Do you tend to think up disasters or worst case scenarios? Are you are always on edge? Do you try and anticipate the moves and thoughts of everyone around you? Do you often think something is wrong or off but you just can’t put your finger on what it is? Do you spend more time worrying about the future or thinking about past mistakes and what you should have done instead of leaning into the present moment? It’s exhausting, isn’t it!?
Here’s the thing. You are hardwired to respond to fear & stress. In the short term, the release of cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine can give you the extra boost of energy you need to get clear of danger. You may have even heard about this… Back in our cavemen/cavewomen days, the fight-or-flight model was essential. This prevented you from becoming dinner for your saber tooth tiger pals. However, long-term exposure to fear and anxiety wreaks havoc on your body and mind. Adrenaline causes your heart to beat faster and increases your blood pressure. Your digestive system slows so as to conserve energy. AND if you don’t fight or run, the hormones continue to flood your body, keeping you in hypervigilant mode.
Vitarka Badhane Pratipaksa Bhavanam.~ When disturbed by negative thoughts, opposite (positive) ones should be thought of. This is pratipaksha bhavana. ~Sutra II.33
Two of the great yoga gurus of this time, Swami Satchidananda & B.K.S. Iyengar offer two different approaches to sutra II.33. Satchidananda recommends cultivating the opposite thought. For example, if you are anxious, think confidence or peace. Iyengar recommends that you journey to the root of the cause of your anxiety. Were you anxious as a child? Why? Is it part of your personality or did you learn this behavior through home or school? And still, other authors suggest that you think of the outcome. Where will your fear or worst case scenario take you? How much suffering will it create?
Does one method call more to you than the others? Which method is more likely to pull you back to your path once you’ve been triggered? When you are full of fear, can you think of someone you love to help calm you down? When you are hooked, can you sit with the emotion, without reacting, and begin to trace it to its source? Or does thinking about the loss or worst case scenario help you regain your composure?
Do you live in your head? Do you constantly play out one scenario after another or replay conversations only to change what you would say, in your favor? If you said yes, welcome to my world:) Are you an intuitive person? Are you conscientious of different body aches or gut feelings that come along? If you said no to the last couple of questions, know that you are not alone. Typically, if you are a worrier or fret with anxiety, you tend to live in your head. One of the most essential techniques you can learn is how to sink into your body.
Learning to inhabit your body helps you stay in the present moment. Why is that important? It prevents you from anticipating or worrying about a future that has yet to unravel. It also helps minimize the tendency to replay the past, which you know isn’t beneficial or possible unless you have a time machine;)
Two of my absolute favorite techniques for dropping out of mind into heart are stepping onto my yoga mat and getting out into nature. Any type of body work, such as massage, reiki, walking or running can also be instrumental in helping you begin to cope with your anxiety and stay present to each moment as it unfolds.
This is quickly becoming one of my favorite methods of healing. Crystals work on an energetic & scientific level through physics. According to physics, ” entropy is a thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system’s thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work, often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system.” In other words, it is a gradual decline into disorder. For example, your body breaks down and decays. Crystals resist the process of entropy because of their geometric molecular patterns.
Another law of physics, the law of resonance occurs “when a vibrating system or external force drives another system to oscillate with greater amplitude at a specific preferential frequency.” Crystals, because they resist entropy, entrain, or synchronize, your energetic vibrations to that of the crystal. In other words, by carrying a crystal in your pocket, you can actually begin to vibrate at the same energetic level as the crystal, thereby releasing your worry and anxiety.
A few recommended crystals that can help with anxiety:
Dr. Edward Bach was a British physician known for developing a range of homeopathic remedies, called the Bach Flower Remedies. He developed 38 flower remedies that help “correct emotional imbalances where negative emotions are replaced with positive.” Bach categorized people into 7 different groups based on their reactions to illness. The 7 groups were fear, uncertainty, loneliness, oversensitivity, lack of interest in present circumstances, despondency, and over-concern for others.
The flower essences also work on an energetic level by “gently restoring the balance between mind and body by casting out negative emotions such as fear… which interfere with the equilibrium of the being as a whole.”
