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22 April 2006 @ 10:43 pm
More on Loving What Is  

I had a positive experience playing with should phrases (as mentioned in my previous post) the other day that I'd like to share.

Sometimes when I awaken in the morning, I pass through a period of mild anxiety/worry/self-recrimination before I can adjust my mind to another day of full wakefulness. Lately when this happens, I lie very still and begin to pay attention to my breathing. I have found this practice to be very calming. A few days ago, as I lay in bed working on clearing away the early morning storm clouds in my head, after I had followed several cycles of in and out breaths, I remembered Byron Katie's work and began to analyze my negative head space more carefully.

I discovered one thought that was causing me pain, a certain guilt I was feeling about not performing one of my job responsibilities well. I work in community education, and one of the tasks I am supposed to do is outreach. It involves contacting agencies, clinics, and other community service organizations in town that serve immigrants and refugees to let them know who we are and to offer to send them brochures for distribution to people who might benenfit from free English classes. I don't like doing outreach. Since most of my teaching experience has been at universities, I have never had to find and attract potential students to the classes I have taught. They just arrived, and I delivered the curriculum, and that was fine with me.  I have experienced fairly strong resistance to doing outreach because I see myself as a teacher, not an administrator or public relations person.

But outreach is one of my jobs and my avoidance of it means that it doesn't get done and our program suffers as a result. So the other morning, when the 'shoulds' were causing me early morning guilt and anxiety, I said this to myself: I shouldn't be doing outreach because I don't.  This left me with the following information: I don't do outreach. I felt a subtle relief at simply facing this without an additional, self-abusing story. I acknowledged the reality, let it be, and just left it there.

On Friday we had a light turnout of students. A colleague and I are team teaching right now. That morning she was doing the class and I could see that she had it well in hand. I grew bored and wondered what else I might do. With no tension or sense of obligation, I decided that I would make a few outreach calls. The feeling was one of, why not? there isn't anything else to do. I spent about a half hour on the phone. I left a few messages, discovered a few bad telephone numbers, and talked with two people. Both contacts I spoke with expressed eagerness to receive flyers and brochures and requested many. (One of them requested 3,000 brochures. In what little outreach I'd done before that, the largest request I'd received was for a few dozen.) Later that day, one of the places where I had left a message returned my call. This Lao contact was so excited to hear about our program that he told me to send a couple of hundred flyers and brochures that he would happily post at local Lao restaurants and businesses, in addition to distributing them to the people his agency serves.

As much as I have disliked doing outreach, I've forced myself to make calls three or four times in the year that I have worked in community education. I've put adds in newspapers and on radio stations, and have sent brochures out, but the energy I experienced on Friday was different. I had never received such positive feedback resulting from such a brief period of calling. Coincidence, perhaps, but it really did feel like positive energy responding to my own, more relaxed approach to the task.
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