Dealing with anxiety


Last time I posted the litany against fear, from the novel >Dune< by Frank Herbert. It made me think about how Buddhists deal with anxiety in Vipassana-Meditation. I just heard Venerable Yuttadhammo talk about it in one of his videos, so I decided to visualize it somehow. I have a mind that works better on graphics, so I fiddled and doodled around with various little drafts and finally came up with a colored chart that I like. I thought I could as well share it, since it took like three trials to get it right.

The idea is pretty simple. The first thing a meditator wants to do is to separate the mental process of anxiety from the bodily sensation. One is the voice in your head saying >OMG, where is my wallet? I lost my wallet!< The other one is the tight fist in your stomach that follows right behind. Once you realize that those are actually two different experiences, you can address them separately. You can label the first one as >Fear<, or >Worry<. By doing so you may find out that once you label it, it vanishes immediately (it may also return instantly, but that is yet another moment). Now, you can focus on the bodily experience and label that as >Feeling< or >Tension< and observe how that also immediately shifts and alters the experience, too.

The point of this exercise is that an unobserved and untrained mind will have these two experiences constantly bounce of each other and thereby escalate them to a higher and higher level, which ultimately may run into a full panic attack.
Once you start deconstructing the experiences the bouncing part cannot happen so easily, since your observing and labeling mind gets kind of in the way. It can very easily stop the panic spiral, once you practice it diligently. That requires strong effort, like everything in life.
However, it’s a simple exercise which does not take long to produce results. Somewhere between ten minutes and ten lifetimes, I guess.

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