- What if I don’t have enough money?
- What if my kids aren’t okay?
- What if I don’t get pregnant?
- What if I have cancer?
- What if I don’t love my partner enough and I’m making a terrible mistake?
- What if I don’t have enough friends?
- What if I’m gay?
- What if I’m a pedophile?
- What if I have an STD?
- What if there’s a terrorist attack ?
- What if I’m in the wrong career?
- What if the plane crashes?
How many of these thoughts have you struggled with? And have you found that you can resolve one thought only to find that another pops up in its place? That’s why anxiety is a game of whack-a-mole: if you whack down one mole (thought) without addressing it from the root, another will quickly appear in its place.
We know now that some people’s minds are more prone to anxiety than others. There seems to be a sub-species of humans that easily allows the ups-and-downs of life to roll off their back. I rarely meet one of these people (in fact, I can’t think of a single one at the moment), but I do hear that they exist. They’re usually the partners of people who find their way to my work, the even-keel shore to the tumultuous ocean of the one suffering from relationship anxiety. But for the people who find me, anxiety – also known as worry – has been a thread in the fabric of their psyche for as far back as they can remember.
Before I go any further, I need to remind you that there is a positive side to anxiety. The anxious mind is also the sensitive mind. The anxious mind is often the highly creative mind. Anxiety gets a very bad rap in our culture, and there’s no question that living with high levels of anxiety creates a state of misery. But once we learn to work with anxiety, it transmutes into something quite beautiful. Remember, in other cultures and other times, the highly sensitives, the ones attuned to the nuances of life, were the scouts, the shamans, the gatekeepers to this and other worlds. We held a very honored place in the culture and were often responsible for the physical and spiritual well-being of the tribe. We still hold that place. Anxiety transmuted into awareness becomes our gift that we share with the world around us.
Now, back to the list. If you pare it down, you’ll see that all of these statements share a similar core: the fear of loss. We desperately fear loss because we don’t know how to manage loss. We’re not taught the tools and language of loss, so it always feels like a death. Loss is death, but again, since we’re not taught a framework for walking through death of any kind – literal and metaphoric – imagined loss/death feels like an annihilation of self. In this simplistic sense, anxiety is the fear of loss is the fear of death.
I teach many tools in all of my courses for working with anxiety, but the one that underlies them all is developing an inner anchor point that can help us cut through the fear-mind. The tendency of the fear-mind is to seek reassurance from others when anxiety takes over: to talk, to Google, to research. But we quickly find that reassurance-seeking, while possibly providing temporary relief, doesn’t allay the soul’s need for deep comfort. Only one thing can offer that: the resting place and the still point of our own Self. Some people call this God. Others call it Soul. Others call it guidance or stillness or wisdom. It doesn’t matter what you call it. What matters is that you develop a practice – daily, if possible – for turning toward this place so that you can rely on it when you truly need it.
We all have access to this place. You have tasted it for moments here and there in your life. It lives in you as certain as your own breath. And it’s when we tap into this wellspring that the fear, the chatter, the worry, and the what-ifs fall away and we can exhale deep into the earth, lie our bodies down in the grass or dance them across the field of serenity. In this field, it’s all okay. In this field, we’re able to touch down into our true intuition, the place that holds are own wordless answers, the place beyond “yes” or “no”, the place of is. It just is. It’s just so. And it’s all okay.