New Perspectives on Anxiety

I woke up feeling a little anxious. I'd gone to sleep in a worried state of mind about my website, of all things. I'm in the process of re-writing a lot of the content to better reflect how I see my work following the profound shifts and insights I've had over the last year. However, I've been in that process for months because the insights just keep coming and part of me senses that I simply need to wait.

But there's that part of me that's hooked by the drama out there. The "need" to have a perfect website, with perfect copy and perfect photos. And when I get hooked into that drama, not having my website up to date feels like possibly the most important thing in my world. 

And the more I get hooked, the more anxious I feel.

So I woke up feeling a little anxious. Feeling as though I absolutely must, finally, today, figure out the website.

And then as I walked into the bathroom, I remembered:

No, my website isn't causing me any anxiety, but my thinking about it in this moment is. I'm feeling my thinking in the moment. And although the anxious feeling didn't disappear immediately, it lost its grip as I moved behind it and saw that my anxiety was a collection of thoughts about a situation that was also a collection of thoughts.

Many people write and tell me they suffer from anxiety or tell me they're an anxious person. And I absolutely feel the limitation and suffering involved in that because "being anxious" is something I told myself for years too. But the beautiful, wonderful thing I see now is that the only thing any of us are ever suffering from is our thinking in this moment.

I wake up one morning and feel anxious. I take note of that feeling and recognise it's uncomfortable. I also have a sense of it not being a "good" or "right" thing to feel so I generate more thinking that says I should try and stop feeling anxious. This seems to do nothing but make me feel more anxious. 

Before long, I've had a thought that anxiety is now part of my life and part of who I am. Next time the anxious feeling comes back I use it as proof and I create a belief about who I am out of what was nothing more than a feeling coming from some thinking in a particular moment.

Now I walk around with the story of myself as an anxious person. Now I'm someone who suffers from anxiety. And that story limits and affects my life in all sorts of ways. I also believe I have a problem I need to fix. Or worse, I believe I need to fix myself, since I've decided anxiety is who I am.

But imagine for a moment the ocean on a stormy day. The waves are crashing and rolling. They rise up and collapse again in great mountains of spray and deafening smacks.

And yet travel down beneath those waves and you'll find stillness. The further down you go, the more you experience a calm, peaceful ocean that lives and goes on unaffected by the waves rolling around up there.

And so it is with you.

In every moment, no matter what surface level disruption appears to be going on in your life, there exists a deep ocean of calm beneath. This peaceful stillness is always with you. In fact, it's your very nature. It's who you are. It can't be removed, broken or damaged and there are no human beings made without it. 

Your anxiety is the storm of your current thinking. It's here so we must accept it. Would we expect the ocean to reject a stormy wave? How could it, even if it wanted to? So the ocean embraces it all, knowing that sooner or later the storm will pass, leaving it free to experience more deeply its innate peace and stillness which is always just below the surface.

You're not an anxious person any more than the ocean is a stormy wave. Anxiety is just one more thing you get to experience from time to time as a human being. And as you begin to see and raise your awareness that the anxiety you feel is coming from you thinking in the moment, you can allow it to be there without it being the problem it was before. Because now it's not something you need to fix or get rid of, it's just a passing storm that's part of your experience. You can literally feel the anxiety that's happening right now and at the very same time know that you're totally ok.

And the more you remember this and sit behind the anxiety whilst the anxiety is going on, knowing that the deep ocean of calm and stillness is right there where it's always been, you'll find that over time, without you having to "do" anything at all to rid yourself of anxiety, you actually start to experience it less of the time.

The most profound, life changing shifts are often so imperceptible we can't even say what's happened. We just wake up one morning and notice how life feels different.

 Love and courage,

Leah