This post is a follow up to the previous article, (http://wp.me/p2FojE-K) sharing some perspectives on what self-forgiveness and faith have to do with easing worry, dread, anxiety and stress. If you haven’t already done so, I encourage you to read that post as a way to help provide additional context that will better set up the story and simple technique that I have to share today.
Many years ago, anxiety and stress were a specialty of mine and they became my frequent companions. I could get all worked up and fill my mind for hours or days with the same few fearful, worrisome thoughts. The triggering event might have to do with my work, personal life, family relationships or even some story in the news, but it seemed there was almost always something worry over. Regardless of the ‘cause’, I could create all kinds of upsets, imagine horrific outcomes and generally make myself – and often those around me – miserable with the effects of my anxiety ridden internal dialog and strained behavior.
For a couple of years I worked in an art and custom picture framing store, as the head of the custom framing department. One day I got into a big dispute with the manager over some relatively small procedural thing that affected my work flow. But rather than talking things out rationally both of us hunkered down, became entrenched in our egos and righteously defended our positions about how things should be done. I went home that evening feeling upset and contentious, still arguing with her in my head. But after a short while, I also began to feel anxious and worried that perhaps I had taken it too far and would be fired. There I was, on a beautiful summer evening in coastal Southern California just a few blocks from the inviting beach and warm water. I could have been out having fun, but I just sat home making myself miserable instead. My fearful internal dialog had ratcheted up its imaginings and shrill warnings, become a tyrannical master, driving my thoughts into more and more frantic and disturbing territory.
Finally recognizing the downward spiral I’d begun and looking for any relief, I decided to meditate. As I sat in the stillness breathing consciously for several mintues, the inner tyrant began to settle down. As I continued a bit longer, I felt myself finally relaxing and softening in both mind and heart. Then all of a sudden a flash of insight came to me, a very self-loving, non-ego oriented thought. In my quieting mind I heard the words “I don’t need to worry about this. It’s all going to work out.” Then it repeated, not just as a thought, but also as a conscious choice and intention. “I don’t need to worry, it’s all going to work out fine.” I didn’t know how it would work out, but I realized that perhaps I didn’t need to know how. My body fully relaxed and my mind went still as the tyrant inside shrank away and disappeared. I sat smiling and enjoying the feeling of peace and assurance for a couple of more minutes. Then I got up feeling light-hearted, calm and supported, ready to go off into the evening to have fun.
After a night of peaceful sleep free of all the anxiety and stress, I got up the next morning to go to work. I walked into the store a bit nervously, but still holding the belief that everything would work out for the best. A few minutes later my manager arrived, and began her day by apologizing to me and offering a new solution to our disagreement, something that worked well for both of us. Wow, it had worked out fine! As I reflected on the occurrence a little later in the day, the experience seemed like both a revelation and a promise of relief. Perhaps I no longer had to torture myself with worry, anxiety and attempts to manipulate and control seemingly fearful situations. It occurred that I could approach life in a completely new way. I could consciously choose surrender the worry, anxiety and stress, the tormented machinations of my fearful, willful little ego mind to the intelligence of something larger and wiser than myself. The more I tried this technique, the more I found that it really worked.
Looking back, I can see that although I didn’t fully understand the finer points of the distinction at the time, I had simply surrendered my need to control and be right, and chosen to relax and trust that there was something else at work – something that went well beyond my conscious, fearful mind. I had chosen faith instead of fear. In doing so, I had also instantaneously reclaimed all the life force energy that I’d been pouring into the worry, anxiety, stress and mental churning. Once it was released from the pointless activity of worry, that creative energy was free to help fulfill my intention for a great resolution to the situation.
Today after 20 years of practice, I have a lot more experience and confidence in the power of choosing faith over fear. The simple technique I’m about to share is one of the tools that I use to stay more balanced, positive and productive – when I remember to use it! The same power is available to each of you in any moment too. If you happen to have a predisposition toward worry, fearful thoughts, stress and trepidation, I suggest you try a new way. If you’re tormented by an internal tyrants of dread, anxiety and stress, I invite you to practice this little tool and decide to set yourself free. The technique consists of a few simple steps that can take as little as 30 seconds. So, when you find yourself in the middle of an anxiety spree:
- Stop, take a deep breath, allow your body to relax and focus your attention in the area of your heart.
- Make a conscious choice “I don’t have to worry.” As you do, imagine letting go of any stress, negative thoughts, undue concerns or attempts to figure out how to manipulate or control the situation.
- Make a conscious decision and state your intention, “It’s all going to work out fine.”
- Breathe deeply again, and say a little prayer, giving thanks in advance to the larger power for working things out in a way that’s best for you and others involved.
- Turn your attention and energy to feeling good, loving yourself and doing whatever else it is that you need to get done right now.
Here’s one more thing about the relationship of this topic to forgiveness. As we’ve seen, a powerful solution to anxiety is to choose faith instead of fear. It also requires that we choose faith when we forgive. In order to forgive, we must choose to turn our attention from the past-based thoughts of fear, worry and dread to put faith in the promise of something better. We have to trust that through choosing to forgive, we’ll open the doors to a more free and fulfilling future – a future that’s not available when holding onto resentment, regret, blame, guilt or shame.
I like to think that forgiveness and faith are traveling partners on the road to the fulfillment of your desires. So whether it’s to quell an anxiety attack, or to gather the courage to forgive, I invite you to put the power of faith to work in your life. Try out this simple technique and see how it works for you. I look forward to hearing from you what you experience. Oh yeah one more thing, don’t worry it’s going to be fine…