“Anxiety is loves greatest killer.”
If it happens to you, you’re not alone. It’s an experience I hear about often and used to color every day of my life. It’s that subtle undercurrent of anxiety that makes you feel ill-at-ease, restless, and on edge.
Do you know this feeling? Maybe you experience it as fear, dread, or just plain discomfort. It causes your mind to spin and fills you with doubt. Left unexamined, it governs your life, making peace seem like an unattainable fantasy.
We are speaking about the primary dis-ease of our modern life.
Have you noticed that we are constantly given messages that lead us to conclude that we need to do more, have more, be more? We live in a culture of lack that reinforces the sense of the inadequate personal self and has us looking to the past and future for fulfillment.
It breeds the toxic “if only” story: if only I were thinner, happier, in a better relationship with a more satisfying job… Taking this on, you believe that:
- Things are not OK as they are are,and
- You are a person who is not good enough.
These identities sit in you like an annoying guest who refuses to leave. No wonder you’re anxious.
What to Do?
What to do with this intense feeling of discomfort?
Analyzing why it’s there will not get to the root of it.
The desire to run from it is understandable, but creates unconscious behavior patterns that don’t serve and leaves you scrambling to fix everything about yourself that appears to be broken.
Just tolerating the feeling leaves you hopelessly anxious, out of sorts, and overrun by obsessive thinking.
What is needed is a radical solution. Because you can’t think your way out of this endless cycle of anxiety and worry.
The Radical Solution
Finding your way out of the discomfort of anxiety asks you to question your assumptions about everything you take to be true.
- What exactly is anxiety?
- What are you doing that sustains it?
- Who is the you who is anxious?
- What needs to happen for you to be peaceful?
Let’s start by establishing that peace is possible; in fact, peace is more available than you could ever imagine. Anxiety? A ship passing through the ocean of you. Realize this by following the trail of breadcrumbs from anxiety to peace.
Pick up the first one by investigating the actual nature of the experience of anxiety, which requires moving your attention away from it so you can take a closer look.
Notice that this is possible – you can be aware of this experience of anxiety and discomfort. Recognize that just with this simple shift of attention from being caught in the web of anxiety to witnessing it, you already feel more spacious.
Now, from this place of being aware, what do you notice? If you are like me, there are swirls of thought forms and various physical sensations in the body. And that is all.
I can get caught up in these thoughts, spending my time analyzing, worrying, and sifting through possibilities and what if’s. But if, just for a second, I stop being consumed in the content of the thinking, I notice two things:
I am aware, and sensations and thoughts are temporarily present in awareness.
Let’s explore further by experimenting.
Engage intently with anxious thoughts. Think them, make them real, and see how more anxious stories immediately spring to life. How do you feel? Probably tense, contracted, worried, and stressed.
Notice physical sensations without paying attention to thoughts. If you don’t create thoughts about the sensations, even by labeling them, there is just the direct experience of the sensation. Is there a problem?
Shift your attention away from thoughts and physical sensations, and just be aware. Is awareness spacious or contracted? Does it have a name, a gender, or an identity? Is it troubled or at peace?
What do we conclude from these experiments? When you unravel what you call anxiety, it loses its power. Anxiety thrives when your attention gets lost in thinking. When you rest as aware presence, you are at peace.
Return to Peace
When you are consumed by anxiety, how to return to yourself?
- Disengage from anxious thoughts
- Let physical sensations be without weaving a story about them
- Notice that you are aware, still, alive, and full, and live here.
Rinse and repeat a thousand times a day, if necessary, as each moment is a moment of peace.
Next time you feel anxious, know that thinking won’t help you. Instead, simplify. Notice you are here, present and aware. Already at peace.
Anxious? Have you found your way to peace? I’d love to hear…