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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

When you don’t know what to do, just be

The only way to get rid of anxiety is to not give it any attention. 

In some situations in Life you may just not know what to do. Anxiety may then feed on your helplessness. You know that feeling anxious is not a solution __ but you go on fretting, fuming, worrying, fearing, because you don’t have a concrete action plan, a set of certified things you can and must do. This can be both habit-forming and debilitating. You are robbed of your inner peace and, over time, you become a complete wreck.

Several of us have ended up living Life like zombies – just going about things, wearily, while being held hostage by our own anxieties. It all began at some time with not knowing what to do. And it continues to be so, not knowing how to live and what to do about getting rid of our own anxieties!

There’s a way out. That way has always been there for you, in front of you, but you have not seen it because you have been preoccupied. Finding that way and getting on that path requires a simple appreciation and understanding of how Life operates. And how our human mind works.

First, know that there is no guarantee that every problem you face can and must be solved by you. So, accept that it is perfectly fine not to know what to do in some Life situations. Second, understand that your anxiety is always about non-existent stuff. You may be anxious about the past – having done something that you regret. But the past is over. It is done and dead. So what’s so intelligent about grieving the past and being anxious about it? Or you may be anxious about the future – which has not happened, so, in effect, it too is non-existent! What’s so intelligent again about worrying of a future that is unborn? But the human mind thrives on anxiety. It loves the past. It thrives in the future. And so it simply prefers to stay anxious. And you, if you want to get over your anxieties, you need to break that mind pattern of yours. You need to bring your mind to focus on the present. It is only in the present that the mind becomes powerless. It is only when you are living in the present moment that you will be free of all anxiety and you will find inner peace.

Bringing your mind to focus on the present and for you to gain mastery over your mind requires no rocket science. Osho, the Master, often told a Zen story to teach how ingenious some solutions to this universal problem can be:

Bokuju, a Zen Master lived alone in a cave. He would sometimes say loudly, “Bokuju” — his own name, and then he would answer, “Yes, I am here.” His disciples used to ask him, “Why are you calling ‘Bokuju’, your own name, and then saying, ‘Yes sir, I am here’?” Bokuju said, “Whenever I get into anxious thinking, I have to remember to be alert, and so I call my own name, ‘Bokuju.’ The moment I call ‘Bokuju’ and I say, ‘Yes sir, I am here,’ the anxious thinking disappears.”

Asking this question to yourself, calling out your own name, works. Because it breaks the circuit, it interrupts the anxious train of thoughts that are speeding through your mind’s highway. I have devised a simple variation of the same concept. I often tell myself, “AVIS, Steady! Steady!”  Or I repeat a simple mantram (this is what I learned from my guru Eknath Easwaran) or an easy-to-recall inspirational quote. Those approaches too work.

Use whatever method works for you and helps serve as your circuit-breaker. Once the debilitating chain of thoughts is broken, your mind, momentarily, arrives in the moment. Just hold it there, just be, and you will be free of all anxiety. So, in situations when you don’t know what to do, try just being! And feel the difference!

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