As a sensitive human being, it is natural to experience waves of anxiety from time to time. This word ‘anxiety’ has come to be associated with something deeply problematic, unworkable, invalid, and certainly ‘unspiritual.’ It can be helpful, when you are triggered or caught in a surging of disturbing feelings, to return into the body and allow the word ‘anxiety’ to fall away. Something very alive is occurring – and is requesting a moment of intimate awareness.
There is no ongoing, solid, continuous ‘thing’ called anxiety that is happening ‘to’ you. If you go into your present, embodied experience, you will not find ‘anxiety’ actually. At the somatic level, ‘anxiety’ is merely a concept, pointing to a very unique, alive, unprecedented arrangement of physical sensation, emotion, and conceptual narrative.
Once you connect in a very direct way with what is actually happening – instead of with your interpretation of what is happening – you may start to sense that continuing to claim you are ‘suffering from anxiety’ is in a subtle way an act of self-abandonment.
Asking Yourself the Big Questions about Anxiety
Yes, the experience of anxiety can be quite disturbing, can trigger survival-level panic, and can feel quite icky. But if you slow down and return to the here and now, you can make contact with and even practice a certain kind of intimate holding toward the actual sensations, emotions, and storylines that are present. And discover for yourself if they are in fact harming you, if your survival is actually at risk, and if you are ready to take care of yourself in a new way.
Oh, by the way, anxiety is not very ‘spiritual,’ is it? I mean, what about being in the now, loving what is, being grateful for everything that comes, staying in a ‘high vibration,’ accepting the moment, laws of attraction, and all of that? What if others actually knew that you experienced anxiety from time to time? Especially your spiritual friends. Or students. Or clients. Or new partner. What would they think?
What conclusions have you come to about all this? To what degree do you truly believe that love has a bias as to whether anxiety happens to come and go in the vast field of presence? Or that waves of anxiety are evidence that you have failed… as a lover, as a friend, as a spiritual person? It can be helpful to ask these questions and see what you discover.
Being Kind to Your Anxiety
It is so easy to dismiss anxiety, to conclude that its presence is clear evidence that something is wrong with you, that you are flawed, that you have failed in some way, and that you must urgently do something about it all. It is here that the project of ‘fixing me’ is birthed, and you know the result of that one. Dare to consider that you are not broken simply because waves of sensation, emotion, and narrative are surging in and out of your tender nervous system.
What if anxiety were a very legitimate and valid experience, in fact a harbinger of integration? What if it were not an obstacle to your path, but the very path itself? A very challenging and fierce portal into the reality of how open, raw, groundless, and tender it truly is here?
Perhaps the freedom and the aliveness you are longing for will never be realized by way of some sort of dramatic project of understanding, transforming, and ‘healing’ your anxiety, but rather by entering into intimate relationship with it. By practicing kindness toward it and making a commitment to no longer abandoning yourself and the aliveness of immediate experience.
An Invitation into the Sacred World
What if anxiety was a messenger sent by some part of you that was longing to be met, to finally be brought out of the dark and back into the light of your awareness?
What have you abandoned in yourself? Turned from out of unmet shame, grief, disappointment, or fear?
Something is appearing at the door of your heart. What is it?
While it may appear that it is knocking from the outside, get curious and look again. Maybe the waves of sensation, emotion, and narrative are special invitations into the sacred world. And perhaps the kindest act of self-care and self-love is to finally slow down, and see.
Love this! Staying in the present moment.
Present = a gift ?
I kind of thought that the reference in the article to ‘what if people found out you suffered from anxiety’, to be very passive/aggressive. So if a spiritual person got the flu, and other people found out? Would that be okay? Is that to say that a person, especially a ‘spiritual’ person, should be embarrassed to suffer from an anxiety disorder. By the way, panic/anxiety attacks do not always happen under stressful conditions! They can happen in perfectly happy and comfortable situations. The ability to lie down and meditate on it is not available to someone in a public situation. Anxiety attacks can take days to peak, or can come on suddenly. It makes me sad to see that a ‘spiritual’ author uses passive/aggressive statements to shame someone over a real disorder. Obviously, this person has zero experience or knowledge on a real life problem for some people. There can be nothing worse than being painted a failure over being unable to use your spiritually to cure yourself. How do you know that not recovering from anxiety is a failure or should be embarrassing to the suffering? It only serves to make the condition worse. That attitude needs a paradigm shift. Thank you for listening.
