Coyote Campfire

I am NOT supposed to be here

Wildey and I were at Zion Mountain Ranch, leaving the cafe and heading out back to the greenhouse, when my breath started coming short, my chest squeezed. 

“Oh my God, Wildey!” I gasped. “I’m having a complete freak out right now. What’s going on?? What the heck? 

I don’t remember ever having had a panic attack before, but that’s what this felt like it must be. 

Some logical, detached part of me was observing, saying, “Relax. What’s wrong with you, anyway? There’s nothing to be afraid of there, NOTHING!” 

But the entire rest of my system was on high alert. I was FREAKING OUT. 

I grabbed Wildey’s arm, my fingernails digging in.

It felt like every single cell in my body was screaming “I’m NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE!! LOOK OUT!! BE CAREFUL!!” 

But there is NOTHING GOING ON. What IS this?? 

“Help me!” I gasped.

Wildey was great. He stopped on a dime and just stood there with me. Just stood. He was incredibly calm. Somehow something in me saw that or felt it and began to calm down a bit. I noticed his breathing – like mine only a little slower. A little more deliberate. Somehow part of me was able to join that, match that pace, and he began to ease me down out of my panic. 

I felt the warm familiar scratchiness of his fur, smelled his friendly musky smell, and took a deeper breath. 

“Woah, there,” he murmured. “Woah there. That’s right. It’s OK. Yes. There you go.” 

And we eased down together.

“What the heck just happened?” He was looking deep into my eyes, studying my face.

We were sitting in the greenhouse now, and I was coming back into my body.

I’ve made friends with a young woman who serves in the cafe up here, and since she’s about to leave for the season I came up this morning to have a pancake and see her off. Wildey came along for the ride. 

I was telling her about the writing I am doing, and how I’m enjoying finding new spots to sit and write. She suggested that I go check out their greenhouse. They’ve set it up nicely, with tables so their guests can spend time there.

And now here I am, in this beautiful peaceful space, barely starting to breathe again. No longer in utter panic, but still on high alert.

Wildey looked at me with his eyebrows raised, and asked, “Do you know what that was?”

“Wow. I don’t know. But let me see how it feels. I closed my eyes and felt into it, the way he’d taught me. Asking and listening to my feelings.

“OK. I can feel what’s triggered: panic about not belonging here. It came up, at all layers of my being. It was like I could see it. I mean, here as in this greenhouse, but also here as in: here on earth. In the Universe. And everywhere between.

“This feels familiar, although it’s bigger than it’s ever been. It’s a feeling I recognize: what it felt like simply having to drive past someone’s house, to leave my driveway. To be in a restaurant I haven’t been in. This panic that I will be questioned, attacked, threatened, dismissed? 

Yep, I thought, that’s what that was. My “Danger, Will Robbins, Danger!!” part.


I thought about it for a sec. I looked at Wildey.

“Why am I having a total existential crisis right here, in this wonderful beautiful safe place where I have been welcomed and invited? What is THAT?”

He waited, knowing this was a question I was asking myself.

I sat quietly for a bit, realizing that that’s the thing. That’s the problem. Had I really been ‘welcomed and invited?’ There was a part of me that knew that I had not been invited, not really, not by the owner. I had been invited by my friend Charity, but I wasn’t sure about her authority. I just wasn’t sure. Did she have the authority to invite me, to grant me permission to be here?

And part of me knows that unless she does, the real ‘authority’ could come at any time and blast me out of here.

As I sit here, feeling my panic subside to about a four to five…maybe still a six, I begin to see it. I begin to see that this is actually about a lifelong dance with punishing authority. 

It helps me so much that I’m not alone. That Wildey is sitting across the table, watching me feel this through. Being present with me, as I feel through this thing that is SO BIG in my life: 

This unreasoning fear I have carried, that the world could well explode at any moment, without warning. This is the reality I am sitting in, here in the greenhouse at ZMR. 

This beautiful peace could explode at any moment, without warning.

I could feel so many layers to this panic: 

The knowledge, based on experience, that taking a person up on an offer could easily result in them exploding, with the feeling of a bomb going off, and the world, as I knew it, ending.

The fear, instilled in me under my desk during that nuclear drill, that the world might be blown up at any moment.

I saw Wildey watching me as my thoughts began to sort themselves out. As I began to feel like I was coming back into my body.

As I became able to ask myself, What can I do now?

The answer came easily. 

“Just continue” 

Notice. Breathe. Notice that I’m OK. I’m safe. 

So I focused on noticing. I noticed my body opening a little, noticed myself supporting my body being able to relax, calming it with my presence. My presence of mind, noticing that this situation seems OK. It appears and feels safe at this moment. 

“We are safe here together.” my mind seemed to say to my animal.

So I sat in the recurring waves of panic and reassurance, panic and reassurance. The animal panic came, and my mind reassured it. “It’s OK. Notice. We are still safe here together.”