A few recommended flower essences that can help with anxiety:
Aromatherapy is the use of essential oils taken from plants for healing purposes. The two most common uses of essential oils include inhaling the oils or putting them on topically. One of the reasons aromatherapy is said to be effective is because your sense of smell stimulates your limbic system, which controls your emotions. The limbic system is also partially responsible for your fight-or-flight response (remember the saber tooth tiger pal from earlier in the post?). When you inhale a calming essential oil, such as lavender, the limbic system sends neurochemicals throughout the body to relax and calm down.
(Please seek expert advise if you are pregnant or have a medical condition if using essential oils for the first time).
A few recommended essential oils that can help with anxiety:
I would love to hear, in the comments below, which technique resonated the most with you. Is there one that you believe could help alleviate your anxiety?
“Life creates suffering in order to help us grow spiritually.” ~David Frawley
Are you a stuff it down so far so I never have to deal with it kinda person? Are you a I’ll take it out on everyone and everything around me so I don’t have to deal with it kinda person? Are you a I’ll eat 14 bags of mega stuff Oreos and wash it down with 5 gallons of Half Baked Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream so I don’t have to deal with it kinda person? Are you a I’ll just become whatever it is I’m trying to avoid so I don’t have to deal with it kinda person?
Today you are a senior.
With each passing year, my heart seems to skip an extra beat as I am asked to let go a little bit more. I long to read to you from the tattered, worn out, and deeply loved Pokeman Handbook. The one missing its front cover, the one tucked safely away in your box of childhood treasures, the one you learned to read from. You always knew when I tried to skip a page or two. You were always so patient with me as you guided me back to the proper page to read about Pikachu or Charizard or Exeggcute.
I long to fix your scraped knees and to watch as you dive, roll, hop, skip, and crawl to get from one place to another. The shortest distance between two rooms was never a straight line for you. I wonder if your preschool teacher ever fully recovered from your creativity. I still chuckle to think that you could hide out underneath a desk, with your best friend M.B. for over an hour, and have an entire classroom and administrative office in sheer panic trying to locate you. You taught me that life is an adventure, one to be enjoyed, played, and shared.
You have always inspired me, even though I may not have seen it that way. I mean, I did have to get over myself when you asked dad to attend your 7th grade orientation instead of me. Putting myself in your shoes, I would have done the same thing. I would have been terrified that you would have scrapbooked my locker or asked to take a picture with my new homeroom teacher. It is a gift to see you trust yourself.
There are moments when fear creeps into my heart, Drew. Did I do enough to make you feel loved? Have I created enough space for you to step fully into the truth of who you are? Have I packed you with enough life skills to be happy, to be authentic, and to be helpful? When I am able to sit with this fear, I realize that I desperately want to hold you, to protect you, and to shield you from life. You have helped me remember that all life experiences are necessary for growth. I have watched you experience disappointment, failure, and frustration with grace, strength, and humor.
You continue to fill my heart with wonder. I appreciate that we can communicate and understand without exchanging words. I cherish that we are still able to make each other belly laugh. I am grateful that we can frustrate the hell out of each other and still respect the other's point of view. I am who I am today because of you. You mirror the traits I want to pass along. You expose the areas that still need tenderness and compassion.
As I sit in this moment... reflecting on a lifetime shared... I feel the most sacred of connections... one of life's greatest treasures... the love between mother and child. As I move from fear to faith, I trust. As I look into your eyes, I see beauty and truth. As I place hand on heart, gently struggling to let go, I witness, I watch, I see you spread your wings.
I couldn't ask for a better son, a better teacher to share in this journey.
"I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always, as long as I'm living, my baby you'll be."
Do you start things without finishing them? Do you get sucked into the latest television series or exercise fad? Do you find yourself constantly signing up for the latest ecourse? Do you surf Facebook or Twitter once a day, twice a day, ten times a day, ten times a minute? Do you allow for moments of stillness or is your schedule consistently filled? Do you read the next best selling self-help book and then the next and the next?
There is nothing inherently wrong with enjoying the latest television series, surfing Facebook, or reading self-help books. The challenge occurs when we consistently search outside ourselves for peace, happiness, and “the” answers.
We perpetuate the cycle of suffering when we think someone or something else has the answer, that somehow we are lacking.
