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Vipassana and Mindfulness Blog

Mindfulness is simply practicing awareness with what's here. That's meditation, whether you're on a mountaintop, at work, or on a roller coaster.

Dystopia … Agoraphobia … WrestleMania?

This is how it all ended. Or maybe how it began.

Most people probably don’t know I’m a fan of professional wrestling. Even fewer people know about wrestling’s quirky little intersection with my mindfulness practice.

My psychological collapse – detailed elsewhere, such as The Art of War When Panic Attacks – cascaded on April 20, 1998. Three weeks earlier, I attended WrestleMania XIV (where Mike Tyson counted the pinfall for Stone Cold Steve Austin’s first WWF championship). And for three months before THAT, I freaked out about it.

I got the first inkling that my mental walls were cracking in November of ’97. My foundation of load-bearing denial skills – honed over seven years – were finally buckling under the weight of anxiety and panic. The only comfort I found was in retreating from life. It was less anxiety-provoking to be near home; so I stayed near home. It was more comfortable to avoid crowds; so I avoided crowds.

And my comfort zone did what it does when it isn’t growing. It started shrinking.

Like the inverse of a drug tolerance, in order to maintain the same level of comfort, I had to be closer and closer to home. I had to avoid smaller and smaller crowds.

By January, I was already looking for ways to make it so I would theoretically never have to leave the house again. Having just moved into a new apartment with my (now) wife, my best friends lived one floor down. Perfect! Social life covered. And we just got one of those new cable modems; I wonder if I can do all my work remotely? Oh, and Stop and Shop has that Peapod thing now, right? Don’t even have to go out to buy food!

There was one problem, though. Four months earlier, I had bought tickets for WrestleMania. In Boston. At the Garden. With 18,000 of my closest friends.

I still remember watching the countdowns to the event on the wrestling shows … “10 weeks until WrestleMania!” “Eight weeks!” “Six weeks!” As the numbers went down, the terror shot up.

It was like watching the New Year’s Eve ball dropping on your death.

Obviously, I lived through it … and as mentioned, finally hit bottom less than a month later. My “comfort zone” had been reduced to our apartment. Even the house I’d grown up in – still “home” just a few months earlier, and all of seven blocks away on the same street – was not safe territory. For months, I was a shut-in on disability, quarantined by a mental prison. The walls that had once kept fear and panic out now trapped me within.

As a (really) famous former wrestler might say: why in the blue hell am I bringing all this up?

For most of us, it’s been pretty surreal to see what’s happening right now. Life – even more than usual – has quickly become a Black-Mirror-esque dystopia of empty streets and virtual gatherings. (I attended my first yoga class via Zoom last night.) But for me, there’s been an extra layer of deja-vu: it’s WrestleMania season.

I’m a shut-in at WrestleMania time again. With seven billion of my closest friends.

And that latter bit is my point here. Fear … anxiety … panic … uncertainty … lockdown … yeah, I remember these digs. Hell, my initials are still carved on that tree over there.

If you need a hand from someone who knows these trenches, I’m here.

Along with my (now free) guided audio sessions and (now Zoom-accessible) Meetups, I’m seeing my clients via Zoom and I’m increasing my flexibility by offering 30-minute sessions as well as sliding scales. For now, standard appointments (via Zoom) can still be booked on my sessions page; if you’d like to discuss an alternate arrangement, drop me a line and we can get something sorted right away.

Stay safe … and breathe.

 

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