As I was preparing for my workshop this Saturday, “Calming Your Anxious Mind with Mindfulness”, I was reflecting on my own experience of anxiety. Specifically, I was considering some of my thoughts and feelings about having the experience of anxiety, which I have had for over 30 years. When anxiety surfaces, I have discovered that one of my automatic beliefs is that I have a defect. This seems harsh and judgmental and I was considering the extent to which this belief has contributed to even greater anxiety.
The point that I would like to make today is that the experience of anxiety is not a defect. Often, it is simply a human reaction to stress and challenge. If you are like me and you conclude that you have a defect, you might be tempted to use it as a reason for denying compassion for yourself.
To see that you are denying compassion for yourself or even being mean to your experience may be the first step in recognizing and becoming more aware of how you could improve your relationship with yourself.
Here are 3 strategies for helping to befriend the experience of anxiety. Firstly, when the experience of anxiety arises, bring an attitude of friendliness towards the experience, even if it is unpleasant. Make room inwardly for the kaleidoscope of thoughts, emotions and physical sensations and rather than taking action, practice “being” and see if you can let go of any inner struggle to get rid of the experience.
Secondly, consider practicing loving kindness for yourself. I have been highly influenced by Sharon Salzberg, a mindfulness teacher and author of “Lovingkindness, the Revolutionary Art of Happiness”. Among the many practices that are available, one of my favourites is to repeat phrases silently including the following:
“May I be safe
May I be healthy and happy
May I have ease”
The spirit of this practice is to plant the seeds of potential in us for these kinds of minds and body states.
Thirdly, let go of any harsh judgements that surface in your mind during periods of anxiety such as “ I’m so stupid to feel this way”.
These are just some of the strategies that are available. Come out to the workshop Saturday to learn more strategies.