Worrying is negative goal-setting

Worrying is negative goal-setting

I haven’t written much lately because I’ve been enjoying languishing in a little bubble of no particular pressure after months – decades? – of daily intensity and needing to follow a particular routine or schedule. It’s been quite pleasant to have a space in which I am simply living according to my gentle rhythm and routine, meeting up with friends whenever possible, working when it comes to me, eating when hungry, walking the dog, pottering and organising my new home. Life as an empty-nester feels quite full! I don’t recall an earlier time where I enjoyed this much freedom to create my day.

But before floating too far off, I thought it was about time to get back in touch, share some thoughts, and let you know a little bit about what is going on in the weeks ahead.

Several people have written or come to me recently with concerns, anxiety, and fears about the future based on the state of the world today. This is an eternal human worry – as long as we live there will be concerns for our well-being because we are instinctively programmed to keep ourselves alive. This particular era perhaps feels more urgent than previous ones, when such existential questions were not so much about a multi-species-global crisis as an individual one. And to complicate things, the worry is often mixed with anger, regret, and incredulity, because we have arrived at this point despite the decades of myriad warnings along the way.

So what should we do about this angst?

The root teachings of all wisdom traditions show us that life is one and indivisible – I am because you are. Modern interpretations (meaning of the past several hundred years) have been highly politicised and, subtly or overtly, have lead to separation, greed, and a lack of compassion. Whether we consider ourselves religious or not, we have culturally internalised this separation from others, and even more importantly, from the source of all life.

As a species, we humans are unique in our capacity to ignore life. We are singularly, pathologically, capable of destroying the environment that sustains us, of inventing worries and stresses that do not exist, of causing disruption and hatred because of the appearance and customs of other human beings… and then wonder why we are suffering. This is insanity – literally not seeing things as they really are – yet most people who live this delusional existence would consider themselves to be balanced and sane individuals.

The degree to which we can handle adversity, and prevent destruction in the first place, is linked to our experience of trauma. ‘Trauma’ sounds like a big word, but everyone has experienced some degree of it at some point in life, very often in the tenderness of childhood. For some, the trauma will have been horrendous, involving physical and psychological harm, for others it will have been more nuanced and internalised, such as unmet emotional needs, loss and grief, or anxiety around financial or parental instability. 

Trauma in a very broad sense could be defined as whatever has caused us to be cut off from our true nature – whatever has shaken our faith in life. As long as we remain connected to our true nature, we feel hopeful, secure, and at peace. When that is lost, our incredibly powerful human mind negatively influences our emotional state, then our thoughts, and ultimately our actions – including inaction.

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope:
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O divine master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand.

~ Saint Francis of Assisi

We really have quite a lot going for us. Regardless of the circumstances, it’s imperative that we focus on our dharma – our unique way of holding our world together – more than the news media. Putting attention on what is happening ‘out there’ overlooks the fact that there is no such thing as ‘out there’! All of what we experience is coming from our mental attitude, our imagination, and the stories we create around it. The mind will try to wrestle with this idea but that is just a (painful) distraction from the truth – we create this whole world. And we are responsible for how it appears to us.

Here are some easy and practical ways to alleviate anxiety or fear:

  1. Take vitamin B1, or even better, a complex including all the B vitamins. They balance the central nervous system and, for that reason, get depleted in times of physical, mental, or environmental stress.
  2. Stop eating highly-refined / highly-processed foods. Carbs, alcohol, and stimulants lead to further anxiety and mood swings.
  3. Eat water-rich foods (veggies and fruits) and hydrate. Chronic dehydration leads to anxiety, palpitations, and even panic attacks.
  4. Breathe. Emphasise the exhalation over the inhalation, making it slightly longer. Breathe slowly. This stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which helps you feel safe.
  5. Check your posture. Are you slouching, tensing neck and shoulders, or habitually out of alignment? This will affect your breathing, trigger your sympathetic nervous response and make you feel anxious and agitated or dull and avoidant.
  6. Spend time in nature as much as possible, hearing running water, birdsong and leaves rustling in the breeze. Green is very soothing so if you can’t get out, surround yourself with green, especially plants.
  7. Master your thoughts. This is a prime goal of yoga, mindfulness, and any other meditative practice. Nobody else can make you feel safe but you, because you were the one who made yourself feel unsafe in the first place!

My life’s work is to help alleviate the suffering of others. Don’t waste your precious, fleeting life here on Earth by worrying and fretting. If you want support with this, please get in touch so you can get back in the flow of life.

With much love and light as always,

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