I was listening to a talk given by Marianne Williamson (a spiritual teacher) last week, in which she said:
"What is happening in the world today is people are seeking in yoga and in spiritual practice, a place to get out of the insanity. I don't know how people are making it today if they don't have a spiritual practice. But of course we know the answer - the huge success of the pharmaceutical companies who would like to place pharmaceuticals in the hand of every man, woman and child."
This is both interesting and concerning. I agree with her as it happens. I don't know how people are making it today either, and the trouble is, people aren't making it today, at least not without the use of anti-depressants and anti-anxiety tablets
I remember a friend of mine in the UK who worked as a beautician saying that two thirds of the clients using her clinic were on anti-depressants. That's insane. Quite literally!
But the world is insane. It is frenetic and busy and full of distraction and just too fast. People are plugged in and on 24/7, accessible, no down-time with immediate turn-around time. That is a lot of mental movement, let alone sensory movement in a short space of time.
Rather coincidentally, this week alone, a number of ladies have shared how anxious their children have been in recent weeks, from the age of 3 upwards. And students too, suffering with bouts of anxiety. Let alone adults of all ages and all walks of life. Anxiety seems to get the better of many of us at times.
I mean we all get some anxiety right? But for some the anxiety becomes a prevalent and indeed restricting factor in many people's lives, so that it truly stops people living life to the full, in fact it is a constant companion, or indeed enemy of sorts.
It is funny because one day last week I was feeling a little out of sorts and so I took to my mat and sat with it. I could feel this slightly uncomfortable feeling deep in my tummy, this slightly unnerving, butterfly like, empty feeling. Like something wasn't quite right. It dawned on me that it was anxiety showing up. So I sat with that and dropped deeper into the feeling (rather than running away from it as I may have initially preferred) and I guess I wasn't so surprised to find that beneath the anxiety was fear.
FEAR - False Evidence Appearing Real. So I started to sit with it, I knew why it was there, but I quickly realised that I needed to shift my awareness up out of it and into my heart instead. And that is when it all eased. Because in my heart, feeling its beat and texture and the reassuring depth of its nature, well it was a bit like one of those "ah ha" moments, when I realised that where there is love and faith, well there is no space for fear...and certainly no place for anxiety.
There is a lot of strength to come from faith. Marianne Williamson knows this. And I do feel it is incredible that people are making it through life without a faith. And I am not talking religion here, for me religion seems grounded in fear. I am talking about the kind of faith, both in yourself and in the greater scheme of all life, that you actually feel, like deep withinyou, in your heart and soul.
It was this that saved me when I was lost in a bout of intense anxiety a few years now. It surprised me actually as my hi-story has always been depression, so to be diagnosed with anxiety was new on me. It was a horrible, horrible feeling. The depression found me tearful and floundering but the anxiety left me feeling unable to sit still or interact or get out the house or function like a normal human being (whatever that is!).
I did some cognitive behavioural therapy, which was incredibly helpful, but what really made a difference was getting back in touch with the earth and connecting, connecting, connecting. My head was so hectic, the thinking was relentless so that I could not sleep at night, my adrenals were shot and my nervous system was far too wired, and I had to keep moving, my legs were constantly jittering and I couldn't focus on any one thing. These were frenetic times indeed.
What really helped, however, was working with the soil, getting my hands dirty and my heart connected, somehow to the earth, and spending time out in nature so thatswam in the sea and felt the sensation of he cold water on my skin, I sat on rocks and felt their strength and stability beneath me, I watched the stars and the moon and I sat in awe at their magnificence, I walked in nature delighting at the beauty around me, I slowed down, I started to notice the natural flow of all life, the changing seasons, the birds in flight and the trees moving in the wind, and I started to feel a connection again...
I sat in churches and on the fairy ring and I prayed. I moved on my yoga mat and I breathed and I embraced yoga nidra and the benefits it offered in helping me to connect to my body as I felt the earth beneath me. There were crystals too and Bach's Rescue Remedy (these potions are amazing) and some Reiki and reflexology and homeopathy, all helping me to connect, connect, connect.
So that over time my faith was restored again and with that a healing...strengthening, anxiety easing. And a whole new perspective on living. You see things had to shift. That was the point. I had outgrown the life I was living, but I was not listening. My heart was trying to tell me, but I bought into the fear rather than having faith in the process of everything. So I resisted life, tried to control things, and with that lost my faith and connection to the earth beneath me. I was seriously ungrounded, as you would expect!
And I guess that is the reason I am always so keen to share yoga and nature and a spiritual practice because I know much it can help to keep us not only grounded to the earth, but grounded within ourselves, so that when life does get very hectic and frenetic, we can literally keep our grounding.
Interestingly it is worth noting, for me at least, that during this whole anxiety and anxiety recovery time, meditating was even more ungrounding for me, my thoughts were too hectic to sit still and actually it would have ben counterproductive to force myself to sit there with my energy too much in my head, which is the reason a grounded yoga asana practice was so helpful to me, that an conscious breathing and guided relaxation.
I worked quite a lot with Reiki and people suffering with anxiety and depression and I noticed that their energy was never very balanced. There was a lack of connection to source above and a lack of connection to source below and a huge amount of mental activity so that they often didn't seem to be in their bodies at all. And I wonder sometimes if this is the reason people cut themselves, not least to harm themselves, I get that, but also to try to feel a presence, a connection then, pain or no pain, in their physical bodies, a way of trying to ground down.
Of course it is different for everyone, I know that. And we each have to find our own ways, because we are each on our own journey, albeit part of the collective so that our journey will impact on others, and theirs on ours too.
So again we come back to this idea of a spiritual practice. Faith. Love. It is all there. I just wish there was a way I could share this with the anxious children starting school for the first time and the anxious parents dropping them off for the first time. The greater our faith in the process of everything, the more grounded we are, the more we live from the whisperings of the heart rather than the voice of fear, the less anxious our lives will be. Oh and switch off the news and any programmes which stress the nervous system and give you bad memories!
All of this reminds me of a beautiful poem from Emmanuelle's Book II - The Choice For Love:
"What does the voice of fear whisper to you?
Fear speaks to you in logic and reason. It assumes the logic of life itself.
Fear tells you, "I want to make you safe". Love says, "you are safe".
Fear says, "Give me symbols, give me frozen images, give me something I can rely on".
Loving truth says, "only give me this moment".
Fear would walk you on a narrow path promising to take you where you want to go.
Love says, "open your arms and fly with me".
Every moment of your life you are offered the opportunity to choose - love or fear, to tread the earth or to soar to the heavens.
Faith and love.