Anxiety is the opposite of ecstasy. Anxious people are not striving for peace, they are unconsciously striving for ecstasy. Anxiety and ecstasy have the same pitch and intensity, only the quality differs. Anxiety makes you restless, you cannot sit, you are always tense, you continually pace up and down, worry and fear. Ecstasy blows out all tension and that restless energy becomes one cohesive, glad force and you dance.
What are we normally anxious about? Losing our parents, siblings, spouse, friends, money, possessions, prestige, whatever skills and talents we have, and, of course, life itself. Anxiety is lost ecstasy. We’ve forgotten the ecstasy of being. And being is having nothing. We’ve forgotten what it is to have nothing. How it keeps us free. How it makes us dance. How it makes us ecstatic.
A monkey in the living room
Years ago, we visited a friend in Dharamshala, a picturesque town in Himachal Pradesh. She lived in a big cottage. She went into the kitchen to make tea, while we sat in her large living room. Suddenly a monkey strode in briskly through the open door, picked up a bunch of bananas and exited as briskly. As he left, he looked at us. There was neither fear nor hostility in his eyes, just an intelligent awareness of our presence. We were dumbstruck by the swift smoothness of the operation.
We wondered why our friend left the door open when a monkey could just walk in and steal something and walk out. As we looked around the large living room, comprehension crept in. Our friend had kept it simple. There were no knick knacks, there was only a sofa set, a coffee table bearing a heavy bowl which held the bananas, that’s all. It was charming in its bare simplicity. And it was this very simplicity that enabled her to keep the door open and let the wind flow freely into her home. When the monkey walked in, he just picked up his bananas and left. There was nothing else there to hold him or tempt him. It was an excellent arrangement.
The mind is our living room. When we don’t fill it with analysis, speculation, gossip, criticism, jealousy and such knick knacks, but keep it simple and as bare as possible with just the furniture of acceptance and a bowl filled with an offering of love, we can always keep its door open without any fear or anxiety of being robbed. A simpler life enables us to transform anxiety into ecstasy.
Have very few appointments each day; I’d even say have no appointments if you can run your life without them. The reason is simple. When you meet many people daily, you absorb their problems as well. Also, when you interact daily, you are tempted to complain and criticise to them and then about them to somebody else and, thus, increase your anxiety levels. Whereas, when you are alone in your mind’s living room, you go about peacefully doing your work.
Being in solitude also gives you the space to just sit and become conscious that it is your energy contained in anxiety. To realise this important ownership fact is key to a possible turnaround. It’s like finding out that someone is using your electricity to power their business. And just as your power bills are ludicrously high, so are your health bills — for blood pressure, stroke, indigestion, the persistent irritable bowel syndrome and so on.
One more negative offshoot of anxiety is seeing lack where there’s abundance (a millionaire feeling he’s a pauper), a void where there’s fullness. It’s a very unpleasant way to live in fretful pessimism, a simmering distrust, a blurring sense of victimhood — it’s stressful for family and friends as well.
So, the first step to a calmer mind is to become aware, become conscious that your own energy is misused in anxiety. Knowing makes you more careful, more watchful. Where is this energy being wasted? Like you switch off the fans and lights when you’re not in the room, allow your ego to exit your mind and switch off your criticisms and complaints. When you turn off your criticisms, there is stillness, when you turn off your complaints, there is silence.
From war to love
By refraining from being negative, you can transform war into peace, a threatening environment into a non-threatening one. Continue on this peaceful path and soon you will transform the non-threatening environment into something even better — a loving environment. When you were unconscious, the negatives, imbalances, perversions of the mind ruled you. Now that you are conscious, this nonsense disappears.
Being conscious means being fully present, fully aware of what we are thinking and doing. This helps us not to get drawn into reacting or being overwhelmed by other people’s politics of prejudices and negativity. If we go to a restaurant and are served stale, recycled food, do we like it? We return it and say, “Hey, serve me fresh food.” Similarly, why rehash the past in our mind at all? Return it to oblivion where it belongs. Serve yourself fresh thoughts. Tell yourself calmly, patiently, repeatedly, “It is over. Let it go.” Be thankful it is finished. Infuse fresh food for thought. Cook up warmth, cook up kindness for yourself, for all the people who are working so hard to make a living, to make a life.
Follow these practices daily to attain emotional equilibrium:
- Discipline your emotions, the tendency to criticise, blame or complain.
- When you are alone, watch your inner dialogues. Keep them pleasant and peaceful.
- When with people, watch your speech. Speak softly, sweetly, slowly. At other times, stay silent and listen non-judgmentally.
- When in any kind of dilemma or trouble, restrain your emotions. Don’t allow a state of war to set in, rather, remember: all things will pass and maintain inner stability. Know you have various options to deal peacefully with the situation.
And, finally, when things do go your way, when people compliment you, bless you, display love and affection towards you, please don’t allow your ego to cynically dismiss these wonderful gifts of life. Accept them with grace. Let your brain — with its neuroplasticity — accept the new patterns in your relationships. Let your mind accept this wider reality. As a wise person gently explained, “When you see your life as just your family and your work, it’s like seeing it in a glass of water, then even one rock falling into it displaces almost all the water. It feels huge. When you see your life as a lake, that one rock causes a small splash. You can deal with it. See your world as large, make it a lake, make it an ocean.”
Let your heart expand with gratitude in the new larger reality by seeing people as fellow-travellers instead of as enemies and frenemies. Allow joy to shine out of your eyes, actions and your being. Stay in this state without a single thought in your mind. See the silence dance. This, dear friends, is ecstasy.
The writers are authors of Fitness for Life and Simply Spiritual – You Are Naturally Divine and teachers of the Fitness for Life programme.