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How  you ever been taught how to transcend stress and anxiety? It’s not on the school syllabus is it?  We all know the symptoms, they are numerous; feeling overwhelmed, unable to cope, butterflies in the tummy, shaky, breathless, tired, sleep deprived, etc. When we feel these things the recurrent pattern is to want to get away from the feelings.  They are uncomfortable. Distressing. People try all sorts of different things to be RID of these feelings.

Diversions are a great favourite.  TV, food, alcohol, cigarettes, gambling, drugs, sex, shopping, but this only postpones the return of the feelings rather than eliminating them.  Stress interrupts our ‘normal’ pattern of life and prevents us from feeling the positive aspects of life. If we are to sit with the difficult feelings and just allow them to be there; breathe into the fear, the doubt the grief, the unworthy the stupid, the ugly, then something interesting can start to happen. IF you do it with awareness.

What this means is to be interested in the process that is unfolding in your body.  “Look, I am feeling my hands tremble, my tummy feels like it’s tied in knots. The internal dialogue in my head is telling me that I am useless.” You are starting to move away from a feeling of being powerless and in a victim state to that of an interested observer.  You are treating the goings on within your body like an interesting science project.  You are now an adventurer.  A scientist. The more you become used to this new terrain the more you can map it and navigate your way around. “oh, so when my partner / kids /boss yells at me I can feel my heart beating harder…..yes…. there it goes…. wow…. and I am feeling faint now.  This is how it works.”

Making time to SIT with the feelings that arise and simply allowing them to be there with no resistance at all can have startling benefits.  This is quite different to getting lost in the feelings and letting the head play that tape you know over and over again that is demeaning you.  If you are doing that, then you are deepening back into the pain.  Watching what unfolds within is quite different. David Hawkins describes this process in great depth in his book, “Letting Go” which I highly recommend.  He was an American psychiatrist, recently deceased, who devoted much of his life work to explaining our levels of consciousness.  Consciousness? What this means briefly is where we choose to send our awareness and what emotional state we operate from in the world.  Consciousness at the lower end of the scale represents all our personality emotions; shame, guilt apathy, grief, fear, desire, anger and pride. Pain and suffering sit within these realms.  Anxiety, depression and stress live in these levels.

Can we get out?  Absolutely!  Courage is the first step.  Being  courageous enough to do what most people would never seek to do. Sit with their pain and feel it deeply.  Watch it.  Until it changes.  It will.  Nothing ever stays the same.  Try it.  What do you have to lose, except for a few minutes of your time potentially. Find a place where you won’t be disturbed by any one else and focus IN. After a while of sitting as deep as you can in the pain and OBSERVING IT; be it grief, fear, guilt, shame etc, you will discover a shift. There is an ability to let it go.  The more you practice it the better you get.  The beautiful irony is that you have to accept the pain that is there.  Embrace that it’s there.  Then let it go.

Stress and Anxiety