– why you chose this topic
– how your belly, chest, and head each feel when you reflect on this topic
– the emotions that you can associate with these visceral feelings
– the positive or negative impact of any stories you believe in regarding this topic
– the consoling/humbling/inspiring fact that many others are feeling similarly about this topic as you
– how you will feel with increased awareness around this topic
– when you can apply increased mindfulness to this topic in your day-to-day life
More and more people nowadays struggle with anxiety. The suffering that comes from it can be tremendous. Many of us can get so lost in our anxious feelings and thoughts, that anxiety meds can be the only way we have to get through the day.
While we encourage you to get in touch with a trained professional if you feel desperate (please do!), it’s important to keep in mind that medications alone rarely solve all our problems. Whether we seek the guidance of a therapist or decide to approach this on our own, some introspection is required when it comes to transforming anxiety. We need to sit down and, in complete honesty, face ourselves.
How can we do this? We need to bring our focus on our own mental patterns, so that we can start recognizing all the automated processes in our minds that keep recreating the anxiety.
This is where the anxiety is born after all, from our conditioned mental processes. It’s not our doing! We are not responsible for it any more than we are for getting the flu.
Our Transforming Anxiety exercise below will help you shed some light on your mental patterns, so that you can start getting acquainted with how your mind works. By becoming able to see these patterns clearly, you’ll no longer feel trapped and will be free to let them come and go as they please.
Anxiety generally starts as an exacerbated form of worry, accompanied by physical reactions. We might believe that we need to be “prepared for the worst”, so we keep ruminating on what might happen in the future and our body reacts accordingly. In worst cases scenarios, this might evolve into full-blown panic; but even with “simple” anxiety, it might be difficult to see our way out.
Most forms of anxiety come from believing false thoughts. These are created by an exaggerated focus on our past and future – or on how people may perceive us. Having people tell us that we have nothing to worry about surely doesn’t help either… if anything, we may now feel guilty, on top of everything else! So, what’s the best way to approach anxious states?
Although it might feel uncomfortable at first, observing is the most important thing we can do. Because anxiety is generated by automatic patterns in our mind, unless we spend sometimes observing those patterns, we’ll find ourselves inadvertently reinforcing them.
Our Transforming Anxiety meditation below will help you get started in a very simple way.
After you’ve gone through it at least once and have honestly assessed how your mind works, please keep reading. You might find what follows very useful.
Now that you’ve tried our Transforming Anxiety meditation, we want to take you a step further.
You’ve just observed your mental patterns and might have started having some clarity regarding the way your mind works. That’s great. Now consider this: if you can see your mental patterns, how can you be those mental patterns? Surely you can’t... You are the one observing them! As you get familiar with this new perspective, you’ll feel the relief wash through you as you realize that you were never trapped.
Does this mean that they will cease at once? They probably won’t – but with time, you’ll feel less and less caught. Because you won’t be identified with your patterns anymore, you will be able to act as yourself, rather than reacting automatically.
Some forms of anxiety (like the fear of public speaking, or the modern-day anxiety that comes from social media) are strictly related to self-image. We might have a negative image of ourselves, or even feel anxious trying to sustain a positive one in front of the world.
However, whether we are talking about a positive self-image or a negative self-image, that’s all that it ultimately is: an image in our mind. It’s not what we are. We are the ones to whom the image is appearing to.
We will never be perfect humans, but at the same time we can be sure that any image in our mind will never be what we are. We’ll always be the one observing it.
If you feel so inclined, spend some time with this very simple form of enquiry: If you are not the automated patterns in your mind and you are not your image of yourself… then who are you? Can you ever be your anxiety? If you are looking at it… how can you be it?
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Sean Fargo is the Founder of Mindfulness Exercises, a former Buddhist monk of 2 years, a trainer for the mindfulness program born at Google, an Integral Coach from New Ventures West, and an international mindfulness teacher trainer. He can be reached at Sean@MindfulnessExercises.com
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