Many of us have been conditioned to think that anything less than perfection is unacceptable. We focus on what is missing or wrong. Over time, we forget that we can do anything beautiful or right. It becomes a vicious cycle that we perpetuate. This cycle undermines the trust we have in ourselves. This cycle encourages us to to seek help outside ourselves. This cycle makes us afraid to try for fear of failing. We believe the failure would validate our imperfection, our worth-less-ness.
Yoga teaches us a method for overcoming shiny object syndrome. The fifth limb in Pantanjali’s Eight Fold Path is Pratyahara, withdrawal of our senses. We gather information about the world around us through our senses. Often, they carry us from the next best thing to the next best thing, keeping us distracted. We remain entrenched in the dance of seeking outward for peace and happiness.
By tuning our senses inward, we begin to catch a glimpse of that place of stillness, of purity within.
Withdrawing the senses, mind, and consciousness form contact with external objects, and then drawing them inwards towards the seer, is pratyahara. ~The Yoga Sutras II:54; Pratyahara results in the absolute control of the sense organs. ~The Yoga Sutras II:55
Pratyahara sets the foundation for turning our awareness inward. By withdrawing from the external environment we begin to open the door to our internal wisdom. When we learn to cut off from our impulses and need for instant gratification, we witness that place of authenticity, beauty, and sacredness within.
Three tools to exercise your pratyahara muscles:
24 waiting period
Whenever I am going to make a larger purchase, I make myself wait 24 hours. This gives me time to explore my thoughts, to ask myself: Do I really need this purchase? What is my intention with this purchase? What do I think I will gain with this purchase that I don’t already have now, in this moment? Sometimes it is a legitimate purchase. Often times, however, I have gotten sucked into the latest e-course promising me eternal happiness and money flow but I have to act now or I am going to lose out… I have saved hundreds of dollars by waiting and pulling back, listening to my intuition instead of my impulses.
30 minutes of daily quiet time
I have just offended a few of you because I don’t know how busy you are. You don’t have 30 minutes in your day to do “nothing.” We have to shift our perspective. It isn’t doing “nothing.” It is learning how to unplug. It is learning how to quiet the fluctuations of the mind. It is learning how to return to that place within each of us that is perfect, whole, and complete. It is learning how to access the wisdom that each of us carries in our heart. Start out with 5 minutes if that is all you have. Slowly, over time, make your way to 10 minutes…
Sama Vritti w/Kumbhaka (Breath Retention) Pranayama
Bringing our awareness to a single point of concentration helps to withdraw our senses. In this technique, we learn to quiet the mind by focusing on the breath.
Did you find one of these techniques particularly helpful in overcoming shiny object syndrome? Do you have a different technique that you use to stay focused and on track in your daily life?
Sutra 1:12 Practice and detachment are the means to still the movements of consciousness
5 Tell Tale Signs that You are Progressing on your path:
Pantanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1:12 reminds us that practice and detachment are essential as we work to remember our path. They are said to be the wings of yoga. I tend to confuse practice with perfection. Do you? It is so important to remember that practice means right effort, not right perfect. With right effort, we learn to unite the intellect of our mind with the divinity of our heart. This gives us the space to make mistakes. (Oh my perfectionist friends are you cringing at reading this? Do you feel I have let you down, sold out? Hang on, we are just beginning, there is so much more to come.) As a reformed/ing perfectionist, I am now confident to say I MAKE MISTAKES!!! YES I DO! I used to be a closet mistake maker, but I am now in the open. I am no longer ashamed or feel the need to be secretive about the mistakes I make. I am even known to apologize and call myself out when I make a mistake. The best thing about allowing myself to make mistakes is that it gives others the space to make them too. We are in the process of building a community of mistake makers. Join us. Once you try it, you won’t go back!
Detachment means that as we practice with right effort, we surrender control to a desired outcome. It moves us out of the details and grants us a vision of the bigger picture. Parenting has provided me with one of the most fertile grounds for detachment. Drew is turning 16 this year. I can certainly resist the impending loss of control as he learns to spread his wings of independence. I can dig my heels in, get my nose in his business, cause mass amounts of suffering for both him and me, and ultimately create the war of parenting. I can, also, combine my unconditional effort/practice with detachment and support Drew as he unravels his own true essence.
In developing the wings of yoga, we learn to navigate through our greatest desires and sources of attachment, not get carried away by them. Practice and detachment help us stay our course.