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Opening to the experience of anxiety

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Opening to the experience of anxiety
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2/25/11 1:07 PM
Is resting in anxiety possible? That seems to be what I'm doing in practice, lately.  Anxiety, comes up, and I do what my teacher calls the "primary practice:" attending to as much of present experience as possible, "opening my heart" to this experience, asking "What is experiencing this?" and resting in the release which results from the confusion this question creates.  The anxiety is still there (dread, tension throughout the body), but there is rest at the same time.  At least, so it seems.  It also seems like a contradiction in terms.

Any critical feedback on the practice I've described here would be welcome. I am sort of working on my own, and would like to avoid the missteps which that can lead to...)

(I asked this question on another forum recently, too. I'm asking here because I just heard of DhO, it sounds useful, and things have been a bit quiet over there, lately.)

RE: Opening to the experience of anxiety
Answer
2/25/11 2:36 PM as a reply to fivebells ..
Hi fivebells, welcome to the DhO!

It sounds like you're getting some solid advice already on that other forum. Working with negative feelings can be painful. I believe the advice I hear often is not to focus solely on unpleasant sensations or emotions but at the same time there are phases of the practice when unpleasant is what you get and so unpleasant is what you work with. I'd like to know if the anxiety (and before that the fear) is something that naturally comes up in your practice or if it's something you intentionally bring up? If the former, is this something new for you or is this how the practice always unfolded for you?

RE: Opening to the experience of anxiety
Answer
2/25/11 3:42 PM as a reply to fivebells ..
fivebells .:
Is resting in anxiety possible? That seems to be what I'm doing in practice, lately.  Anxiety, comes up, and I do what my teacher calls the "primary practice:" attending to as much of present experience as possible, "opening my heart" to this experience, asking "What is experiencing this?" and resting in the release which results from the confusion this question creates.  The anxiety is still there (dread, tension throughout the body), but there is rest at the same time.  At least, so it seems.  It also seems like a contradiction in terms.

Any critical feedback on the practice I've described here would be welcome. I am sort of working on my own, and would like to avoid the missteps which that can lead to...)

(I asked this question on another forum recently, too. I'm asking here because I just heard of DhO, it sounds useful, and things have been a bit quiet over there, lately.)


It is certainly possible if that is what you are doing!

The question is - what do you seek to get out of your practice? Knowing your goal, I'll be better able to give you advice.

RE: Opening to the experience of anxiety
Answer
2/25/11 4:07 PM as a reply to Eran G.
Eran G:
I'd like to know if the anxiety (and before that the fear) is something that naturally comes up in your practice or if it's something you intentionally bring up? If the former, is this something new for you or is this how the practice always unfolded for you?
Thanks for your feedback. It's just what's coming up at the moment. It has come up before, mostly concerned with screwing up at work and being exposed as a lazy incompetent or the like. The experience is more intense, now, I think because I have a greater capacity to experience it rather than run from the cushion. I think it helps that my Mum is dying of cancer. A lot of good practice has come out of that, and a lot more faith that I can apply the practice in the most intense of experiences.

RE: Opening to the experience of anxiety
Answer
2/25/11 4:11 PM as a reply to Beoman Claudiu Dragon Emu Fire Golem.
Beoman Claudiu Beoman:
The question is - what do you seek to get out of your practice? Knowing your goal, I'll be better able to give you advice.
Peace. The capacity to do what's right regardless of emotional disturbance. (E.g., I procrastinate a lot. I would like to be able to point my brain at something and just focus on it until it's finished, without struggling with distracting temptations, which usually arise out of anxiety that I will screw up or anxiety that I'm uncertain about what to work on next.)

RE: Opening to the experience of anxiety
Answer
2/25/11 5:12 PM as a reply to fivebells ..
I'm sorry to hear about your mother's situation. I can't imagine what that would feel like.

If anxiety is what's coming up for you when you sit, I'd say that being present with it is probably a good thing. There may be a subtle trap there of getting caught up in content. When looking closely at some difficult memories recently, I noticed that while I can use that to observe suffering and to look at past patterns and how they led to suffering it's also very easy to get distracted by the story that's unfolding. I could see how tempting it was to watch this story unfold in my mind and to explore it more and more simply because it's all about _me_. At that point I think this practice would start to build up attachment and the self instead of insight into attachment or the self.

It sounds like you're already seeing the results of good practice in your day-to-day life and except for the above caveat I'd say keep on doing what seems to be working for you.

RE: Opening to the experience of anxiety
Answer
2/25/11 5:40 PM as a reply to fivebells ..
Hi Fivebells!
Thanks for sharing this. I've just passed through a pretty intense period of anxiety over the past month or so, and can relate to what you're describing. It's almost surreal the way that anxiety and peaceful acceptance and investigation can coexist in the same moment, isn't it! But from my own experience recently and at other times in the past going through similar phases, it seems the only thing to do is to be completely present to these difficult emotions and sensations. It's simply the only way I've found to understand them completely enough to reintegrate the disturbed energies--- by going right into them with clear seeing.
For many years I had a sort of fair weather practice, if you know what I mean, but not any more. Now I see that the proof is in the pudding, and it's the difficult experiences within and around me that provide the testing ground of that proof, and a fertile soil for deepening stabilization. A little over a year ago, after five years of being cancer free, my mum discovered that it was back-- and metastasized throughout her lymph and skeletal systems. She died this past fall, and the experience was one of the most profound of my life. Being able to see very clearly my own feelings-- every feeling you could imagine, you know?-- it was also completely clear that her dying was not about me. Through my practice, and what I've understood of the nature of things by virtue of that practice, it was possible to be authentically open, clear, and intimately simple for her and for other family and friends during the intense last few days. It was a great opportunity to see what is possible through practice, and after her passing-- which was peaceful, beautiful, and attended warmly by close friends and family-- I am left with the conviction that there is no reason to avoid anything that arises, no reason to evade negative feelings-- or to indulge them, or replace them with positive ones. All that is necessary is to be completely present with whatever comes my way, and to stay oriented to the simplicity, openness, clarity and intimacy that I know is my natural state, relaxing completely into that as often as possible. Good luck with your practice and life experience! Keep us posted. It sounds like you already know that what you're doing works, but I know that at least for me it's easy to feel doubts when in the midst of a heavy crap-storm, so it's wise to reach out to others who share similar values and approaches to life. Take care--
--Jake

RE: Opening to the experience of anxiety
Answer
2/25/11 5:58 PM as a reply to Eran G.
Thanks for the feedback, Eran.

RE: Opening to the experience of anxiety
Answer
2/25/11 5:58 PM as a reply to . Jake ..
Thanks, Jacob. That was very compassionate and reassuring.