By Jennifer Hilton
I have been reflecting and writing notes about my impactful experience last year in Transforming Anxiety and Stress, a creative and carefully crafted program led by David Raithby & Sandey McCartney (scheduled in 2015 for May 28–31 and October 1–4).
My obsessive thoughts are a pretty good sign-post for me. I am learning that when I am in them, I am not living fully in my anxiety, in fact, I am running away from my anxiety and fears. As with most things I run away from, they seem to come back in one way or another and this is true for this coping mechanism. Obsessive thinking leads me to more anxiety and my thinking stops me from feeling the powerful and potentially transformative energy in anxiety.
I have had an edgy relationship with anxiety and fear. Often, like unwelcomed scary guests, appearing in my life, knocking at my door and sometimes taking up what seems to be a permanent residence! I am reminded of the opening line of Rumi’s poem, The Guest House:
This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival.
I am often surprised that anxiety and fear are so intrusive and boldly energetic; indiscriminately they seem to take over my psyche and body, rattle my cage, cause my heart to beat fast, leave me numb and often stupefied. I understand that looking at anxiety and fears this way, I can fall victim to them, as if they have some control over me … and I have allowed them to rule the house on many occasions. Intellectually, I get that I have a choice around how I experience anxiety ,and what I hadn’t really put together for myself was how much I was in resistance to feeling fully … and not just my stress, anxiety or fears; I have also limited my range of feeling the depth of my emotions … my joy, sadness, anger and my passion.
When I link them together, I see the impact. By rejecting my anxiety, not accepting and acknowledging/expressing myself from this place, I am actually pushing away the opportunity to move to another place and feel/engage in my aliveness. The result is often a loop back into my obsessive thinking (which by the way, is an equally unfriendly and energy zapping guest)!
Another coping mechanism for me is to isolate myself, in essence to “go to my room”, and I found experiencing and sharing anxiety and fear with others was extremely supportive and meaningful. Breathing deeply, acceptance and self-compassion seem to assist me the most in my resisting place. I may not like some of my guests when they arrive, and here I am, living with them. I believe I have more range of possibilities to face and express my fears, anxiety and passions. Each moment, an opportunity to express, to breathe, to accept what or how I choose.
Participating in Transforming Anxiety and Stress offered countless ways for me to greet my unwanted and wanted house guests and assisted me in changing the shape of my relationship with them. I highly recommend this program as a way to connect with self and others and to open more doors to being fully alive, even when scared!