This should be taught in middle school, but it’s not. So I’m teaching it now.

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