If you are like me, you worry about paying bills, getting to work on time, or what new outfit Kim Kardashian will have on today (I wonder if the Buddha was ever sarcastic?). This isn’t the type of anxiety I want to discuss in this article.
What Is Anxiety?
It’s important to first define anxiety, because the word has so many different ideas attached to it in everyday use. Anxiety is an emotion with these qualities:
- a feeling of unease
Anxiety That Doesn’t Quit
Because the definition of anxiety can be applied so broadly, I’m narrowing it down to the most pervasive instance that affects the majority of us.
That form of anxiety is the one felt by just waking up in the morning.
You know what I’m talking about. Those mornings you wake up, and although nothing “bad” has occurred yet, your mind starts telling you something’s just not right. Sometimes, it gets specific and comes to the surface and tells you you’re not good enough or you’re too fat/skinny, but usually it resides as an undercurrent of feeling that negatively colors your day.
Throughout history, humans have always been tribal and competitive. However, as an unfortunate side effect of modern society’s external nature, we find ourselves constantly judging ourselves and others by what life looks like on the outside (materialism).
We have lost our way to the internal world within, where our true self resides. This is where the vehicle of meditation can be applied and deliver us back to the internal self.
Constant competition and drive for material success, when unchecked without a counterweight, is one of the biggest culprits of anxiety. We have been conditioned as little children to be “ambitious” and constantly thinking about the future, so we don’t know how to be present and satisfied in the moment.
Even if something wonderful is happening, we are anxious to get to the next thing. We don’t know what it feels like to savor the Now, the present.
Let’s go a little deeper with anxiety . . .
When it comes to feeling accomplished or satisfied, the external “person” is always insufficient.
Certainly, you can have a fleeting moment of satisfaction after accomplishing a goal, but then that quickly fades, and you need a new goal to become satisfied again. Almost sounds a little like drug use doesn’t it? If you’re only conscious of the external world, this repetitive pattern typically becomes emotionally/energetically draining.
You then apply the readily available, external feel-good remedies to alleviate the internal discomfort. In our culture, we are trained to take a drink, pill, or binge on TV to feel better. Comfort food and meaningless sex also serve as powerful means to escape our internal unease momentarily.
Those things in moderation and used to accentuate life can be useful and healthy. But when used as a crutch, they’re certainly not a long-term solution to deep internal matters that require spiritual interventions (e.g. self-compassion, loving friendships, service work, meditation, etc.).
If your sense of self is confined to your identity, or who you think you are, you can’t be satisfied for very long. You get moments, but again, they’re brief. For some people, it’s very pronounced; for others, it’s in the background.
This is a feeling of “something is still not right, something is still missing in my life.”
You may try other relationships and other places to live, or new jobs, new clothes, new friends, and new activities. Sooner or later, you return to the familiar place of “this isn’t right, either.”
You may be asking yourself, “What am I really meant to do? Who am I really meant to be?”
It’s never “here,” because you never feel at “Home” … you’re not deep enough in the present moment, the inner stillness that lies within, to feel safe and exhilarated at the same time.
There is no new car, sexy outfit, hot date, mixed drink, or pain med that can fix this perpetual yearning and unease. There is no external solution. Look around: people of fame and riches have means and unlimited access to multiple forms of excitement/highs/rewards, and they are still just as vulnerable to feeling empty as you or me.
How to Deal With Anxiety
Many of you have written to me about not getting quality sleep or having enough energy, and you’re feeling frustrated and restless much of the time. At the root of these things is a deep, persistent anxiety, but how should you deal with this beyond numbing yourself out?
There’s only an internal solution to an internal problem, and the solution to modern living is mindful living.
You start by coming Home to the present moment. To the Now.
Drop down beyond the mental-emotional accumulations that you confuse with who you are.
How? Mindfulness practices.
The most potent one is meditation. If practiced consistently over a period of time, you will feel relief descend down upon your soul. This is professional grade, sustaining inner peace and feel-good.
Like anything worth having, you have to put some time into this. But it’s not much, and the return on investment is x100, compounding, and cascading.
Also, be sure to revisit these: Suggestions to positively affect your mood and energy.
As you practice meditation daily, you will be able to drop down into be-ing as described:
Imagine a ripple (you) on the surface of the Pacific Ocean stops thinking it’s just a ripple and senses its own depth. Suddenly, the ripple feels at one with the depth of the ocean, but also feels at one with every other ripple (people) it sees on the surface ocean . . . it senses its connectedness with its fellow ripples and the totality with the One. It therefore recognizes every other ripple as an expression of that, and then for the first time, it becomes comfortable with other ripples (people) and at ease.
Practicing meditation instinctually builds a bridge between the socially constructed sense of self that caters to your ego and your authentic self that resides deep within.