Really good points of view, also for people with panic sensations. Anxiety is not a “disorder”. The health care system has taught us to wrong anything that disturbs what is considered “normal”. The right question tho is, what is RIGHT with the anxiety that you sense that you aren’t getting?
I agree that with anxiety it has a lot to do with what relationship you have with anxiety, to befriend it, to grow in your self-knowledge in-between the rougher times. Also to look into the bio chemistry of your body to balance up with important minerals + vitamin B, zinc strengthen the nerve endings so you can tolerate stress better, and to also work with the electricity of the body through earthing barefoot or get one of those earthing products; it calms the nervous system effectively and builds it up to super strong in time.
A few weeks ago, I might have also said you were wrong but then I had one of the most profound experiences of my life because of an anxiety attack. Like RedMaple says below, it was ‘crippling’ and everytime it happens like that I think it’s the worst I’ve ever had. Panic feeds panic naturally and I let the anxiety win, engulfing me for days. But this time was different. I was so desperate and almost angry at the anxiety and it just overcame me that I could control this. I realised anxiety was just a feeling my body (something between the aching ball in my solar plexus and chemicals in my brain) was doing and that I had the great gift of being able to control it. I lay down and put on some binaural meditation song on off YouTube (apparently good for anxiety and sleeping/releasing dmt but I had never really let myself believe it before now). And for RedMaple below I want you to know that when I did this I was crying and holding my stomach in pain from the anxiety but something told me I could beat this. I lay down, held both hands on the aching ball of anxiety in my stomach (it was literally on fire it was that tense) closed my eyes and breathed. It took a while but I breathed into the anxiety and explored it. Really let it take grip of me and still explored it. After a while, It was like I was the most conscious I’ve ever been because I realised I myself wasn’t scared just my body/brain was. Then this enveloping warmth came over me, a cosy pure sense of relief that I lay in for a while exploring not just the anxiety but the whole world around me in a calm, beautiful way. It was at that moment I felt elated because I realised that anxiety had a limit. All anxiety has a limit. It can’t kill you and even if it did it would just turn into relief (that warm enveloping relief). It helped me get over my big anxieties (not just this attack that was over nothing). I can’t explain in words the place that I went to in that moment but for me it was a place I think most people try to reach when they meditate. Well I had mediated and managed to stop my brain firing off flight or fight chemicals in overload. It was contentness. You are not your anxiety. In fact you aren’t any of your feelings, you just get lost in them (sometimes they’re amazing and sometimes they are as horrid as anxiety) but you can remove yourself from it. I count myself extremely lucky that I experienced what I did and so now I have something to thank the anxiety for. I feel more aware of myself and less afraid of life.
P.s People say anxiety is an evolutionary thing we needed to tell us to run from things/keep safe that we still have primatively with us and it can go into over drive. But I now think it’s also a tool we have kept with us to help us access a spiritual level. I hope some day scientists are able to make the connection. I think becsuse it’s scary we avoid exploring it but it can be something amazing.
I don’t think this article is for people with…”severe” disorders (aka mental disorders). I’m sure it could be used…but always best to seek professional help if…well like redmaple comparing serious anxiety to people with diabetes. For all of us that go through worries, stress, constant building up of tension from daily life, rules and beliefs we have built up in our head over time…i think this will help.
I think its really useful, important in fact to consider anxiety from a spiritual perspective, rather than simply labelling the phenomenon as a mental illness.These ideas contribute to a holistic way of looking at anxiety, rather than just through a psychiatric lens.
Thought i was a great article. Many times this has worked FOR ME. Stepping back and looking at myself while anxious asking myself…what is really wrong? what am i trying to control or….what do i think SHOULD BE different. Again, it’s worked many times for me…other times it hasn’t…are just the times i could not bring myself OUT the anxiety (was just taking over). I understand the other comment about mental disorders and “crippling” anxiety. I can understand that….maybe this just works for…some cases. For me…it does work. (not 100% though…come on).
Absolutely dead wrong! Who ever wrote this article has never experienced the same crippling anxiety that those with this disorder have. This is belittling to many who experience severe anxiety. This is like saying that when a diabetic is crashing due to the physical imbalance of insulin in thier body, theyjust need to ‘explore’ thier feelings until they are ok again. This article is without empathy for those who suffer from this mental disorder and so desperately need it in order to recover. Anxiety often needs serious mental health treatment to recover from the disorder. To suggest that they can just ‘seek thier way out into the light’ is dangerous when those who suffer from severe anxiety are unable to do so. People have taken thier Iives from this debilitating and serious mental disorder. Be careful what you publish.