"Life is not the way it's supposed to be. It's the way it is." ~ Virginia Satir, psychologist
Things that appear to be solid are in continuous motion. Wisdom traditions and scientists tell us that change is a constant in our lives. Even if we are in a room alone, we sense change in our body as we become thirsty or hungry. The room’s furniture may appear still, but our thoughts continue to flow.
Why We Get Anxious
- Change is continuous.
- Change brings life, pleasure, love, joy, and accomplishment. It also brings loss, discomfort, pain, fear, and failure.
- We want life to be pleasurable. We do not want loss or discomfort.
- Our mind, body, desires, and needs are always changing and cannot be permanently satisfied.
So, we greatly fear the very thing that supports life and makes it interesting: change. This is the root of anxiety.
When we spend much of our energy dwelling on the possible consequences of change and believe we have some control over it (though knowing we don’t), our anxiety can disrupt even the desired experiences of our lives.
The Solution That Solves Nothing
Since humans are reflective beings with a sense of self, and are emotional beings that create attachments, experiencing anxiety may be inevitable.
To manage the anxiety we take medication, learn to think more effectively, tend our spiritual beliefs, practice relaxation techniques, and distract ourselves. All these activities serve a purpose, but they will never be a good substitute for facing the reality of existence.
- Spend one minute or more, each day, sitting quietly and staring the realities of inevitable change in the face. For example, you might imagine yourself on a raft in a sea of change without oars or a sail. Do this exercise where you feel comfortable and have a sense of safety.
- Then, open your heart for a few moments to the cycle of life, maintenance-destruction, and loss that you share with your loved ones. Sit with that reality a little bit longer each day.
- Do not attempt to reduce any anxiety that arises. Just feel it with an open heart and mind. When you can sustain this with relative calm you may begin to realize that anxiety is nothing to fear, and understand its relation to excitement.
This exercise is not a cure for anxiety and is only recommended for those who feel able to tolerate a few moments of distress, although the distress will diminish over time. Nor does this affect anyone's spiritual beliefs. It is only about living today, in this world, with a minimum amount of anxiety.
It is both terrifying and liberating to give a nod to the impermanence of this life, but it allows us to sometimes feel incredibly alive.
“So, go beyond the control of your ordinary mind and turn your mind toward the transient nature of the universe. Face the true mutability of worldly affairs and see yourself in you naked nature. To live in peace and harmony, become yourself as you really are in the present moment as it really is. This is very beautiful.” ~ Dainin Katagiri, from Each Moment Is the Universe