Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Cure for Anxiety - Part 1

Inner peace is a purely physical phenomenon. Your soul is deep and unaffected by the tempests your ego tosses, but your body is not.

Without doubt, anxiety has its roots in attitudes that you hold, but lots of people have those same attitudes without also engaging in anxiety. So it's wise to focus first on the physical dimension.

Once you learn this simple technique to ratchet down the negative energy you're constantly spewing into your physical being, you will then be free to evaluate the spiritual and emotional bases for this behavior as you desire and at you leisure.

But be ye warned: the resulting peace will give rise to such joy in you, that it cannot help but become a spiritual experience.

Street Cred - I labored with undiagnosed depression from age 11 through 20. This lifted on its own, giving way to anxiety for the next 25 years, at which point I developed this simple method to cure myself. Maybe it will work for you too.

I begin at the end. Maybe you're in a position to put it to work immediately and thereby your suffering will be earlier relieved. We will work backwards from there in this and the next several posts to explain the foundations.

This is the secret - Anxiety is insidious because the tension that causes it is located in one part of your body, but the pain that is caused is located in another part of your body. Which means that you can attempt to relax the location of the pangs (or pain) caused by anxiety all you want. But because it will appear that your anxiety is not relieved by relaxation, it will only cause more anxiety. You will think, observing this situation, "If relaxation will not relieve my anxiety, what can I do?" The problem is, you're focusing your relaxing awareness in the wrong spot.

For me the right spot was in my head, somewhere behind and between my eyes and my jaw. It felt like a thick rubber band was wrapped around the base of my brain. There are no nerve endings in the brain itself, but lots of muscles crisscross in and around this area.

When I took my awareness off of my gut - which is where I have always felt the pangs of anxiety, one particular spot, sometimes intense, sometimes mild but always there - and focused it on this point inside my skull, I felt like I'd been given the keys to the kingdom. How, after so many years, I came to associate the two I don't know. Neither do I know how it took me so long to put the two together. It seems so simple in hindsight.

My first exposure to the power of awareness came from the books of Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment and A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose (Oprah's Book Club, Selection 61), both of which I ├╝ber-recommend.
In a passage from A New Earth titled Presence," Tolle writes about a woman who had a heavy pain-body (we will talk in detail about this later) due to growing up with a physically abusive father.

Tolle writes: "I directed the focus of her attention to what she was feeling inside her body and asked her to sense the emotion directly, instead of through the filter or her unhappy thoughts, her unhappy story."

When, with some coaxing, the woman did as Tolle asked, she said, "This is weird. I'm still unhappy, but now there is space around it. It seems to matter less."
Tolle's analysis: "[T]he moment she put her attention on it directly without trying to resist it, it could no longer control her thinking . . . Another dimension had come into her life . . . the dimension of Presence."
You can do the same thing with anxiety. Reduce it to the physical sensations it's causing right now inside your body. This will enable you to dis-identify from the symptoms of anxiety (i.e. you will no longer say:"I am a person who suffers from anxiety"), breaking its grip over you.
Begin to bring presence into your body and into your life generally - as often as you remember to - and watch your life change (more on this as we progress). But recall the secret mentioned above. If you are like me and you feel anxiety in a particular place, its source may be elsewhere. Find that place and focus your attention there.
Also very effective, don't focus your awareness on any one spot in your body. Instead, feel the energy in all parts of your body at once. This will reverse the charge on the anxiousness from negative to positive and then draw it out to all parts of your body. (More on this later too.)

Each time you feel a pang of anxiety or worry, use it as a reminder to bring yourself back to present moment awareness. This will sprinkle presence throughout your day. Anxiety is about fear of the future. It can't survive in the Now.

Anxiety may not dissipate all at once for 4 reasons:
  1. Pain-Body - It may take some time for the light of your presence to dissolve your pain-body, especially if it is particularly dense (as mine was; see The Pain-Body).
  2. Lack of Presence - You may at first spend little (though hopefully increasing) time in the present moment.
  3. Secret Source Clinched - That secret source of anxiety spends more time clinched than you at first recognize.
  4. Anxious Thoughts - Fearful thoughts about the future will likely continue. These thoughts have become so repetitive that your consciousness does not even bother to register them anymore. They go directly from your mind to your body. For now, just be aware that they are there. Awareness is the key to shutting them down. (Also, use affirmations to actively reprogram your subconscious mind.)
I will suggest in a later entry methods to sweep out the negative energy that may accumulate, a burden that will become lighter and lighter with time.
But at this point anxiety no longer has its grip on you. You are beginning to get your grip on it.


Your comments are welcome and helpful to others.

2 comments:

  1. Hi,

    The point that you mention in your head might be the pineal gland, which Decartes called the "seat of the soul".
    The pineal gland is also used in meditation as a focal point inside the head.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Im digging up this post to ask a question. I know you recommend both of Tolle's books (A New Earth & The Power of Now). Which one should I read first? I dont know where to start :)

    My initial goal is to alleviate anxiety, depression and racing thoughts & fears about the future. A little history: My youngest memory of anxiety is age 4/5. Shortly after in childhood I developed obsessions that turned into OCD. My early 20's I had my first experience with clinical depression. I finally got diagnosed and treated in 2011 (at age 37) but the anxiety/depression have resurfaced again..

    Love your blog by the way - Thank you :)

    ReplyDelete

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