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I Am Afraid to Start

I Am Afraid to Start

(from Brainstorms)

Fearing how the story will end,

I am afraid to start.

Does that ever happen to you?

My mind spins a web of permutations,

Frantic factorizations,

Searching for the right combination,

A Choose Your Own Adventure

That I can’t put down

Until I’ve found the right path,

Only to find that what I was searching for

Wasn’t the holy grail at the end of the journey,

But the courage to begin in the first place.

(Listen to "I Am Afraid to Start)


Over the years, I’ve grown to appreciate these antics of my analytical mind. It’s part of the creativity that goes into both my artistic and intellectual work, but sometimes I can get so caught up in these mental gymnastics that I forget it’s not the whole story.

Yesterday morning, I was sitting outside with my coffee, procrastinating the start of my morning practice. Several years ago, I committed to a daily morning practice as a promise I to myself that the first thing I did each day would be to tune into my body, mind, heart and spirit. Over time, I’ve found simple and short practices that work for me. By now it's become a habit, but some days (like yesterday) I feel pulled in other directions and start bargaining with myself. “Why don’t I just start writing that essay first?” Or, “I should walk the dogs before it gets too hot and do my practice later.” Or, “Maybe I should take a few more pictures of the nest the wrens are building on the back of the house.”

When I finally coaxed myself into my practice, I noticed that my mind quickly went into the weeds of a project I am just beginning to formulate, then to some preparations I need to do for a trip, onto phone calls I needed to make, and all sorts of other details and dramas of my life. I followed the winding trails of thought as they looped and twisted through imagined possibilities and alternatives, weaving in and out of various envisioned futures. Over time I became lost in these streams as they twisted and turned back over each other, wrestling over details, trying to figure out a plan.

I’m not sure when or how things shifted, but at some point in the middle of all these tangled thoughts, I heard a gentle voice say softly, “Let this be bigger than you.”

“But if it’s bigger than me,” I responded, “I’ll never be able to figure it out on my own.”

“Yes,” said the voice, “that’s the whole point.”

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