How To Befriend Anxiety


When you feel anxious, don't pretend not to be anxious, for this feeds the anxiety, adds an extra layer.

What you run away from always haunts you. Don't cover up the discomfort or distract yourself from it, or pretend to be 'fine'. Eating, drinking, shopping, pill-popping, incessant talking, whistling, rushing around mindlessly, running to check your messages or contact a friend, trying to control everything around you, spinning off into the narrative of 'me and my busy life', these are all ways to avoid the fact of anxiety, ways to abandon yourself in your time of need.

Breathe. Feel your feet on the ground, your belly rising and falling with each breath. Don't think about your anxiety, and how to get rid of it - that is the old paradigm. Feel the anxiety more completely! Locate it in the body - is it in the belly, the chest, the throat, the head? Drop the word 'anxiety' (for it is a second-hand word) and directly feel the living sensations that are there, moment-by-moment, without trying to get rid of them or stop them, without even hoping they'll go away. Allow yourself to be curious about what's alive in your body right now, about the physical sensations of this moment. Come out of past and future, and dive into presence. Breathe into the sensations, dignify them with breath, with oxygen, with life, with your kind attention. Are there butterflies in your stomach? Do your muscles feel tense? Which ones? Can you bring some loving attention and breath there? Let the sensations know that they are allowed to be here, that they are included in life, that you finally have no agenda to destroy them, that they can stay, for now. And there is only Now.

If thoughts are spinning out of control and having a party, if there are many thought-clouds in the sky of awareness, that's wonderful. Don't try to stop thoughts or silence all these voices, pictures, memories, fantasies, for that makes you more anxious too. Only thoughts would want to stop thoughts. Be the sky, in which thought-clouds can dance. Thoughts are not reality, and they are not who you really are. They are sounds and pictures.

Thoughts may be shooting off into the future or past, but that's okay - that's what the mind does, it constantly rewinds and fast-forwards. Yet you are here. You are right here; here is where your presence lives. Allow all thoughts to be here, with you, all sounds, all feelings, all urges. Even allow your feelings of non-acceptance, your urge to escape this moment. As the body releases tension, you may find yourself shivering, yawning, laughing, even shaking, or just resting more deeply...

If you cannot accept yourself completely as you are, then can you completely accept your complete inability to accept? And if you can't accept that, can you see that even your inability to accept is part of life, part of this moment, part of the movement of the universe? You don't have to accept yourself, or accept this moment, for it is already accepted. It is already here, already alive, already the way it is.

Anxiety is just a little child, who has arrived in your space. It has not come to ruin you, or hurt you, but wake you up. It only wants to be acknowledged, held, allowed in to the vastness of the moment.

The anxious one longs for a home. Will you run away when it arrives again, distract yourself, or finally turn to greet it?

~ Jeff Foster

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