Mental Medicine: Freedom from Anxiety
Weekly Insights from Meditation Classes You May Have Missed
During our Wednesday class series we are continuing our exploration into this truly fascinating mind of anxiety. As with all our other deluded, agitated states of mind, we only dare to investigate them from perspective of/and within the space of peace and stillness. We use this 'inner laboratory' of peace that we generate through meditation to explore these painful minds. Solutions and the power to let go only arise within the space of peace.
We always feel disconnected from peace and happiness. Ask yourself, "Do I feel disconnected from, separate from peace right now?" It's amazing that even when we are peaceful, even that peace appears to exist separate from us. We never experience a deep 'union' or communion with peace. Like a carrot on a stick, peace and happiness are always a little bit apart. The purpose of meditation is to actively destroy and ruthlessly demolish this separation. We go (actively go) deeper and deeper into this little bit of peace that we experience either in meditation or when enjoying time with friends, enjoying the sunshine on our face etc. and recognize that this little bit of peace is connected to enlightened peace.
This little bit of peace highlights numerous profound insights into our happiness nature: we have the potential for great peace; our mind can change from unpeaceful to a little bit more peaceful indicating our mind can change (we can change!); in order to be peaceful all we do is let go of the agitated line of thinking; a little bit of peace is connected to the peace of all the previous practitioners who themselves became enlightened; this peace also exists in the heart of every living being and they too have this extraordinary potential for lasting happiness.
Don't undervalue your little bit of peace; treasure it as your most precious possession. It is the one thing that can never be taken from you. Lasting peace begins with a little bit of peace.
So within that space of stillness and peace we look once again at our anxiety, that terribly disruptive state of mind that anticipates catastrophe and dreads it. Quoting our dear friend Mark Twain, “I’ve experienced many catastrophes in my life, most of which never happened.” Anxiety is a completely useless state of mind that moves towards a potential difficulty in a state of fear, resistance, dread and panic. It goes without saying that it is also utterly unproductive and contrary to our wish for solution and progress. Anxiety (jealously is a close runner-up) is the winner of the ‘The Most Useless State of Mind Award.’
Unfortunately, we think anxiety is necessary. Clearly, our life would be so much better without anxiety. Why? To make a long story short, anxiety tries to control the uncontrollable. For example, can we control if someone likes us? No, but we try. We spend so much time worrying about what others think about us. Yet, can we control what they think? No, clearly not. So if we can’t control what people think about us, why do we worry about what they think? The only thing we can control in any situation is our state of mind, our response to their dislike, their unhappiness etc. How much easier life would be if we understood that if we simply control our mind there is no need to control other things. We need to spend time in meditation analyzing situations that give rise to anxiety, looking at them with that understanding. We are actively teaching ourself how to respond to everything with peace, solution and wisdom. As Geshe Kelsang is fond of saying, “We need to become our own teacher, our own protector, our own spiritual guide.” Such profound advice.
Buddha was so kind. Out of his great compassion he shows us that our anxiety-inducing thoughts exist within the mind, AND at an even more subtle level, the situation ITSELF exists within our mind. How so? Think about a situation that makes you anxious. Ask yourself, 'Does this situation appear to exist in my mind, relative to my mind, created by my mind? Or does it appear to be separate, independent, out there, having nothing to do with my mind at all?" If we're honest, when we check within our experience we see the situation appears to be out there, separate, having nothing to do with our mind at all. From that perspective anxiety is utterly natural i.e. here's this really difficult, panic-inducing situation ‘out there,’ so of course I'm justified in being extremely anxious. Actually, I’m completely freaking out! But through meditation we begin to see directly for ourself, that situation exists relative to our mind. We can contemplate, “All I ever experience is just my experience of the situation i.e. other than my experience of the situation there is no situation. Therefore, this situation exists relative to my mind, not independent, out there, separate from my mind and if I simply connect to that little bit of peace in my heart and abide there, then I can engage with this situation with peace.” Within peace, there is solution.
We ourself, our life, the situations in our life and all the people we normally see exist relative to our mind. We know this from our own experience. For example, two people can look at the same situation in two completely different ways. One individual can view it from a place of peace, joy, and even excited to rise to the occasion. Another person looks at the same exact situation from the perspective of anxiety, fear, worry, panic and incapacity. Same situation, different state of mind.So the situation itself isn't anxiety inducing objectively, independent of the mind perceiving it. There are no objectively anxious things or situations. The situation exists only relative to the mind that perceives it and if that mind is peaceful then there is no problem.
A peaceful mind doesn’t perceive problems.
Thus, if we control our mind then we have complete control over every situation. With a peaceful mind we can deal with anything and live our life based on wisdom and blessing. We will have confidence that we can make spiritual use of whatever comes our way and be fully present for both the ups and downs, transforming everything into something beneficial for ourself and others.
Meditation for this Week
There is nothing to fear and/or become anxious about other than our uncontrolled mind. For as long as our mind is out of control we will continue to misperceive reality and develop all the associated painful minds, such as anxiety, worry and anger. As the great Indian Buddhist meditation master said, " ... if the elephant of our mind is bound tightly on all sides by the rope of mindfulness, all fears will cease to exist and all virtues will fall into our hands." And, " ... it is not possible to control all external events; but, if I simply control my mind, what need is there to control other things?" First, when the mind of anxiety arises be grateful. Accept. It is there to show you exactly what needs letting go. Then, use it to remind you, “This is a completely useless state of mind. My nature is peaceful. Anxiety parades itself as my friend but has it ever helped me?! I can engage with my life, my karma THROUGH peace. Peace is my nature and that little bit of peace I experience in meditation indicates that I can view this situation from a place of peace."
THE UNMISTAKEN DHARMA
WHAT GESHE LA SAYS. . .
“Our delusions are now very strong and difficult to control. We have so little inner peace that it is rare to enjoy a peaceful mind for even just a few hours. If we check our mind we will see that we are living in a state of almost constant discomfort and anxiety. As soon as we stop worrying about one thing, something else starts to bother us. Our delusions give us no rest. We have uncomfortable minds and experience very little real happiness. Our lives these days are extremely busy and complicated, filled with an ever-increasing variety of distractions. Even when we have the time to relax we tend to switch on the television or radio and are subjected to a multitude of ever-changing images and sounds. We are so used to being stimulated from the outside that we find it difficult to be quiet and enjoy the stillness of our own mind.”
- From Eight Steps to Happiness
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