Panic first. Breathe later.

It's ten degrees hotter right now in Portland than it is in Seattle. Isn't that weird? I always imagine that Seattle and Portland have the same weather. When I was driving down here yesterday, I watched the outside temperature gauge on my car go from 85 to 93 to 97.  When I stopped for gas in Chehalis, I noticed that there was something dripping from the engine. A natural born panicker, I immediately popped the hood and poked around to find the radiator. Having no idea what I was looking for, I went around to my passenger door to dig out the manual from my glove box.

As I pulled out emergency energy bars and spare tampons from the glove compartment to dig out the instructions, a nice woman from Chehalis peeked her face around and kindly asked, "Something dripping?"

"Do you know anything about cars?" I whined.  Visions of being stranded with a broken car had already started infiltrating my headspace.

"It's the air conditioning," she said frankly. "I freaked out the first time I saw this too. It's just condensation."

"You saved me!" I smiled at her, thanking her profusely for taking me off the cliff with her mechanical expertise. I felt my heart rate slow down and my breathing return to normal.

That's when I realized that I have, in my four years of owning this car, never used my air conditioning for any sustained period of time. Now I know that there will be condensation under my engine when I use the air conditioning and I won't panic in the future. Why do I always go to panic first, before gathering full information? I think it is partly nature and partly nurture, and at this point, being almost fifty years old, I don't really care why, I just want to alter my future path so my heart doesn't do somersaults with every unknown that crosses my path.

I've been teaching Bikram Yoga for close to fifteen years, practicing for over twenty. I love teaching. I love my students. I love practicing. And, I want to keep growing. So, over the last several months, in an effort to improve my own teaching and practicing, I have been on an expedition to take many different kinds of Yoga classes with teachers I've never had.  I recognize, before every new class, every new teacher, that I get that panicky feeling of entering into the unknown. I feel my heart rate speed up, my breath get a little shallow.  Then, after class, I am pleasantly rewarded with the feeling of having successfully traversed my resistant path. I am breathing again and can experience that good feeling that comes after a Yoga class.

I could write twenty pages about this. My "panic first, breathe later" approach to life is exhausting and demoralizing at times; I feel like I've been trying to "solve" this problem for my whole adult life. But, as much as I hate the fact that panic takes up so much of my energy, I can appreciate that it is the entranceway to another really important road that I must travel. It is from the point of panic that I find my way to calm. And there's no better feeling than that.

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