Saturday, August 16, 2008

Anxiety (#2 of 2)

Follow-up question:(unedited)

Thank you so much. You said exactly what I needed to hear. It is strange, but before your wrote
me, I had read something similar in a book on anxiety. The chapter was titled "Paradox in
Action" and it recommended giving up the struggle against anxiety and panic and actually
embracing it. Even inviting it.

I found your comments about realization versus acceptance to be particularly illuminating as I
am struggling with this now. I realize at an intellectual level that acceptance is the key, but
practicing acceptance is where I am now encountering difficulty.

I meditate every day. Since my anxiety and depression have gotten worse, I have meditated more
and more, but to little avail. I also go on walks. I find the walks comforting, but again the
acceptance I seek often eludes me. I still feel this inner resistance that blocks my acceptance.

All the psychology books I read term what I am going through as a "disorder", but I want to see it
more as an invitation to transform my understanding.

Any additional thoughts you may have would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you so much, I am very grateful,

My comment:
Nice to hear from you again. Please feel free to call anytime. And thank you for the ratings. It's very comforting knowing that one's effort is being appreciated.

Now to comment on your thoughts. In Buddhist training, we neither struggle nor embrace "anxiety". Least of all "inviting it". We acknowledge or note the reality of what is happening to us, and then mindfully understanding the process and respond accordingly, neither over-reacting nor being complacent. Take "itchiness". Our immediate reaction is to scratch to relieve the discomfort. If it is a mosquito bite, we add spice to the scenario by cursing the damned mosquito, and wish that we could rid the cause of this itch, by getting ready to smack the culprit. One thing leads to another , and before we realize (hardly ever), we have become a greater victim of a meer mosquito bite. The skilful approach is to realize this itchiness, note the itch, then scratch to relieve. If it still persists, we are not too concerned over it because our experience tells us that after a while, this itch will subside and we will be back to "normal" again. No over-reacting. This is a very scientific, practical and rational approach. We just face the fact (the itch), select the appropriate response (scratch), and bide our time (the natural life process) until the whole process or cycle is all over.

We cannot always rely on our "intellect" alone to solve problems. We need the extra ingredient called "skill" which we can acquire through constant practice. This is the Buddhist approach to "solve problems". We train our mind to look through deception and see into reality. An alcoholic may be intelligent enough to know that if he stops drinking, he will no longer have the problem. But can he do it? He needs proper guidance and encouragement, and in the final analysis, he can resolve resolutely that he is going to be serious and definitely make great personal effort and determination to stop drinking. A good Buddhist will follow the teachings of the Buddha, and knowing that this will bring positive and rewarding results, will resolve to put in great effort to live a skilful life. He now becomes master of himself. He is no longer a puppet of circumstances and fear.

Buddhist meditation is a mental training to achieve mastery of the mind. First, one must understand this mind. Second, to calm this mind. Third, train this mind. Fourth, to become the master of this mind. Right now we are slaves our own minds, allowing our minds to dictate us. We are actually "mindless"! To understand this mind, we have to start watching it. Then we realize that this mind is forever "moving"; it cannot keep still; we call it the "monkey mind". The second step is to take certain actions to calm this mind. We take an "object of concentration" to focus continually so that each time our mind wonders, we "bring" it back through this object of concentration. The Buddha used his inbreath and outbreath as the object of concentration. After being able to calm this mind, we can then begin to train this mind to do what we want it to do and not what it wants. This is the third step. Finally, we become masters of our minds; masters of our lives.

It is quite dangerous to go into meditation without proper understand of Buddhist meditation. The purpose of Buddhist meditation is to free the mind. But wrong approach and understanding can cause problems. Instead of "letting go", one may be "thinking more about it" and in the end succumb to insanity.

You mentioned about the term "disorder". We are all suffering from this "disorder" because we don't know and don't want to accept the reality of the true nature of this world. As intelligent Buddhists, we lead our lives trying to reduce this "disorderly" behaviour in us, making us a more humane human being.

After all that have been said, the most practical approach is to go for a relaxing holiday; forget about your fear and anxiety; start living and enjoying!

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