Image by Adriano Gadini
The mind is a tool. The question is
do you use the tool
or does the tool use you.
-- Zen Proverb
Most of us will miss out on life’s big prizes…the Pulitzer, Nobel, Oscars, Tonys, Emmys, winning the Lottery. But there are many, more incredible prizes for which we’re all eligible.
For instance, have you ever looked at the night sky and felt complete wonder at its vastness; or merged so deeply with the rhythm and melody of music that your sense of self disappeared? Or have you felt magnetized by the light of love shining through a loved one’s eyes; or drifted slowly awake and lain quietly embracing delicious restfulness before opening your eyes; or sat by a river, listening to its steady flow, and entered into stillness. These are life’s small pleasures that transform an ordinary day to one of splendor, and a poor man into a person of extravagant means.
Each of these experiences exalts the soul and is readily available to anyone patiently embracing the moment. It is a matter of deliberateness—being willing to deliberately engage in life in a way, and, with the motive of transforming an ordinary experience to a memorable one.
Two Differing Views
The opportunity to share one’s talents with the world seems like a wondrous experience and a chance to offer love in a grand way. But for singer, Carly Simon, who had incredible stage fright, it was terrifying. Before a performance, she would become nauseous and ill and even fainted at one of her concerts. She decided that she was not suited to be on stage because of her nerves. She routinely felt sick, her hands would sweat, and she couldn’t sit still. She concluded that having this problem indicated that she was not meant to perform and actually stopped touring because of it.
Whitney Houston, on the other hand, knew that when her nerves were jangled, her hands were sweaty, and she couldn’t sit still, she was ready to go on stage. She believed her nervousness made her mentally sharp and she felt pumped!
Both singers were anxious when going before an audience and demonstrated similar physical reactions, yet each interpreted them differently. So it is with people. What exalts one person will disable another. In other words, are you willing to look fear in the face and deal with it or let it take you down?
What's Your Viewpoint?
If you are nervous with a new assignment or situation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t go through with it. It could be a signal that something important is about to happen. It could be anticipation for a new door opening.
Before you give up, try adjusting your viewpoint. Excitement when starting a new venture can be expected. It is the way we meet challenge, face opportunity, and deal with the unknown. Acknowledge your excitement for what it is. It doesn’t mean you should cancel the journey. New ventures lead to personal expansion and it makes life more interesting.
Therefore, when you find yourself in an anxious moment, stop and notice where you are. Shift your focus to the present moment and to your breath. That means notice the items or sites around you and start naming them. There is a tree and some grass. I can smell the grass and watch the breeze blow through the tree. Or, I am driving and there are cars everywhere. There is a white Chevy and a black truck hauling gravel. I can feel my steering wheel and I can see the sun shining through the windshield.
When you steady yourself and connect with the present moment, your mind stops racing and you begin to feel calmer. Next go to the place in your body where you can feel peace and breathe into that space. (It might be your heart or your belly.) Breathe at least five breaths while you fix your attention on your body.
Put this exercise in your mental toolbox and it will be ready to use at any time. Bottomline, you are bringing your attention to the present moment and that is where all change happens. That is where all the fun happens too. From there, stabilize and center your attention.
Being Willing to Receive the Gifts
I knew a woman who was depressed. One day, driving to work, she topped a hill and gazed upon a gorgeous scene. The horizon expanded before her with an incredible turquoise-blue sky and plump fluffy clouds. She was struck by the beauty and vastness of nature and entranced by brilliant arrays of flowers and massive trees that seemed to be crowned with sunshine. The immense stretch of branches opulently offering shade and comfort.
As she registered this natural splendor, it occurred to her how unconscious and self-involved she had been. She wondered how much had she lost while depressed? Yet, throughout that time nature continued to radiate its grace and serenity.
These are the endless prizes we are offered. Are you willing to receive them? It requires a shift in perspective. Perhaps dropping a compulsion to self-doubt and letting go of negativism to open the door to deeper perception and appreciation.
Take a moment to look for the elegance of life and you will find it. Or, create a few of your own—pat yourself on the back, smile at someone, assume a welcoming stance to life. Go out of your way to be friendly to a neighbor. Or take time to gaze with wonderment at the moon and stars or listen to the melodious sounds of nature. Watch a crackling fire. Relax.
Enjoy the happiness of a cooing baby, the luxuriousness of a great meal, a gorgeous sunset, a bowl of hot soup, or a cold beer. These are the prizes that soothe anxiety and remind you that life is good.
There’s no need fretting at losing out on life’s illustrious awards. Appreciate its many joys instead. There are plenty of those to go around. Look around. What magic is happening right now that you would have missed if you weren’t paying attention? Can you make a practice of noticing?
