Anxiety runs through us like a steam train. It shuts down our abilities to think clearly because we are in full-on panic mode, fearing the unknown.
We live in a very amazing time of digital connection, yet we are over stimulated, plugging into everyone else’s worries. We haven’t quite evolved fast enough to keep up with our technological advances. A little scroll through Facebook might reveal an intense upset in the world news, political madness, a friend’s scary encounter with a spider, or someone else’s problem of the day. It might be time to unplug a bit. Have a breather.
You would be surprised by the amount of people I see in my Reiki Practice suffering from anxiety. And it’s always the same - they arrive with warm smiles, seemingly happy. I ask why they’ve come to Reiki, and out comes the thread that weaves through so many sessions - anxiety grips them. They usually feel disconnected as a result.
If you’re one of these lovely, warm, smiling people walking around with a knot in your solar plexus the size of Texas - I really want you to know you’re not alone!
When the quick pulse of worry is racing through you like a steam train, your first impulse is probably to try to stop the train. But it won’t stop. This causes even more stress. An inner battle starts to unravel and it’s clear you’re not winning. So honey, breathe - and just get off the train. You don’t have to stop it. Just jump off the back.
I know one thing for sure - you are not the train. You are the beautiful, expansive countryside it’s running through.
If you are one of the many suffering from anxiety, take heart, it actually reveals very positive things about your character. It shows us that you have a vivid imagination and could channel it for creative use. And it also says that you are a sensitive person who feels the world around you. Ironically, when we are in the grips of anxiety, these traits are not so obvious. You probably think you lack any creative problem solving and you likely feel more cut off from the world than ever. We can flip this around and put your inherent gifts to good use. Let’s get you relaxed, creative, and connected…
I invite you to dive deep into this body of yours. It so cleverly, so loyally, and with out any judgement, feels your feelings by translating your thoughts into emotions. Sink now into your solar plexus - find it under the heart where the rib cage comes together, just under your breast bone where the softness begins at the top of the abdomen - this is the energy centre that tightens the most when we’re under stress. It is also the chakra that correlates to confidence, and it's often called the seat of the ego. The neighbouring heart will put up walls too. It gets a message that its time to build a fortress. The thing is, this protective measure is going to keep us away from the solution - connecting to each other and allowing the world to come in. When we are at our most vulnerable, we are revealing our greatest beauty. We want to keep our hearts open to allow this energy to move through us, rather than cage it all it.
Have you noticed that when you’ve been thinking anxious thoughts your body reacts? The mind/body connection is so real, so immediate, that your body listens to whatever your mind is telling it. In the grips of anxiety it believes that danger is afoot, it sets off all your alarm bells and tightens up your diaphragm - the gateway to deep breaths and calmer feelings. So let’s start there - take a big deep breath. Expand your rib cage as you do this. Let your chest open and shoulders roll back. Now push out your belly as if you’ve just devoured Christmas dinner. Feel how this simple posture is dropping your lungs down into a more spacious place, opening to take in more air? This will give you clearer mind in just a few moments. Breathe as if your belly is a balloon, deflating and expanding for a few minutes.
By connecting to the life force that is stable in your body, no matter what is going on around you, creates a quick portal back to the present moment. Let’s move all of your attention into your body. Feel the tingling sensation in the bottom of your feet. Notice the subtle vibrations in your hands. Follow the breath all the way to the bottom of your lungs and all the way back out, feeling that soft little breeze in your nostrils. Tune in to your pulse. There is a whole universe of activity happening right here in your body and it operates so beautifully with out any need for control. Life is just like this genius body of yours. When we step out of our minds, all of this intelligent beauty becomes available to enjoy. Anxiety is our mind’s reaction to feeling out of control. But life runs so much better when we allow it to be the river we move along with. This is much easier than being the panicked person in a boat facing the wrong way paddling like mad, yelling at the water. Our soul excitedly journeys in the direction life takes it, while our egos fight the current in a futile attempt to be the controller of all it encounters. Guess which one is more fun to spend time with?
I invite you now to look up and notice what’s around you. Try not to think as you do this, just move your eyes through the space and take in all the colours, shapes, textures, sounds, and smells. If you can see any part of nature - even just a houseplant - spend a few minutes gazing at it while keeping a little attention in your body. If you really tune into the life force in that plant (or animal) you might begin to feel a resonance with it. You are part of nature. Your body is a gateway to connect with the physical world in a calming, wonderfully energising way.
