Anxiety is a necessary and important part of our body's survival system. It helps us think about and prepare for the future. It's the part of us that squirrels away resources for the winter and prepares for the worst.
But if bouts of anxiety either paralyze us and keep us from our daily activities, or occur so often we're plagued by them, then something may be amiss in our body's survival systems. It may be an important time to reach out for help.
From a mindfulness perspective, anxious thinking can be seen as another thing that brings us out of the present--most likely safe--moment. In fact, using our mindfulness practice can help assuage spiraling anxiety. With mindfulness we can also come to understand that anxiety really isn't about us, personally, it's a survival mechanism that happens on it's own.
What is a Meditator of Convenience?
I asked myself this recently while traveling in the Sierras. Perched high on majestic slabs of granite overlooking Kirkwood Lake, I couldn't understand why I was still agitated, exhausted and not able to really see the beauty before me. To really drink it in. It just seemed flat, but I didn't know why. Why?
Having Greta, my dog, has brought a lot of joy and connection to my life, but it's also brought a lot of extra tasks and focused attention needed to train and care for her. My life was a lot different when I had Shyla, and, since I got her when she was just a pup, the training happened over many years. The learning curve with Greta has been huge, particularly because she is a rescue and I don't know her history, she has occasional other dog aggression and separation anxiety issues. It has been intense and I don't seem to recognize how much so until we're apart from each other, where I can breathe a bit without having to attend to her.
As I settled into the space and into the inquiry, "What WOULD make this moment sacred?" I began to feel my body actually present on the granite--the hard, rough and rugged texture, the coolness permeating my bottom, the soft, cool breeze sweeping past my skin. The stillness and distant sounds of wind threading through pine needles evoked a familiar sense. I had lived in Tahoe for five years in my early twenties and it was where I discovered my favorite smell (warm pine pitch) and sound (wind wending through conifers).
As the stillness settled in, Greta still sniffing around and familiarizing herself with the territory, my senses heightened and my body began to feel rested--a deep breath released tension in the chest and within minutes it felt like I had taken a nap.
And then it hit me...
JoAnn Saccato, MA is a mindfulness teacher, author, life coach, educator, and consultant in Northern California. She is author of Companioning the Sacred Journey and Mindful and Intentional Living: A Path to Peace, Clarity and Freedom