Have you found yourself dealing with the grip of anxiety, especially during this time of global concern?
Is it possible that you have been paying attention to a particular mindset of thinking, not just to the pragmatic information we need to know to protect ourselves and others?
Many of us at this time are healthy and cautiously paying attention to the actual steps we can take to protect ourselves and our communities: social distancing, washing our hands for 20 seconds, elbow tapping instead of a handshake, etc. Yet what I notice in myself as well as my friends and family, is the insidious rise of anxiety, as we think about and/or speak with each other when the conversation inevitably turns to our concerns.
Thinking actually creates our experience of life. When we pay attention to thoughts of dread, the body hears that as an actual threat and generates an emotional response appropriate to a dangerous situation. Fear and anxiety surge within us. We may not be aware that this is the process that is happening, but on reflection, perhaps we can notice that our imagination has expanded our circumstances from one of safety with the need for practical preparation to one of imminent danger, without anything actually having changed in our external world.
There are times when I have been quite calm and relaxed, and then as soon as I turn on the news I am bombarded with this imminent global danger. I walk away from the TV visibly shaken, no longer calm but considering my alarmed thinking that I hadn’t known the extent of the danger we are all in!
Here’s the thing. When we are reacting to our thinking about a situation, not dealing with the situation itself, there is no action we can take in the outer world. Were we to be faced with the actual circumstances we are imagining, we would take the appropriate actions necessary to address them. But when I walk away from my tv, in looking around the room – nothing has changed! It is the same room, with everything as it was before I turned on the tv. The only thing that has changed is my thinking about the circumstances. Does it occur to me to take the only action I can to feel safe again: to stop paying attention to my fearful thinking?
Much has been discussed for some time about the benefits of meditation.
The fact is, when we are completely present with our breath, focused on the inbreath and then focused on the outbreath, we cannot think! This gives an automatic reprieve to the influence from the background of thought.
Human beings are hard-wired to be thinking machines. Much of the time we aren’t even aware of the fact that we are thinking, yet the personality is attached to certain perceptions that run in the background, determining our experience of life.
Once we can distinguish that it is our thinking that is creating the anxiety, we have access to a bit of a buffer to choose to step away from paying attention to that thinking. Taking the time to slow down, taking several slow, deep breaths, we can feel our body relaxing. The body is no longer responding to thoughts of danger but is rather connected to the present moment, which resonates only with the frequency of peace and well-being. Then we look around at the very same environment we have been in with anxiety, and have a completely different experience of it – one of ease. It is as if a huge burden has been lifted: the burden of fear.
Whenever the grip of anxiety pulls at you again, notice what thinking you are paying attention to, and see if you can take a step back, take a few deep breaths, paying attention only to the breathing, and allow yourself the reality of the peace of the present moment. Then if a tangible issue arises that needs to be addressed, it can be dealt with from the common sense thinking available by being completely present in the moment.
This is the heart of “Be Here Now”.
Let’s remain free from the suffering born of thinking, while we remain present for solutions to this very real issue.
Pragmatic action arising from wisdom is the most powerful remedy and always available to each one of us.
May you and yours be well and at peace.