How many of us can say we never experience anxiety at some stage of our day? None! We all experience anxiety, particularly if we fulfill multiple roles, have high-pressure jobs or complicated family and social responsibilities.
When I was practicing as a Barrister, I would sometimes be so anxious that it felt like my scalp was literally pushing my hair out of my head. Pretty uncomfortable!
Even now, as a mindfulness trainer and artist my life is far from anxiety-free. The pressures of creating a business from scratch, finding clients, promoting my artwork, managing all the admin, along with the fun of spending time with family and friends and running a household can all combine into anxious moments.
Although we may not consider our anxiety serious enough to warrant a consultation with a professional, it certainly detracts from our peaceful enjoyment of life and left unchecked, might easily lead to a more troubling presentation.
So where does anxiety really come from and what might it be pointing to?
We can split our human concerns into three levels.
Level 1 : Surface
E.g., Worries about a test or a doctor's appointment or work.
Level 2 : Deep
E.g., Worries about whether you are fulfilling your life purpose, are in the right job or with the right partner.
Level 3 : Profound
E.g., Who am I? What is life? What happens when I die?
Perhaps you might notice that, like me, when you worry you tend to focus on levels 1 and 2 (because you have a bit of control here) but what about level 3? How much time do we give to these profound questions?
For most of us, not much, because these BIG questions are pretty much taboo.
We have been socialized to pretend we are fine with the fact that we exist on a revolving rock in an unimaginably vast vacuum, spinning at the speed of light into some unknown future for an unfathomable reason. Unsurprisingly, we're not really fine with it and this pretense has consequences. One of them is anxiety.
Lets now look at how the three levels of anxiety might relate to one another.
If you have discovered your own answers, or at least made peace with your level 3 questions, you will know who you are, what you are about and will likely find work and relationships that align with your purpose, satisfying your level 2 needs. The smaller daily concerns of level 1 then become less challenging and you find you are able to meet them with courage, conviction and dedication, knowing that you are on your path.
On the other hand, if level 3 remains unexamined or taboo, your self-knowledge, values and authenticity will be weak which in turn means that your level 2 needs are unlikely to be met. As a result, your relationships might well be off-kilter, your job unfulfilling and your sense of purpose absent. In this scenario, the small daily challenges at level 1 might appear as insurmountable peaks.
From these two scenarios we might conclude that to experience less anxiety, more joy and an enhanced sense of purpose, we must engage with level 3 first, it being the foundation of self-awareness.
In my own life, it wasn't until I spent time working with my teacher, really entering into these BIG questions that I began to understand what would really make me happy and allay my anxiety. As I engaged with this process of inquiry my whole world began to transform and now, five years later my life is unrecognizable in a completely wonderful way.
Looking back it took a lot of courage to make the leap from a prestigious career into the unknown. It hasn't been an easy journey but I have absolutely no regrets. My commitment to being led by the deepest truths available to my awareness has enabled me to create a portfolio career made up only of the things that I love doing. It has also led me to a beautiful apartment and into a new relationship which both align with everything that is important to me. On this journey I found out that I had all the guiding wisdom that I needed, packed neatly within my own awareness.
This attention to the big questions has now become a daily practice as I find that I am most able to witness my own wisdom when I am really still. It is then that the inner voice speaks up. It happens in my morning meditations, at the gym, in the pool, on the train. The only requirement from me is an availability to listen. To listen deeply.
So, if you are currently experiencing anxiety, there may well be an invitation being extended to you. It is an invitation to return home.
Home is your centre. It is the space within your internal awareness that connects you with all that is. It is your still-point in a world of continual change.
By making space and time to sit in the companionship of your own awareness through a simple technique such as mindfulness meditation, you can start to relate to self in a new way. This is the beginning of a rich journey into the knowing of your own truth, a place that lives beyond the grasp of anxiety.
Mindfulness starts with a simple instruction.
Be where you are.
Where are you?
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