Freedom is instantaneous the moment we accept things as they are.~Karen Maezen Miller
This morning, as I absentmindedly watched the news while returning hoards of neglected emails and tweeting like mad, a story about anxiety caught my attention.
According to the story, anxiety has become the “most common of psychological complaints,” affecting three in 10 Americans on a regular basis.
The man featured in the story had been racked with anxiety for years, spurred, he believes, by the traumatic experience of attending college and compounding every year since.
For him it almost ruined his relationship with his now-wife and continues to disrupt both his sleeping and waking life every day.
This is typical line of thought for him:
“I am anxious. The anxiety makes it impossible to concentrate. Because it is impossible to concentrate, I will make an unforgivable mistake at work. Because I will make an unforgivable mistake at work, I will be fired. Because I will be fired, I will not be able to pay my rent…”
Reading it now, it sounds like madness. None of it makes any logical sense, yet I recognize the thought pattern.
You are very powerful, provided you know how powerful you are.~Yogi Bhajan
At the age of 12, after a rigorous audition and interview process, I was accepted into a local art school. While I had taken art classes nearly all my life, I wasn’t entirely convinced that I had talent that could even come close to the artists that this particular school churned out year after year.
I thought that receiving the acceptance letter might be validation enough to convince me that I was capable of doing what I had set out to do — that I had enough natural talent, and now all I needed was specialized instruction.
Instruction, it turns out, wasn’t what I needed. Confidence was.
The least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousandfold.~Aristotle
I must have heard it delivered a thousand different ways: Honesty is the best policy.
Precisely because I heard it a thousand times, I tended to associate the saying with less significance. It’s like hearing your mom tell you, “Put your coat on or you’ll catch a cold!”
Looking back, it seems I spent a lifetime wasting so much energy putting out fires because I lost sight of what was most important. Being true to myself was a concept — a nice idea for others, but not for me. I didn’t have that luxury. I had way too much on my plate.
Letting go doesn't mean that you don't care about someone anymore. It's just realizing that the only person you really have control over is yourself.~Deborah Reber
All my life, I have relied on goal-setting to achieve results.
Whether it came to school work, or even just taking time to hang out with my friends, I would plan the entire day out on outlook or use one of many goal setting techniques that I had learned.
For example, I would stick a piece of paper on the ceiling of my bedroom with my goals written on it so it would be the first thing I saw when I woke up.
And while all this helped me achieve great results, I noticed that I was always chasing the next big thing or the next goal I set for myself. I noticed that I never felt genuine contentment in my life.
It wasn’t just with goals. When it came to my social life, I cared too much about being popular and tried too hard to maintain a good social image by pleasing people. And I constantly felt like I didn’t know who I was, and I definitely wasn’t happy.
We must go beyond the constant clamor of ego, beyond the tools of logic and reason, to the still, calm place within us: the realm of the soul.~Deepak Chopra
Imagine it is a beautiful day. The sky is blue and the sun is shining bright. There is a light breeze that just feels like a gentle hug. You are walking down your favorite street. Everything you see is just beautiful.
As you walk, your sense of peace increases. You then turn the corner and all of a sudden dark clouds appear out of nowhere. The sky turns dark. The gentle breeze is replaced with powerful winds. Pretty soon, you are pushing yourself against the wind. You think you are moving forward but actually you are stuck.
This darkness that appeared is not the weather. It is what happens when you stray from your innate nature — bliss — and succumb to the power of the ego.
Have you noticed that some people have sparkles in their eyes, shining with joy, while others seem to be traveling with a storm cloud over their head, consumed by problems? Those who exude joy don’t have fewer life challenges, they’ve just figured out ways to better handle their egoic mind.
It has taken me many years to realize that I was wrong.
I felt the need to be free at an early age. I recall packing my bags to leave home at five years of age. My poor parents had a hell of a time with me when I hit my adolescent years. And of course, the teen-age years were even worse.
Our way to practice is one step at a time, one breath at a time.~Shunryu Suzuki
The first time I meditated was about six years ago.
I was drawn to meditation by the same aspiration as many people — the desire to feel calmer and happier. I was a medical student at the time, and my life was just too stressful and hectic.
It seemed there was always more to do, more to worry about and no time to reflect. I felt disconnected and dissatisfied.
And then, I got dumped by a man I was madly in love with. I felt like a total failure. I was shaken and incredulous — how could I have wanted something so badly and still have it taken away from me?
I was not used to failure. I was used to setting a goal, laying out the steps and diligently taking them — one at a time — until I got what I wanted. I was under the illusion that with enough effort, I could achieve any goal and sidestep all feelings of pain and discomfort along the way.
When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.~Buddhist Proverb
I wasn’t in the best of spirits when I walked into my local yoga studio for class on that blustery Monday evening. A slew of perceived problems, large and small, were spinning through my mind. I felt frustrated, helpless, and most of all, lost.
I wanted direction and guidance; I longed for the smallest bit of certainty that the decisions I’d had to make earlier would be the right ones. And when I considered relaxing and surrendering, I was unable to do either.
I was trying to run away from myself and my troubled mind, but I wasn’t getting anywhere.
Ironically enough, I’d published a post earlier that day about the fact that we all struggle with runaway minds and hearts. I’d written about the ways in which we are tempted to disconnect — to rebel against the love that surrounds us always.
The post emphasized compassion, forgiveness and celebration — all the things I wasn’t offering myself as I began my yoga practice.
When the mind discovers that you are no longer afraid of its content, it will leave you alone.
There I was again — lying in bed paralyzed by emotion. Constant noise clamored for the attention of my awareness like an uninvited circus.
Calliope music screeched a cacophony of self-criticism as lions roared and circled below me, eagerly awaiting my plunge from the high wire after losing my delicate balance between safety and self-destruction.
What could I have done to deserve this?
I lay there, unable to move physically, but tortured by a violent mental fight that raged within me. My mind wrestled with intricate contortions in an attempt to keep its balance when what it really needed was stillness.
My consciousness kept trying to put out fire with fire, to silence thought with more thought. But these were only flames of a different color.