Anxiety is an old friend of mine. I feel like I should really label it a nemesis, except that I am learning to treat it as a sign post to listen more deeply. The information I receive isn't always comfortable, but it's always instructive.
Driving up to a work session yesterday, I found myself feeling anxious. The familiar feelings of nervous energy combined with a stomache in knots built up as I the miles passed. By the time I reached my destination I was fairly wound up, despite having excellent company and good coffee in hand. Upon arriving it became clear to me that the work in question was in a very safe community of people, and I felt comfortable digging in a bit to find the source of the anxiety that was upsetting my body. What I learned was surprising on a number of levels.
The first surprise was that having just met several new people I still felt safe enough to not only ask myself what would happen if I let go, just for a moment, of the anxiety gripping me, but that I was able to do so. As it slipped from me I felt fear rise up and grasp for the anxiety response. What I found in that fragile voice was the fear that if I let go of the anxiety that there would be nothing - void, total emptiness - left behind. In other words, I felt fear that really I had nothing in myself, nothing at all. The anxiety was a way to fill a space that I feared was devoid of content.
Soothing the voice, I let myself experience was really was left behind after the anxiety released. What I found, at first for just a moment, was stillness, right there in the core of my being. It took a few moments for me to realize that stillness is SOMETHING, not NOTHING! What a pleasant surprise! Even more pleasant after a moment was my feeling of desire for that stillness. Having had a taste of it, my whole being yearned to return to that feeling. Stillness, looked at as a state rather than the absence of a state, feels deeply satisfying and nurturing. Not only that, I could choose to experience that stillness and consciously relax the muscles of my belly, freeing my body. Who knew?
Coming forward into today, I found my mind wandering into the land of accounting worries as I lay in svasana at the end of my yoga practice. Svasana is supposed to be a total relaxation pose, but my hamster brain was doing its best to create worry, worry, worry. Any small business owner can tell you that the fastest road to an upset stomache is to worry about finances when you are no where near your accounting systems! I could have let this escalate into a full blown anxiety attack; I have certainly allowed this to happen in past times! As I tuned into the creeping anxiety that spread from my mind right down into my belly (just where I found yesterday's experience!), I chose to listen deeply to the wisdom of my core instead be led down a worry path by my brain!
What I found astounded me. Although I could have sworn that this kind of worry "always" started in my belly, instead I found that it actually started in my mind. My busy little hamster brain was trying its best to get my belly all riled up. Interestingly, I found my belly resisting today, and in listening more deeply I discovered that my core was wiser than my mind: this wasn't a real threat, and therefore my core didn't have any response. My mind was all set to create chaos for my tummy, but with yesterday's experience in my tool kit, instead it chose to listen to my core's wisdom. Lo and behold, I realized that it was totally pointless to think about my business while resting at the end of my yoga class!
Looking even more deeply into the pool of my core, I found a fear that my lack of response to a non-real threat was somehow a lack in my personality, as though I was missing some critical component of emotional capacity, rather than just having the body wisdom to know if a situation was real or imagined. And to think of all the years' of energy I spent forcing my body to have adrenaline responses to imagined crises....ah, but there is another way to rile myself up unnecessarily!
None of this would have been so accessible without all the work I have done to reach stillness, to find and experience a central space in myself, my core, where I can always hold stillness. Regardless of what happens around me no one can ever take this place away from me. It exists within me, and physical core work (yes, all those pesky Maria crunches!) makes a world of difference in my ability to tune in, locate my real core, and listen.
What are your core messages today?