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When it comes to anxiety, I’m always looking for solutions.
After years of struggle and practicing different methods to decrease the intensity of this monster, I have finally remembered the most important practice of all: Buddhism.
The Buddha might not have directly spoken about anxiety, but he spoke about suffering—and that’s pretty much the same.
Those who struggle with anxiety know how difficult it is to pretend that everything’s okay. It’s not okay. Getting through our day is not as easy as it sounds, and believe it or not, we miss having a normal life that’s not associated with fear and worry. We miss being okay.
In Buddhism, our life is considered a path—a journey. If we want to be truly okay on this path of ours, free ourselves from Samsara (the cycle of suffering), and experience a glimpse of Nirvana, we must be able to manifest greater wisdom, greater practice, greater observation, and greater transformation.
For me, these four elements represent the real essence of Buddhism. To become peaceful and genuinely happy, we have to learn the art of transformation—transforming sadness, obstacles, grief, loss, change, and so on.
According to the Buddhists, nothing is permanently fixed, so the idea of reinventing (transforming) ourselves is the secret to success. Those who practice meditation know what I’m talking about. When we meditate, we don’t close our eyes and focus on our breath just to achieve a few minutes of inner peace. We meditate to observe. We meditate to transform our thoughts from enemies to friends. We meditate to understand that some things cannot be changed; however, we can change the way we look at them.
When it comes to anxiety, this notion has tremendously helped me.
Connecting to our inner wisdom: When we are tuned into our bodies and minds, we gain greater wisdom. We become aware and mindful of the thoughts that invade our mental space. When we activate this innate wisdom that we all possess, we understand that our true nature is not rooted in fear, worry, or confusion. Our nature is simple. It’s neutral. It’s pure and innocent. So, anxiety is not who we are; it doesn’t define us.
Being committed to a practice: We practice meditation to increase our levels of awareness and mindfulness. Buddhism is deeply rooted in discipline—commitment. Just like we strive to end our obstacles and discover our Dharma through meditation or any other spiritual practice, we should strive to end our anxiety through cultivating a strong heart. Make your triggers your daily practice. Don’t give in to fear or become tired with your practice. Consistency is key.
Observe your patterns: When we sit in meditation, we observe our present moment. We observe the thoughts that come in and out. When we are in the middle of an anxiety attack, we should practice observation. Where in your body is your attack rooted? Which parts of you hurt the most? What is your anxiety trying to tell you? Which ways have worked for you before and can you put them into practice again? Observing our anxiety is more helpful than surrendering to it.
Then let it transform you: In Buddhism, real transformation starts with us—mentally. When we understand what sets off our anxiety, we understand how we can transform it. We might not be able to stop it or permanently put an end to it, but we can change it into something else that could become a source of power and strength. Repeat a personal mantra whenever you’re anxious, such as “I’m not my fear” or “I can get through this difficult moment” or “I deserve a peaceful present moment.”
When we practice thought transformation as the Buddhists have long advised, we might lessen the intensity of our anxiety attacks. Instead of becoming the victims, we become the messengers.
Are you ready to transform your fear when it arises?