Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. We are wired to feel fear as human beings.
Many people are plagued by anxiety to the point it interferes with daily functioning, robbing us from an ability to savor life.
Most understand intellectually that we need to find a way to quiet our busy minds.
Yet, I find that the majority of people lack the practical steps to make this a reality. You are not alone. There is help to be had and here I want to provide you some actionable steps you can take.
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After 20+ years of helping clients and students through debilitating anxiety difficulty focusing and over 20 years of practicing and teaching others the art of meditation and mindfulness, I have honed a method I now bring to others in my classes and private sessions.
Thoughts jump in and around like monkeys. The busy mind is often referred to in meditation courses as “the monkey mind” for this reason. We CAN train the mind so that the jumping monkeys don’t hook us into their bounding play.
Most of the thoughts in your mind are not even based in truth and reality.
Using our thinking minds is necessary for our functioning in society. Most thoughts you have, however, popping in and floating around in your head are actually NOT TRUE and therefore should not be followed.
Unfortunately, you have a series of thoughts in your mind that are repeating and repeating and repeating, creating a lot of anxiety, worry and distraction from what really matters in your life.
Anxiety is a result of thoughts that are either focused on past events or events yet to come in the future. When we are fully in PRESENT time and space (unless we are presently being chased by a rapid dog or an ax murderer) we are safe. The PRESENT moment is where we can experience calm and emotional safety.
In the practice of mindfulness and meditation, we consciously focus on the natural flow of breath. When we do this we are returning to PRESENT MOMENT and we are also creating a space for stillness in the mind.
In this space for stillness to occur, we provide the mind a much-needed break from the onslaught of false and anxiety-provoking thoughts that take up so much space in our heads.
When we spend most of our time projecting into the future or ruminating about the past, we are missing out on LIFE in this present time and space.
If these thoughts were just a song playing on our Ipod, you would be able to press the pause or stop key. The mind is not that easily controlled. It’s very difficult to just stop our thoughts.
Mindfulness is a PRACTICE that grows a new muscle. Mindfulness is a PRACTICE that creates a new experience.
Mindfulness is new and different way of engaging with life.
It is a PRACTICE that requires skill to corral the mind’s course of focus so thoughts that jump from here to there are brought into line by strengthening a new way of being, seeing, hearing, feeling.
Here are some keys to this practice:
- Open and expand your window of awareness. Begin noticing your thoughts as if watching through a window.
- Be present with the thoughts as if watching monkeys playing in a field but don’t go out and play with them.
- Realize and remember you are here now, on this side of the window and not out in that field by focusing your present-mind on the natural flow of your breath while you observe the monkeys playing out there.
Seated meditation is the most efficient and effective way to cultivate the practice and experience of mindfulness. I teach all of my clients how to observe a regular and simple seated meditation practice because I believe it is key to transforming your experience of anxiety to an experience of peace.
Aside from seated meditation there are lots of great times to practice mindfulness. Here are some ideas for you:
- In the shower:The average person takes a 5-10 minute daily shower What a wonderful time to practice! Notice the sensation of the water on your body, the sound of the water, the scent of the soap.
- Before and after bed: Right before you get out of bed, set your feet on the floor and take a few minutes to feel the floor under your bare feet. Feel the bed under your seat. Feel your breath as it flows in and out of your lungs. At night, just before you lie down do the same. Close your eyes to amplify your other senses. See if you can feel a palpable sense of gratitude.
- When you are driving: Keep your eyes open for this one for safety! As you are driving stay very present with where you are. Do you know how often our minds drift away when driving and we just operate on auto-pilot? Stay keenly aware of sights, sounds, smells and sensations as you are driving.
How badly do you want relief from anxiety? How much do you want to feel peace in your mind and body? You absolutely can have this but you must commit to daily and regular practice.
Make the commitment to yourself, your life and you will find it easier and easier to experience more joy and less worry.