OK. A little more relaxation. Which brought a spike of fear. Wait, was that from my mind? I didn’t know any more. What is my mind, what is my animal? I don’t know. But I can stay with it all. I just keep noticing.

It’s OK. Even here. Even here. 

We. Are. Still. OK. It’s all still OK.

Now a man has walked into the greenhouse. He obviously belongs here.

I breathe, feel myself holding the reins on the remains of my panic, and smile at him. “Are you the owner?”

 “No, but I did build this building. I take care of these plants, the greenhouse.” 

We talked a bit about the greenhouse, the hydroponic setup, his family, my family. I let him know I had been invited by Charity, and that I love and am grateful for the space. We had a nice conversation, his name is Brian. Now he’s moving around the greenhouse, doing his work. 

“Let me know if I’m in your way, OK?”

“Oh, no, you’re fine. I’m glad you’re here. I love seeing the space used.”

I can still feel the alertness in my system. It’s taking awhile for the panic to subside, my animal is not yet ready to curl up and take a nap, or even completely relax. But that’s OK. I can keep writing, keep being OK, I can feel my mind deliberately supporting my animal to stay open. 

I look over at Wildey. He’s watching me closely, smiling in encouragement.

And I get it. I get it. This is what he’s been talking about. My animal being. My bodily responses. I feel it. I am an animal. I was not thinking about panicking, not witnessing the panic from my disembodied thinking mind. I was inside the panic. Now I’m coming out. Different, for having him here helping me understand at an entirely new level. I am an animal. My animal feels things. My animal lives in a very different way than my mind does. My animal lives in a different world.

I can feel this physiologically, in my cells. I can feel my body holding things open. I can feel the willingness of my blood vessels and capillaries to hold themselves open, I can feel them choosing to be open even when their impulse at this moment is to contract. And I can see the impulse to contract is because my mind itself freaked out. Which came first, my thinking freaking out, or my animal response?

I don’t WANT to contract, it’s just the pattern. The habit. The almost reptilian feeling impulse: “In this circumstance, contract.”

I can feel that what I want is to be able to trust. I want to instill a new impulse:

Stay open.

But my mind and my animal are both clear: 

Trust is not a given. It depends. Are we OK here? We don’t know.

There are situations in which I am NOT safe, being in an unfamiliar place, setting up my computer to write. So I’m feeling into this space, sniffing out nuances, making note of what the distinctions are.  

I can feel my mind and my animal looking at it together, feeling it, asking each other, “What makes this situation different? Can we trust, here? What do I know? What do you feel? What’ll we do?”

I start to see the nuances.

There are definitely places where I do not belong, places that are not mine, places where I don’t have permission, where if I move as if I do own it, I’m acting entitled to something I have not earned or been offered.

There are places where while I may belong, I am not really safe, because the people I am around lack awareness of their own willingness to attack. They may not realize that their actions are attacks. 

So as I sit here practicing with Brian…going into my writing and losing awareness of him, looking up, noticing, speaking a little more, re-triggering the feelings of panic and helping them, supporting them to subside again…I can feel very intimately how this somewhat unconscious but methodical re-triggering and helping them subside is knitting it all together, healing a deep old trauma, so I can consciously deepen the process of feeling safe in this greenhouse I don’t own, with Brian who doesn’t own it either – but does, in his own way.

Brian is impressing me. He has very attractive energy. He’s about the nicest, gentlest human you can imagine. I bet he would be amazed at what I’m writing. And yet, something in me, as I write that, laughs and says – remember what you teach, Darling. You and Brian are mirrors for one another. Look at how he looks – does it not seem like he was as filled with trepidation as you, when he entered the room? Did he not look, as you look back over it, like he wasn’t sure if he should be here, wasn’t sure if he was disturbing you, wasn’t sure who you were in relation to him, this place, this circumstance? Didn’t it appear that he was aware he was entering a space that you had, in your presence, claimed ownership of, and he was the imposter, the interloper, the one who needed to feel his way in, to stay safe?

Can you not see how you, in fact, were the first to reassure him, as he walked in, because you looked up and smiled with the intention of being kind, connecting? Who knows where his thoughts were, when he walked in. Maybe he needed connection as much as you, maybe he was dealing with his own questions and fears about belonging. Who knows.

But the thing is, here and now, you did it. You both did it. You stayed open, you connected, you turned a situation of uncertainty and even panic into one of connection and sharing.

He’s closer now, working on the bolted lettuce, getting ready to take it to the rabbits. I can feel the panic rising as our energetic bodies are closer. And it’s OK. I’m helping myself be OK. I’m helping my animal be OK, and my animal is responding with trust. 

This makes me feel really, really good. In this moment, my animal is trusting me enough to stay open. It’s willing to follow my ideas, because it now knows I’m determined to listen to its fears and help it change the patterns we developed together over the course of all time.

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