Anxiety Is Created In The Mind
Situations do not cause stress. Your beliefs about them do. Jim sees a yard full of leaves and starts pressuring himself to rake it. Jim can’t release his obsession to clean up the mess.
Meanwhile, his next-door neighbor, Harry, observes the same sight, and, noting he has other priorities, walks right past without guilt or consternation. Harry has no pressure because he values his peace of mind above the yard waste.
Jim’s belief that in order to be a good person, you must have a clean yard plagues him. Even though, he knows there is no time for yard work, he is burdened. Instead, he could focus on more compelling matters including self-nurturing.
This shift in perspective necessitates self-control and a redefinition of the prerequisites to being, a good person. Beliefs of this sort, and the ensuing pressure they instill, keep the mind disorganized. Contrarily, peace can be achieved by making it the priority. Let yourself off the hook. What’s more important than mental harmony? Isn’t that essential to accomplishing anything?
Making Peace A Priority
Putting peace at the top of your priority list makes sense. Many are unwilling to put this need on their list at all, much less at the top. I’ll get to my needs when everything else is finished.” It’s no surprise then, when the day is over, you’re still waiting your turn.
Start by dedicating an hour daily to shifting your paradigm of angst to peace. Do this by sitting quietly while contemplating beauty, peace, love, fun, everything working perfectly, etc. Your world will become calmer, brighter, and more hopeful. Simplicity speaks—leisurely walk, receive the sunshine (or rain), sit in reverie, fantasize a perfect life, read an inspiring book, smell the flowers, breathe deeply, write yourself a love note, meditate. The possibilities are endless.
Often, this kind of restructuring takes place when illness strikes in a family. Suddenly the messy yard, dusty furniture, or other important work loses significance. Health comes first. Guilt dissolves as tasks are ignored. The patient comes first (perhaps you are the patient). Don’t wait for an emergency to include yourself on the priority list.
Being In Harmony
Do anger, people pleasing, fretting about deadlines, and worry about the neighbors come before generating calmness? What are the unrealistic beliefs you hold that are interfering with serenity? How would you like to replace them?
To be in harmony, as the stream is to the rocks, is our task. It requires willingness, patience, and fortitude to shift your priorities and beliefs.
In our Western world, this can be a monumental accomplishment. Not so much in Eastern countries where silence is cultivated.
Giving Yourself Permission
Start by granting yourself permission to indulge yourself in a new way. In time you will get the hang of it and it will nourish you, even heal you. Stay in stillness for three days or a week, maybe three months. Remain until you have forgotten all the roles you play, and the ways you clothe yourself with identity and dysfunctional behaviors and beliefs. Stay until you become nothing, just quiet emptiness.
From this point, you can move into a deeper energy. Let the mind drift gently into experiencing a deeper sensation of life. Notice your breath. Feel it coming in and going out. Notice its texture, temperature, and rhythm. Feel your body organs function. And feel your spirit. Let it expand with each breath so that you are able to move beyond your physical self to feel the space you occupy. Then feel all space.
Your mind will begin to change texture as you do this. It becomes softer, lighter, fuller. Stay in this space. No judgment, no anything, just being. You are stretching and becoming your true, authentic self.
©2020 by Jean Walters. All Rights Reserved.
Excerpted with permission.
Publisher: Inner Connections.
The Journey from Anxiety to Peace: Practical Steps to Handle Fear, Embrace Struggle, and Eliminate Worry to become Happy and Free
by Jean Walters
Everyday stress takes a toll on your well-being and sense of joy and can even cut your life short. In this book you will discover practices to help you move from anxiety and worry to peace of mind and you will read stories of people who have successfully made the transition. It is a process. Others have successfully transitioned in this way and you can too. It is like crossing a stream, jumping from rock to rock. Take a step and the next stone (step) will appear before you. The main thing is to start!!
For more info, or to order this book, click here. (Also available as a Kindle edition.)
About the Author
Jean Walters is a Saint Louis based teacher of self-empowerment principles for over thirty years. She has studied metaphysics extensively and applies universal principles to every area of her life. Jean has written weekly and monthly columns for major Saint Louis newspapers and publications and been published all over the United States. Her books include: Set Yourself Free: Live the life YOU were meant to Live, Be Outrageous: Do the Impossible; Dreams & the Symbology of Life; Look Ma, I'm Flying. She has designed and presented classes and workshops in empowerment, meditation, universal laws, dream interpretation, and strengthening intuition for organizations, colleges, universities, spiritual groups, and businesses around the Midwest. From her Saint Louis office, she works with people around the world as a Transformational Coach and Akashic Record reader. She has given over 35,000 readings with the emphasis on providing insight regarding personal growth, life purpose, strengthening relationships, and moving through obstacles.