Stress, Worry and Anxiety
Are you a worrier? Did you sit for a while after my last post thinking about Ayrton Senna? Maybe you got excited about the potential, about the fact you too might get to a place where you travel through life, feeling deeply connected to everything, observing and creating at will.
“Many athletes have commented that they experience times when they drop into a zone where their mind goes quiet, everything slows down and they operate from a knowingness that comes from some place deep within.”
Perhaps your mind started to think that it would not be possible for you. Years ago I would often wonder about that “State of Nirvana”, so intriguingly described in so many books. From what I could tell, enlightenment was something reserved for those brave enough to step out of life and into a mountainside monastery to meditate all day for 30 years. In normal western life I guessed there would be the odd enlightened being and then everyone else at different stages but very few getting there.
I used to worry about that. Perhaps your mind did that too. Perhaps your mind made a decision that such a thing in this modern world is unnecessary, or too far-fetched or perhaps something that has been surpassed by our astounding technology. Or perhaps your mind just thought it to be impractical. One thing I have learned is that when the potential for enlightenment arises, minds take off in all sorts of directions. It is an impending “game over” for the mind.
Some experts say that the two things people desire most are happiness and peace of mind. Interesting. I guess I would agree with that. Prior to some substantial learning many years ago, I would have thought that having enough money would give me peace of mind and that being able to do all the things I enjoyed at my whim would have made me happy. But then I kept meeting people who had all of that, and they were not happy, and they had a stressed mind. There is a clue.
Stress is an interesting thing and we could discuss it forever, probably until we got completely lost in concepts and ended up in an argument. If that was not so true it would be funny. Perhaps it still is funny.
Most stress management programs focus on the symptoms of stress and techniques for relieving those symptoms. That is ok. But where does the stress come from?
The delusion is that it is coming from the world. Something out there is happening and it is causing us to feel stressed. Now I agree that there is the odd event that will cause us to create a stress response, like the sudden death of a loved one. But the rest, perhaps not so.
Let’s take an example. Before you think I am a car nut, please forgive my analogies. I don’t even own a car. But let’s just say you and I are standing on a street corner and we witness a terrible accident in which a person dies.
By the time others arrive at the scene, I am lying in the foetal position in the gutter sobbing because of what I just saw. You on the other hand are excitedly telling people about how amazing it was to see the engine of the Mercedes drop onto the road on impact and go under the car instead of through it. You are blown away by the genius of the engineering.
Same event – two completely different responses. So where did my high stress response come from? Was it the event, or was it the way I viewed the event?
Perhaps stress comes from a person’s viewpoint about something as opposed to the thing itself.
For most of us, our viewpoints are on automatic. They land so fast on a person, thing, situation or event that we never even inspect them. In our universe, they are truth. Something happens and we have a certain response and as far as we are concerned it is a rational response because it is aligned with what we know to be true. But it is just a viewpoint. When you look, you will realise there are many alternative viewpoints for every situation.
Harry Palmer once stated, “Without the awareness of an awakened spirit, the minds of kings and the minds of beggars are swayed by circumstance and random events.”
This is where psychology and many other practices fall short. The challenge is to get in behind the mind and begin to sort it out from a viewpoint beyond the mind. Trying to sort your mind out by using your mind is like putting Dracula in charge of the Blood Bank. It will spin into a loop and nothing will change.
Understanding how your consciousness works is an important and significant step that one can take to achieving the freedom and peace of enlightenment. As you explore, you will notice how your attention behaves and you will also notice how much “stuff” has been stored in your consciousness. And, you will notice how those things get triggered and set things in motion. There is a wonderful world of desires and resistances, reactions and responses and urges and denials that govern our consciousness. Our mind is operating in response to all of this stuff all the time. It can be pretty wild.
Incessant thinking is a classic case. It arises out of a confusion between old events and current events, integrity factors, unhelpful beliefs and resistances. It can become so intense that it will keep a person awake all night. It will feel that it was the “event that happened today” that set the mind off, but in reality, the event was just a reminder of something uncomfortable.
Each thought has the potential to trigger a physical response. Some psychologists estimate that the average person has over 25,000 thoughts per day and most were the same as yesterday. Further, most of those thoughts are junk and useless. Yet, we respond to them and they keep us locked up in and fully identified with our minds.
From all of this thinking, we have a tendency to create other unhelpful things like relationship or family dramas, health challenges and unhappiness. This thinking can spiral down into worry and even anxiety. But over what? Most of the time it is over something that has been imagined.
How is your mind – really? It seems that in our world, the best we seem to be able to do is to manage the mind. And if we can’t do that there is always alcohol, anti-depressants or some other drug to get us through.
Do you have clients who are struggling with a mind that is out of control? How do you help them with that, to give them the tools and skills to fully integrate their minds so they too can achieve peace and happiness?
The solution though lies in integrating the mind and that cannot be successfully done without first understanding attention.