This is part of a series, 11 Ways of Dealing with Anxiety, an ongoing experiment in being. I am taking a little pause to regroup.
The first four instalments of this exploration into meeting anxiety hang together: breathe, feel into this body, meet with stillness, pray. They form a progression of deepening connection and kindness to self, leading to a surrender of self to the Other (that is not an other) that is nothing if not kind. Why would that which made us, that is our being, be other than kind?
This process is not only about meeting anxiety. I focus here because anxiety is universal and can be so debilitating; but we can meet like this with any strong feeling, comfortable or uncomfortable, or indeed at any and every moment in our lives.
Joy, happiness, love, anger, dislike, sadness, guilt and shame, fear… as well as the quotidian life: the art is to extend a welcome that gives each feeling, each experience, a place. It is not to try to grasp, encourage, change, squash or get rid of them. It is like welcoming a house guest, showing them to the room you have prepared for them, without giving them unfettered run of the whole house or letting them take over your life. Every guest brings a gift, another tile in the mosaic of yourself. And only what is fully welcomed can experience redemption.
I believe this is a basic life skill to do with being fully alive, because it is fundamentally about being present, in the present, to what is, here and now. This is a way of understanding St Paul when he invites us to “pray without ceasing“. Just in case you think otherwise, this is a skill at which I am still a beginner.
Coming home in these ways to self-and-Other leads naturally to knowing what you want and to making changes. The knowing and the changing arise piecemeal, over time, and do not need to be worked at or forced. But this is a by-product, not the goal; for the goal is to be alive, not to make a life.
People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. That’s what it’s all finally about.Joseph Campbell, The Power of the Myth, p.5
What follows will form a loosely connected set of ideas to support this process, to meet the anxiety – to meet oneself – with more clarity and kindly understanding.