Mindfulness for Anxiety
6th August 2020
Anxiety, is it true or false?
We all get anxious, but very few of us know what it is and how to deal with it. I find that anxiety is one of the main reasons people come along and try meditation - and they hope it will just go away. However, anxiety has many causes, though the experience of anxiety itself is similar and recognisable irrespective of the cause.
Anxiety has a bad press and I can see how and why that is. To simplify things here there are two types of anxiety, false anxiety and true anxiety.
Without what I call true anxiety we wouldn’t be here and surviving as we are.
It is worth saying before moving on that we get anxious primarily for existential reasons. Why are we here? What’s the point of life if we are going to die? We know we can get ill at any time, and that everybody we love can be snatched away in the bliink of an eye. This knowing makes us unsettled and anxious. No matter how much we explore the more surface issues of anxiety that anxious quiver of being will remain. In fact this kind of anxiety is a wake up call. It is a stirring as we wake from the sleep of self centred-ness and delusion. If we have the courage to listen and to act on the stirring then the greatest “journey’ of our life awaits us. It is a journey of a million miles without moving a single step.
This is a fascinating and far reaching investigation into life, and it this very theme we cover on every one of our mindfulness courses and retreats. In fact exploring this very issue with others is my life’s project.
I have inserted and adapted a chapter on Mindfulness for anxiety from my Book, A Mindful Life, Who’s this in the shower with me? How to get out of your head and start living.
From A Mindful Life
For a few years I used to feel anxious every autumn, mostly I used to just pretend it wasn’t there and try to ignore it, as is my way. If something needs doing I tend to put it off until tomorrow. However, the anxiety was trying to tell me something. It was knocking on the door saying, Suryacitta, you need to do your tax returns before it is too late. At some point when they couldn't be put off any longer I would do the tax returns and the anxiety would be replaced by relief.
The problem being is that I am not very good at sums and accounts, but in the end, I managed to do them. Now it is much easier as our excellent and very helpful accountant does them. Thank the universe for accountants. The anxiety I was experiencing is what I would call true anxiety. It has a purpose and is trying to help me. It makes me feel uncomfortable so that I will act. Very wise when you think about it.
However, there is a big difference between true anxiety mentioned above and what I would call false anxiety. Let’s look a little more closely. True anxiety has its source in the external world, or to be more accurate, in reality. I really did need to get the accounts done, if not then I would face the consequences. With true anxiety we can do something, we can act then the anxiety can diminish. This sort of anxiety is actually our wisdom letting us know something. False anxiety has its source not in reality, but in our head. It is created by the spinning thoughts which go round and round.
We can so easily go into false anxiety. We may get a phone call, or hear a rumour that we may lose our job. There is an external factor here but what we do is go into over thinking. “I’ll never get another job, that’s it my career is ended.” Or, “How on earth will I manage, nobody is going to give me another job, I can't stand this, it is a nightmare.” We spin, spin, spin. This is the second dagger I have written about previously. The first dagger is the phone call or the rumour, the second dagger is our story line about it. It is out of control and we believe all our thoughts.
We need to get out of our thoughts and into reality. It may be that you are going to lose your job, but all this over thinking is tortuous. All this spinning about our predicament is very different from sitting down and reflecting on the situation. I am not going to say you will feel good about the whole thing but at least you will not be using the second dagger. The second dagger is always done with our unconscious thinking, our spinning. When we come out of the spinning head, which just creates more anxiety we can then see more clearly. We can think and reflect about the best way forward.
On a webinar, recently a woman realised that underneath all her thinking was a low-level anxiety in her being, which is more related to her existential situation. But all the thinking kept her from noticing this. She was able to experience this anxious sensation in her body and to ‘listen’ to it. Be attentive to it.”
So we need mindfulness for anxiety, just as we need mindfulness for stress, mindfulness for fear, and mindfulness for addictions, and so on. What I mean is we need to use awareness or the faculty of mindfulness to help us see what is really going on and to know the difference between false anxiety and true anxiety.
Our workshops on anxiety are an excellent resource.
Tagged as: Anxiety
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