Recently, more clients are presenting with extreme anxiety and/or depression. Most of us have more stress these days. And stress, anxiety and depression are so closely connected because we often feel overwhelmed and don’t take care of ourselves. We beat ourselves up with negative thoughts about our past, believing that has kept us stuck where we are; or we were traumatized by something or someone in our past, and if we haven’t sufficiently worked through that, whenever we face a scenario that feels like that trauma, our body naturally reacts with anxiety and fear. But whether we allow it to control and define us, depends on our ability to see it for what it is, depersonalize it, and understand where to keep our focus.
The first thing we need to learn is that anxiety is about the future – the “what if’s.” Depression is more about the past and “why.” Neither is a healthy place for us to set up house. Staying in the present, and putting our awareness on this moment is the best place to live. (Actually, it’s all there is. In reality, the past & future only exist in our minds). It’s OK to visit the past occasionally to make peace with it; or the future to set intentions and goals. But we have to come back to today and allow ourselves to experience the wonder of this world – the fun and the not-so-fun.
Eckhart Tolle talks a lot about staying in the moment. These are not direct quotes, but I want to give him credit for helping me understand these concepts years ago.
Most of us live in the gap between “what I want” and “what is” — an unpleasant place to be – because we’re out of alignment with God/the Universe/Source – whatever you call it. Only by being present can we see the conditioned patterns in our lives that become maladaptive – and then eventually learn how to avoid repeating them until they become a problem we need to resolve.
We’re always striving to achieve an imagined state of consciousness – something in the future . . . trying to find our identity there . . .trying to figure out “who I will be”. Or we stay stuck in our past – in what we did or what was done to us. We don’t necessarily need to forget our personal history – remembering it can be healthy if we take advantage of the lessons it provides us. But we must be careful to not allow ourselves to become identified by our past. Again, some of us use it as our sense of self. But the self can only really come from the aliveness of this moment.
Wayne Dyer also used to talk about staying in the moment. I remember him saying (about anxiety) “there’s no such thing! I defy you to bring me a box of anxiety!” What he was trying to say is that we create our own environment with our thoughts and feelings. If we stay focused on the what if’s, we’ll be encompassed by anxiety.
And here’s a post by Dr. Dyer about allowing our past to dictate our lives that I have always loved:
All you have is now. That’s all there is.
I use the metaphor of a boat going down the river. When you’re standing at the back of the boat, looking at the water as you’re going along at forty knots, what you see there is the wake. The wake is the trail that’s left behind. You can ask the question, “What’s making the boat go forward?” It can’t be the wake. The wake can’t drive the boat. It’s just the trail left behind. It can’t make the boat go forward, any more than the trail that you’ve left behind in your life is responsible for where you’re going now in your life. The belief that whatever you’ve been is what you have to be is a meme—a mind virus.
There is no past. That’s another illusion. Everything that’s ever happened to you, to me, to anyone in this world, happened in the present moment. That’s all there ever is. So your relationship to life isn’t your relationship to your past, it’s your relationship to the present moment.
How good are you at being in the now? Most people tell themselves these excuses—I’ve always been this way, how can I possibly change, this is my nature, I can’t help it—that are just memes. They’re belief systems that keep you from being able to become all that you are intended to become. People lose track of their purpose, because they are so back there—living in their past.
In my blogs, I talk about mindfulness and meditation. That’s because it’s the best way to stay in the moment. When we stay in our heads too much, we miss so much of life! We are here to experience it, but only when we put aside the past and the future, will we be able to do that. Stop and look around; spend some time every day outside; allow the beauty of nature to soak in. Start your day off with gratitude for your body – that it gives you the opportunity to see, hear and feel the beauty, but also warns you when there’s possible danger. Show gratitude to those around you for just being who they are, and for what they add to your life, even if what they add doesn’t always feel good. There are lessons in all those feelings, if we allow ourselves to acknowledge them.