Now that we’re our calm, truer selves again, I invite you to meet your worry next time with a simple question - are you truth or fantasy? You might discover that your anxious mind is in the future, obsessively constructing rich and unhelpful scenarios. If this is the case just come back to the present moment, and know that this is a sign of your incredible creativity. Let it go the way you would a bad dream - that’s all that was. It doesn’t have any basis in reality.
After my son was born I experienced a level of anxiety I hadn’t known was possible before. I would be pushing him in the buggy down Regent’s Canal, and instead of taking in the beauty of that walk and the pleasure of having my little baby in the world, I would imagine a bike coming at top speed down the path, crashing into us, and the buggy going into the water. It sounds crazy, right? Yet my Mama Bear protective instincts were fierce, active, loud, and often based in total fiction. Once I understood this it slowly eased. And then it morphed.
I later projected my anxiety towards my husband. I’d worry about how long he’d live for (my father’s kidneys failed when I was 16 - little did I put two and two together at the time, but having a child of my own ignited my old childhood fears). I noticed one night, as he read a story to our son, that I was quietly panicking. My heart was racing and so was my imagination. Nothing was actually happening - except what would have been a totally sweet and fleeting moment I could have been cherishing - but I was in my head putting plans in place for what I would do if something horrible transpired. All my energy funnelled towards preparing for an imagined nightmare. Thankfully, some wiser, soulful awareness took over me, and I snapped out of it. I realised something that erased any anxiety from coming back since. I knew this nightmare was fiction but I toyed with an idea. What if I was right and tomorrow my worst imaginings manifested. Could I prevent that with my worry? I can’t actually control much as it turns out. This put me into a softer state of surrender. I surrendered to the fear. And then I took this journey again. So let’s say this thing happens - I would have wasted all the amazing times we had together. And what a shame that would be! This shook me awake. I came to the moment. I finally fully arrived home with my little family, reading stories on my child’s floor, noticing the beauty of his chubby little hands holding his soft little toes. I was only sitting and listening to their sweet voices in the present moment, no longer making my own stories up in my head. If those thoughts were just manifested fear, than I feel better letting them go. If they are a premonition of some kind, fine, I’ll be present for the gift of being together now and let them go. Either way this moment is as it is and I can be here with it. Anxiety is never happening because we’re present - it’s a fearful fairytale of a future that isn't here.
So the freedom came by realising that no matter what is going to happen, I can’t control it anyway. The only power we have is to be fully here in the moment, soaking in all the wonderful offerings of life. There are so many details that we miss when we’re in our heads. These moments of presence don’t have to be saved for only the special occasion - they can be used to immerse in simple, everyday pleasures. Mindfully eating and really tasting flavours with every ounce of our awareness. Looking at a tree while we breathe, feeling a soft connection to nature. Listening to birds celebrating the new day with their songs. We can celebrate too - just for being alive in this moment, with all of it’s vivid details. No regrets, no worries, just happy to be here - now.
In Reiki we have a meditation that’s very simple, called Gassho. Gassho means “putting the hands together” and it looks like prayer. With our hands together just in front of our heart, we anchor ourselves deeply into our Being. We can’t do anything but rest here. By placing all of our attention in our palms, we feel an energy moving there. Even if you’re not a practitioner of Reiki there is life force flowing in this space. Holding your hands like this, noticing the energy, you might also notice there is a tiny space between your palms. This little gap is echoed in our mind - we can just be for a moment, feeling a gap in thoughts. Taking a sacred pause to refresh. With your hands like this, close your eyes, and focus on something that fills you with joy. Feeling grateful, let that emotion be amplified in your heart and reverberate out to your whole body, and out even further into your energy field. You can focus on one thing or find a few - and just rest in a state of being grateful. Gratitude plants us firmly in the here and now, into the reality of our wonderful existence. This will open your heart, and put you back into the flow of life again.
We can’t drive that train or put the brakes on it but we can get off and have a party. And we might even notice, after a short while spent enjoying the flowering countryside, that the train has passed. We can’t even see it. And it’s left behind a quietly marvellous place to explore.