Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Two Ways To Avoid Being a Menace

I've noticed two very common ways we get into or create trouble. You know, the places where we do not do what we know (at other times) is good for us or the world; the moments when we are baffled that others could misunderstand or react to us as they seem to be doing; the occasions where (in hindsight) we inexplicably did something that created unproductive chaos and confusion for ourselves or others.

Many how-to missives boil things down to numerical lists: Six Ways to Enlightenment; or Seven Steps to Being All You Can Be; or Thirteen Things You Must Know About. . . Women, or Men, or Cats, or Your Colon etc. etc. Finally, I can add to the number-loving trend. Because it seems to me that there are two primary tasks that need tending if we want to maximize acting on our best intentions and minimize wreaking havoc on ourselves or others. We need to:

1) Recognize and be with our anxiety when it arises in ways that do no harm.

2) Set and keep clear, healthy boundaries with others.

Anxiety arises. It's part of the human experience. Sometimes it is caused by external conditions and sometimes it seems to arise on its own, perhaps pointing to an inner concern that isn't even conscious. Or, maybe we just watched the late night news. Life is a wild and woolly place that includes anxiety-provoking pain and loss.

Recognizing anxiety can be tricky since everyone's moments (or months) of inner mayhem show up in different ways- mysterious tears or laughter; loss of memory or focus; hyperactivity or paralysing procrastination etc.

People are not, on the whole, masochistic. That's why we often reach for something- anything!- to deal with anxiety. Anxiety is uncomfortable and cake or alcohol or overwork or hours of television (and a thousand other things- in this human beings are endlessly creative) can numb us to its raw edge. But numbing to discomfort, numbs us to joy. So, having other, skilful ways to be with anxiety (regular meditation, exercise, skilful distraction etc.) keeps us open to life's beauty even as we may be experiencing this inevitable aspect of being human.

Boundaries- or rather, the lack of them- is often a source of anxiety. If I don't know where I end and you begin, if I can't tell if something is my business or yours, or ours, or that which belongs to something sacred and bigger than the two of us together, I am likely to feel easily overwhelmed and overburdened- and that can create anxiety.

I was raised by a mother who had no sense of boundaries. She spoke always of "us" and "our" (meaning her and I) - as in, "our thighs are heavy," (I was a skinny nine year old!) or "we don't go along with that," (which referred to any of the many things she found unacceptable in other people, including me.)

Knowing that my mother's take on things was just that- hers- and not about me, took some work (and years.) But not getting continually emotionally batted around like a ping pong ball by other people's opinions, perspectives, agendas, or concerns is what lets us remain open and connected. Otherwise, we'd get so overwhelmed we'd hide in the woods. (Not that I haven't done that- I have- but I prefer to have real choice about embracing times of solitude or being with others.)

Here's the tricky part for us "spiritual" types: Being rooted in a sense of our deepest soul-self may seem like the "cure" for both of these challenges. After all, if we are aware and awake to the true nature of inner and outer reality doesn't that banish anxiety and offer us clarity about where our attention is required?

Well, yes. . . and no. Being soul-centred helps us hold our humanness tenderly and without judgement- and that goes a long way in easing anxiety, and discerning boundaries. But there is no cure for being human- and that's a good thing. Because the gift of being here is found not in separating from our experience, but in embracing and learning from life as an embodied soul/ensouled body- as one small, gloriously messy and spectacularly beautiful human being!

Oriah House (c) 2014



    Forever grateful for your blessed insight.

    I am sure each of us, regardless of our level of spiritual enlightenment, feels anxious at times about some force, external or internal. Although it seems to be a natural instinct "fight or flight" that we can acknowledge, I find it helpful to try to find it's origin and ask weather it is a reflection of Love or fear. Once asked, the origin comes through and with it begins to release the tension. Love is reality...all else is the illusion we create.


    1. It does seem that some of the time, anxiety comes where there is both love and fear. I say that as the mother or two sons- our anxiety can be for our children as they face the big world. :-)

  2. I look forward to your weekly posts. Comforting to realize that anxiety is, well, actually, "normal." And there it is, as my mother-in-law would have said. As for boundaries, at times mine feel a bit rigid, but I also had a mother who said "we" and I need to know "I."

    1. Yes, just part of being human I think. As to boundaries being rigid, I hear you- I think those of use who have had boundaries violated can err on this side. It's a good sign when my boundaries are not barriers- means I am trusting myself to not allow what is not good for me.

  3. Great post. Thank you so much for sharing.