Novel way of thinking about anxiety…

My husband read my post on yoga for fear and anxiety  yesterday and sent me the below musings about anxiety in an email. I thought they were good so I got permission to post them.

My husband is Paul Woodward who has written quite a few other posts on this blog. See here for a list of them.

buddhaThere’s a term in Buddhism, manasikara, which means attention. It’s a fundamental component of awareness because it directs the mind to the object — it’s the charioteer of the mind that directs it where to go. It comes in two forms: appropriate and inappropriate attention.

Anxiety is a form of inappropriate attention. A scripture describes a monk whose meditation practice revolved around obsessively ruminating on things that were making him unhappy. A helpful wood spirit told him:

From inappropriate attention you’re being chewed by your thoughts.

So here’s a novel way of thinking about anxiety. It’s really a meditation practice and it’s one that most people are very good at. Unlike traditional meditation practices like observing the breath where we habitually get distracted from the object of meditation, when we practice anxiety our mind is constantly being drawn back towards our object of meditation.

So, anyone suffering from anxiety can be confident that they actually have quite well-developed attention skills. The only problem is that anxiety involves directing attention to things we find disturbing. Each time our charioteer comes to a fork in the road where in one direction the road offers a smooth ride and in the other it’s going to be a bumpy ride, we choose the latter.

More posts on fear/anxiety: Fear and anxiety: coping, reframing, transforming…

More by Paul Woodward:

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