As we continue journeying through the uncharted waters of the coronavirus pandemic, there are likely many “shoulds” and “coulds” that come into our minds in any given moment. All too often, those “shoulds” encourage us to reach outside of ourselves and find solutions to ease the discomfort. Like many things, reaching outside of ourselves is not our natural response, but rather a learned, conditioned response. We have been conditioned to do this. We have been conditioned to believe that if something feels wrong, there is something out there that will fix it. So we reach. We reach for the thing or things that will ease the discomfort for a time, and the moments pass like that until they become months and eventually years; time spent reaching.
This crisis is giving us a perfect opportunity to feel into the discomforts that arise and stop reaching outwards for an external solution and instead reach inward. It’s a perfect opportunity to feel into the discomforts, the insecurity, the uncertainty and determine what is “mine” and what is “not mine.” No more condemnation for not being more this way or more that way. Instead dig into what is.
Is the anxiety we feel truly ours, or is it downloaded, inherited from somewhere outside of ourselves? Are we full of fear for what may be around the corner, or is that also a symptom of reading, watching, or listening too much? If we are unsure how to answer these questions, that is telling us something. Our thoughts may not be our own. This moment of recognition is a beautiful opportunity. An opportunity to tune in to what is “mine.”
Get still. Find some silence. Ask yourself these questions and any others that are plaguing you. The “shoulds” and “coulds” will arise, but gently with confidence acknowledge them and allow them to pass through. You will get to them in time. Then, tune in to what your soft inner voice is trying so gently to tell you. The loud one, the insistent one is not it. It’s the one just beyond that. The one without fear, without urgency. That’s the one to listen to. If it’s loud it’s cloaked in fear. The one beyond that is love. Follow that one.
So, what if this time, you chose something different? What if this time, you put down the cell phone? What if this time, you shut off the television set? What if this time, you don’t open the refrigerator, bottle, or package? What if this time, you say “no” to the things that brought you comfort in the past and instead search for the true source of contentment, that which lies in the center of us all? The only real way to overcome the discomfort, to get to the true source of contentment to find the gifts in this life, is to choose to see what is there, hidden, just beyond the discomfort, just beyond the pain.
“Practice Tonglen”: Excerpt from The Wisdom of Anxiety by Sheryl Paul
“One of the most effective practices for reversing the habit of pushing away unwanted feelings is the Buddhist practice of Tonglen, which was introduced to this country by the American Buddhist nun Pema Chodron. This on-the-spot practice is very simple. Breathe in what we normally think of as “not wanted” and breathe out what’s wanted or, as Pema Chodron teaches on her site, “When you do Tonglen on the spot, simply breathe in and breathe out, taking in pain and sending out spaciousness and relief.” What’s so powerful about this practice is that it goes against how we habitually respond to painful feelings, so when we practice it over time, we retrain our minds to accept and even welcome pain and fear (in all their manifestations). If you wanted to take it a little farther you can breathe into the pain of everyone else on the planet who is feeling lonely, sad, disappointed, overwhelmed, and heartbroken at this very moment, and breathe out love and connection.”
Another resource for dealing with anxiety is the Anxiety Skills Workbook by Stephan G. Hoffman, PhD. Go to: https://mshoop.org/wp-lib/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/The-Anxiety-Skills-Workbook.pdf to view and download.