Healing,  Mental Health

The Alternative To Anxious Living

Following on from Links Between Anxiety & Depression let’s now explore the alternative to anxious living. 

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Question : What is the alternative to anxious living?

Well, to most sufferers, it’s quite obvious that their thinking has/is changed. Often people report relentless worry and repetitive over-thinking. Dwelling on the negative and/or replaying mental movies over and over again, always hoping for a better outcome, but sadly never finding one.

If this obviously broken pattern of thinking is all we know, what possible hope can we have? Cognitive behavioural therapy… coping strategies… medication… There must be a truly effective alternative, right?

This is the corner many of us find ourselves backed into. Perpetual cycles of deeply tortured thoughts, reinforced by mainstream medicine, offering mostly symptomatic relief with tablets and/or talking.

Well here’s the bones of it, because there is an alternative. You just haven’t experienced it. That is all!

I must repeat this… There is an alternative to your broken thinking pattern, you just haven’t experienced it yet!

Answer : The alternative is found within a new practice your about to begin.
A brief definition of the hurdle.

Right now when the mind tells us we’re broken… we can’t… we’ll never… we’re failing… we listen! – Don’t we?

What if this was just a reflection of a trapped mind that had nowhere to turn? Like a puppy chasing it’s own tail.

What if we’d become so reliant on the mind for direction, we had become trapped by its limitations? 

This tortured place is built entirely inside thinking, and often referred to as the downward spiral of depression.

It’s like a wall built from beliefs of negative thought, cemented by powerful emotional reinforcement.

Beliefs are the blocks on which we build our lives. – Spike

Octopus by Spike #spikeblogs
Outline of a way forward…

So, the alternative to anxious living can begin after we interrupt our broken thinking pattern, then look closer at our beliefs (when we stop laying blocks, or chasing our tails and simply pause…)

In order to make it stop… STOP! – Spike

Let’s call this ‘recovery‘, as brick-by-brick we take down the misguided wall that causes us so much pain.

To start our recovery, we must first set the stage.

We must interrupt our thinking and then prove to the mind that this pattern is broken. Doing this builds strong doubt in the mind, as a result, we create the space necessary for an alternative to anxious thinking to arise! 

Rather than narrow repetitive broken thinking patterns, the mind now slowly opens. Like curtains opening on a stage, or, any number of Buddhist quotes related to the blooming of a flower. My favourite being…

The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.
Flower Bloom by Spike #spikeblogs

Then, we audition the s*** out of our beliefs.

When we prove some of the minds core beliefs are broken, it always listens and learns (albeit slowly). It becomes naturally inquisitive and searches for answers. It does this in order to replace the old broken beliefs.

It auditions new beliefs until it finds a better replacement!

See, the mind normally thinks it is YOU. It thinks IT is in complete control, however, we’re about to dispute this. We’re about to break that fundamental core belief.

So, obvious question, how on earth do we practically ‘do’ this?

Well, the mind responds best to evidence. So that’s our goal; to give proof and put the mind in its rightful place!

A few preparatory thoughts…

You first need to fully understand and experience, how right now, you may be living life with blinkers/blinders on.

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I appreciate this is a massive statement, so for the moment let’s just pretend it’s true. Coming up, I’ll be sharing an exercise for you to practice. This will help you prove beyond doubt, that the statement is indeed correct.

Now, it’s not enough to just read these words or agree with the statement. That would be just simple thinking, and for this to offer any value, it MUST take place in experience. Then, and only then, will the mind get its proof!

What we’re about to do, is evidently show the mind that it is flawed, mistaken & also, not alone! We’re going to give the tortured tool a wake up call. We’re going to give it reason to question itself and become inquisitive…

Or, in other words, you could say, we’re about to unbuckle those blinkers!

Un-blinkered horses by Spike
To the exercise yard… and beyond!

Let’s imagine you have two minds, like a car with two engines.

Firstly, there’s a dominant automatic mind and secondly, a practical manual mind. We’ll explore these in detail later, but for now, our goal is to simply prove the auto-mind isn’t in control and that it’s actually YOU! who’s driving.

In order to do this you’re going to ask the manual mind, to simply go and find your natural breath. The same breathing you’ve done since the day you were born, the exact same breath you barely ever notice taking place.

So, find a quiet spot and make yourself comfortable. Briefly close your eyes and simply try to sense where your breath is. Don’t force it, don’t control it, don’t do anything with it… just find it and witness it happening.

Don’t get discouraged if the ‘in’s and ‘out’s aren’t obvious for several days. If you have real difficulty finding your breath then, you could try laying down flat with one hand on the stomach. Persevere, it will come!

When you do eventually find your breath, the challenge is to note it for as long as possible. As breath flows in just mentally note ‘in’ and when the breath flows out, simply note ‘out’.

Let’s call this the sweet-spot. The spot where you can sense your natural breath and accurately note each one.

Now, hold that sweet-spot for as long as possible.

Pay extremely close attention to what happens next?

Usually, within just a few seconds, your effort to watch the ‘in’s and ‘out’s gets interrupted by a distracting thought. Something like ‘Was that someone outside?‘, or, ‘I’m so hungry..‘, or, ‘Wonder what time it is?‘… and so on.

Now, ask yourself questions and try to examine what just happened.

Do you know where the random thought(s) came from? Who or what was responsible for them?

Did you decide to stop noting the ‘in’s and ‘out’s, or did the distractions just pop up from nowhere and take over?

What on earth is going on? What/who keeps interrupting you?

Smile, because your dominant automatic mind was just introduced to your manual mind. Your auto-mind now realises there’s a challenger for your attention present. It realises it was wrong, maybe it isn’t in total control?

Then, it fought for your attention… like a spoilt, hungry 2 year old, being ignored in a candy shop 🍬

Now, repeat the exercise. Find the sweet-spot again and remember to watch, but not control your breathing. 

Note the ‘in’s and the ‘out’s. How long this time, til your automatic mind tries to interrupt? Not long, is it?

When you reach this place, it’s as far as we need go for now.

Practice this exercise as often as you can. Eventually, finding your breath becomes easier and far more natural.

Each time your auto-mind interrupts, don’t be afraid to smile at what it tries to distract you with. Just let those random thoughts float past like clouds in the sky, and casually return to simply noting each natural breath.

You are now taking control back! 

You’re proving to the auto-mind that it’s not in control nor all-mighty!

When you gently sense this for yourself, you have completed this step.

Congratulations! You just stepped onto your recovery path.

Conclusion

I entitled this post ‘The Alternative To Anxious Living’, and I hope it serves to give you just a feint glimpse of what that might look like. If it doesn’t, all is not lost, this is merely the first gentle touch, with many more to come.

If you relate to the idea, that somewhere behind our anxious experiences is a broken pattern of thinking and that you may not be as trapped as you first thought. Consider this a successful step. You’re ready to move on!

The practice of noting our breath whilst being interrupted serves to break the cycle of blinkered broken thinking. When we experience this, when we taste it, we create an environment for an alternative to arise.

Practising the exercise for just a few minutes each day is like rolling a snowball, just a few inches more. 

The speed at which we find our breath is a skill to hone, but it is our ability to switch off the auto-mind that’s the true prize. Just a few minutes each day is all you need to compound the benefits.

When I reached this point, when I found my breath and witnessed my automatic mind, I went in search of answers. In the next post I’ll talk about what underpins this, provide reference and define a few terms for you.

Thanks for reading, I hope you feel a little more curious and perhaps even motivated to move forwards.

Any questions or experiences you would like to share please comment below or message via the CONTACT form.

Till next time, kindest regards & very best wishes.

Your friend…

 

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