Anxiety — when experienced with radical fullness — can point to the Path of deep human happiness…
What is it?
So, what is anxiety? It would be astonishing if you didn’t already know, but just for the sake of clarity:
Anxiety is a persistent feeling of worry or apprehensive expectation that can be accompanied (and exacerbated) by an experience of fatigue, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, tension, irritability, and/or difficulty sleeping
This is DEFINITELY not the only way to describe anxiety — but, for a common frame of reference, it is a good starting point.
Anxiety in any of its flavors (performance, social, general, etc.) is not something that can be gotten rid of; and thank goodness for that!
Anxiety keeps us safe: it prepares; it protects; it warns; it second-guesses; it double-checks; it strives to discover problems-in-hiding, then it strives to solve them.
We should all regularly express some gratitude for what anxiety does for us. Without it, we probably wouldn’t even be around anymore… Be that as it may, it is also the source of a lot of exhaustion, doubt, and confusion.
Sometimes problems can contain their on solutions and solutions can become their own problems. This is very certainly true when it comes to something like Anxiety.
Finding the “Path” through anxiety
What do you do when you feel anxious? If you are cringing at your answer, please remember that we all mishandle our emotional responses from time to time — that fact is not much of a surprise if you think about it: our emotions are extremely powerful forces! We all tend to occasionally ruminate on the negative possibilities or doom ourselves with “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts” and “what ifs”.
The trick would be to develop a way of being with anxiety that renders its effects 1) less automatic and 2) less problematic (and, fortunately, there’s no real “trick” to it at all… it is simply a matter of practice and discovery).
To encounter the “Path” within anxiety, we must first gaze into anxiety with the clear eyes of honest self-love:
- What are the “ingredients” of my anxious reactions?
- How do they present themselves?
- What does anxiety look, sound, and feel like?
- How does it behave?
- How do I behave when overwhelmed by it?
- Can I tell when it is in control? How often does that happen?
Answering these types of questions can begin a process of knowing your way straight through the essence of anxiety into the essence of yourself. Questions are a sculptor’s tools: removing all that is not you… pruning it away until what you are left with is the bare space of just yourself (within which stirrings of motion can sometimes take anxious form) — open and welcoming to both the in-pouring and out-pouring of the mind’s variations.
This is the way to begin finding the “Path” within the ordinary experience of anxiety. But humility is what it asks of you: and humility does not obsessively collect and worship the chips and ribbons left over from a sculptor’s act of creation.
The error of surrendering to anxiety —
(submissively or by blind resistance);
The Gift of surrendering through anxiety —
(receptively affirming it to completion).
These are ways to be with anxiety.
Choosing one excludes the other:
One imprisons (through defeat or conflict)…
One liberates into Grace (without remainder).
Anxiety (just like all other states of mind) is sealed by the great mark of blessedness.
The miracle of the Light of Awareness warmly illuminates that which it covers — and we are reminded of this in the cracks between tiresome self-critiques and worry (carefully looked, joyfully found). The subtleties of what we can call “suffering” is extinguished in the gracious flames of Luminous Clarity.
Anxiety is in some way humiliating.
It ruthlessly steals the certainty we think we have about all the circumstances we think we control throughout the life we think we are living. It leaves us feeling bare; naked; unresolved; adrift…
Humbly experienced, however, this humiliation is purifying.
Humility opens space that the Light of our awareness fills-while-emptying — dancing shadows of suffering all snatched away in an unseen shift of changeless Silence.