How Buddha Would Deal With Today’s Anxiety
Siddhartha Gautama (623 BCE — 543 BCE) simply attained Buddhahood with his dedication, diligence and discourses, and taught the WORLD about the steps of achieving the state of Buddha (wisdom) through yourself and within yourself, without seeking refuge elsewhere.
Buddha means the one who is enlightened, and of course you can achieve too, irrespective of age, caste, class, gender, identity, nationality, sexuality and color. It is possible to attain it without wandering near caves. The only point that impedes you from fully becoming a ‘Buddha’ is your own volition. The fog in your mind, the attitude of your body, speech and action and your behavior towards others…determines the altitude of Buddhahood. Aptitude, other than emotional and social, would not matter much, only if you mentally master the art of mindfulness.
The ‘modern’ lifestyle has certainly solicited us to run in the rat race. I do not deny that the world is promptly moving towards ‘growth and development’ at the cost of our mental health, leaving us apathetic, anxious and arrogant most-of-the-time. I understand that it feels like a crime to rest-and-relax, procrastinate or apply for sick leave. Come what may. I know you may somewhat disagree here but we do selectively practice ‘conspicuous’ mode of liberty, fraternity and empathy with others. Isn’t it?
Thus, the goal is to overhaul and cardinally bring back the ‘Buddha’ in us.
Your mind is Buddha. Buddha is mind. I know you have been through a lot in this life, and I completely share solidarity with your personal, emotional and other issues, despite not knowing each other yet. But, guess what? We are interconnected and nevertheless interdependent, so let there be no ego, feeling of separation and angst. This article is intended to strengthen you to experience the current state of suffering and the future ones and simultaneously prepare you to be in the bliss of equanimity.
It’s the ego alone, other than mental formations like greed, lust, apathy, ignorance and anger, that acts as the grand-father of every dispute and turmoil today. It’s the ego that separates us from each other, despite being ‘sentient beings’. Verily, it’s also the feeling of ego that does not let us forgive ourselves and others too, in order to forget the past experiences and so. I know it takes on our ego, pride and image, if I were to ask you to forgive the ones who have hurt you, despite knowing that somewhere our own hands were not clean too. Give it a try and see how your heart feels ‘unloaded’.
Unloading the ‘ego’ is the first step towards lightening of the candle of enlightenment i.e. Buddha.
I used to feel very angry and anxious, on discovering how some trusted friends badmouthed against me and also made a good joke of me. I used to stay in the residence of fear because I was trying to socially control the outcome of their unempathetic action, although I am grateful that I do not carry them in my mind anymore. I understand you might have experienced one of these phases too, in your life! But, guess what? It’s ok to be not ok, ok?
The next step to undo anxiety is to compassionately acknowledge the fear. When you endorse that fear exists, the fear feels helpless. Like any other constituent or element of our body, fear is also part of us. Why act casteist against the stardom of anxiety?
Most of us spend more time fighting against anxiety than understanding the structural cause or roots behind the construction of anxieties. I am not a psychologist but I do understand many types of anxiety issues (based on my self-schooling and free counselling session with others). I am not denying the struggle and dilemma of those who are battling anxiety issues but I am also not giving up on you and your anxiety issues because you matter to me, irrespective of our introduction, identity and individuality.
If Buddha (Siddharth Gautama) were alive today, he too would reckon with the above-mentioned premises. He suggests that we develop anxiety issues because we have cultivated some form of anxiety in us. This ‘cultivation’ is either self-imposed or socially-enabled or both, since we endeavor a lot to control the uncertainty. In one of my previous blogs on social anxiety, I shared a few vital discourses from the Buddhist philosophy to undo social anxiety and it has helped a lot many people I know personally.
Buddha would recommend to you too that anxiety can be undone when you choose to develop a ‘way’. The ‘way’ would be a mindful way, in terms of perspectives, motives, thoughts, speech, action, efforts, livelihood and concentration.
This is to also let you know that mind alone can’t tackle the issues of anxiety. It is also the other aspects associated with us like body, communication, behavior, habits and networking that determines the health or continuity of anxiety. Thus, it is an onus to reflect and introspect upon the righteous side of these elements than just dawdling over what is right or wrong.
Buddha advises that when we train our mind and body towards the constituency of mindfulness, just like how we would continue to practice training a pet, we have already stepped up to relieve the things that weigh us down. He would continue saying that holding on to things that harm us, does more damage than releasing them.
Since most of the pain is inside our mind rather than in our body, it is not wrong to master the art of farting off mental agony. Our attachment to these things, developed from our association with ego, does not let us to release it.
Now, analogically, imagine what would be the status of your stomach if your ego does not let you excrete? Similarly, just like the breathing exercise (focusing on inhaling and exhaling and that’s it), we must learn to live in the moment. Whatever comes in, goes out, and vice-versa. This is how the nature of anxiety is: Impermanence. Really, can you hold on the breath for a longer time? Then, what makes you believe that it is right to hold on to the past (guilt) and future (anxiety)?
Buddha also says that you need to eventually understand than just realize that no volume of thinking or assumption will alter the consciousness of outcome. It is, indeed, a waste of time gossiping with your own mind on worrying about things. What does not mind, does not matter, and vice-versa. Even if it does matter, how long will it stay infinite? As you already know, subconsciously, that everything is subjected to decay and temporariness so why act as if it is permanent?
Rather than avoiding anxiety or controlling anxiety, better to channelize it like a river stream so that you can easily deal with anxiety than merely avoiding it. Contextually, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist monk, has advised “watch the sensations of anxiety in the body and see them as clouds coming and going.”
Buddha, in this context, also offers another mode of solution i.e. What you think, you become. So, watch your thoughts as they become your actions. Also, don’t forget to see what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat or sleep. Whatever you are doing, check on yourself if you are really focusing on the moment; the present, or living in some illusory world or merely pretending.
“To meditate with mindful breathing is to bring body and mind back to the present moment so that you do not miss your appointment with life.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk and author of Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through the Storm
Write down in some journal, whatever you feel like or about the moment you are going through. This will ease your load. Just like how Buddhist sangha functions, when it comes to speaking and listening to each other, you can very much try to master the art of listening (with an intent to understand than with an intent to reply). This will help you to realize that you are not alone in your battle. This technique, let me confess, has helped me to invest my time in watering plants, donating to needy and feeding animals, altogether diverting me from the core of sustaining anxiety. This method teaches that one can overcome anxiety, when we realize the value of compassion with self and others.
Buddha, after reading this book ‘Comfortable with Uncertainty’ (authored by Buddhist nun Pema Chodron), shares a review with you on this issue: a) do not label or judge the experience as right or wrong, b) see the things as they’re than how they’re, and, c) befriend your own suffering than shooing it away because every suffering wants to tell you something or teach you something.
I hope this article becomes a pamphlet to help you undo anxiety issues. You are not alone, remember that. I am with you. If you need any help, shoot an email to me after reading this article too: You won’t believe what I do on every Friday, Saturday and Sunday.