Ask Andy

April 23, 2013

Ask Andy

Headspacer Question:

I'm half way through Take 20 and am reaping the benefits of a daily practice. So grateful that I've found mindfulness. I've experienced anxiety and worry all my life, and learning mindfulness is a great skill to deal with it. What do you suggest I do when the worry thought becomes a physical sensation in the body? Not during sitting, but in everyday life. For example, worry/anxiety thoughts arise, I get nervous, my heart races, restlessness sets in. This is where the real benefit of mindfulness takes place I believe. Not on the chair, but in everyday life. 

 

Andy's Answer:

Thanks for your question and great to hear you've been enjoying Headspace. 

In answer to your question, the trick is cut to loop between thought and feeling. At first that sounds like you have to do something extra or apply some kind of strategy, but that's not the case at all.

Basically, once they get running with an emotion, the body and mind tend to feed off each other, but then you've probably already discovered this. So, the anxious thought arises, there's a physical response to this, the mind registers this response and thinks "oh no, I really am anxious..." and so on and so on. 

However, if you can bring a very gentle, yet focused awareness to the feeling itself, then the thoughts have no room to go anywhere. It is not that you need to try to stop the thoughts, it's just that by redirecting the focus, you skilfully steer the mind away from them, thereby allowing them to fizzle out.

So, in short, as soon as you feel something physical - use it! Stop what you're doing if you can and 'look' at the feeling. Don't think about it... simply watch it. Identify where you feel it, what size it is, what shape is it, what intensity it is etc etc. When you do this honestly and openly, you'll find there is a natural sense of curiosity which seems to take over from the emotion. 

The important thing is that you approach it not to escape from the emotion, but to understand the mind. With the former there will always be resistance and tension. With the the latter, there will always be acceptance and openness. 

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