Anxiety during the Coronavirus
How are you dealing with the Corona Virus? Are you anxious?
I realize that as a 9 in the Enneagram, I’m not usually an anxious person. However in extreme stress I can go to number 6 and be scared and imagine the worst. So in this time, where my husband and I are old, (me, 85 and Joe 88) and with health issues, (Joe taking chemo therapy and me with heart disease) we are at risk. During the day, I am busy with my physical therapy exercise, taking a walk, my 6-minute workout and Qigong exercises, so I don’t notice any anxiety. But as I meditate, I realize a fear deep in inside and the thought, “Joe and I could really die alone.” Sometimes I wake up at night and have trouble going back to sleep because of thinking, thinking, thinking, which I think is also a sign of anxiety that I don’t feel during the day. So I was glad to find a podcast by Dr. Rick Hanson about fear and anxiety in this time. I would like to share some of his ideas and mine as I listened. You can hear the whole podcast at:
He had an interesting account of What Makes Things Scary?
First: It has to do with degust, one of the first things babies feel. They spit out what doesn’t taste or smell good. This is for survival. So there is an early fear of contamination from the environment.
Second: It is invisible. You can walk somewhere, touch something, breathe something and get it. You begin to think, “Do I have it or not?” “My throat hurts, is this it?”
Third: You don’t know the rate it is traveling toward you. This causes uncertainty. When will it come? This can lead to feeling helpless.
Fourth: With a helpless feeling, can come thinking like, “If the hospitals are overwhelmed with patients, can they care for me?”
Fifth: It is important to have a leader who is competent. If he is lying or doing nothing this causes anxiety. So I will buy a lot of toilet paper so I feel safer by doing something.
So we have people that are too afraid, some who are not afraid and some in the middle.
I see what I do as a 9 in the Enneagram and I wondered about the typical ways that each type handles anxiety.
Are the 7’s avoiding the feeling of fear by keeping positive or thinking it can’t happen to them? Are 6’s scaring themselves with how they are thinking? Are 4’s sinking into depression? Are 8’s using denial to avoid reality (Like President Trump)? Are the 1’s bringing everything in order, and worrying? How are the 2’s, 3’s, and 5’s coping?
The important thing is to notice what is going on with you. Can you take a few deep breaths? Can you keep your heart open? Or are you worrying, ruminating, scaring yourself, or avoiding thinking about it?
Can you be with what is there, whatever it is? Anger, frustration, anxiety, fear, sadness. Can you stay with this feeling in your body, not adding thoughts, but staying with the feeling with tenderness toward yourself?
If you have a meditation practice, you know how to find a place inside yourself where it is calm and you realize, “I’m OK, right now.”
What else can you do to help yourself? Some ideas are: Take several deep breaths with a long out breath. This will help you find a secure base inside yourself.
Keep contact with others through Telephone, Skype, Zoom. Social support is important.
Feel compassion for others, perhaps with a compassion meditation. This will calm you down.
Have a plan to take care of yourself.
Ask yourself, “What really matters in this moment?” “What do I want to put my attention on in this moment?”
Accepting what is.
At my age, (85) two things are most important. Accepting what is. And staying in the here and now.
I see that that as I get older, things can happen that I never expected. Oh, this won’t happen to me, I thought. Buddha’s advice that we can’t escape, illness, old age and death are really true, I realize. It can happen to me. So how can I learn to accept that doctors make mistakes that have consequences that I must live with (like my foot doesn’t work anymore and I must wear a brace and throw away all my shoes). How do I accept that my partner has an incurable disease? How can I face death of myself or my partner with true acceptance?
And second, how can I stay in the “here and now” and not go into the future and imagine the worst or into the past or into fantasy? What if what is happening in the here and now is painful?
Can I look at this as a chance for growth? A chance for my spiritual development?
You don’t have to wait for old age to deal with these questions. To start, the question is: How do I accept myself as I am.
Ask yourself, “Do you feel as though you do accept yourself as you are? Where do you have trouble accepting yourself?”
Along with this is the question; you could ask yourself, “Can I allow everything that arises in me to be there, without judgment? Can you have kindness or friendship with yourself?” (As Pema Chodrin asks in a recent podcast) She suggests that under whatever is arising is awakened energy that may be frozen into our ego.
So the first step is to let everything that arises be there. You don’t have to like it or think it is OK; neither do you need to be critical of it. Can you just be present with yourself, just as you are? This is not easy to do. You need to pause and notice.
For example, maybe you are in one of your enneagram patterns like being lazy and lying on the couch, or procrastinating, or being stubborn like a 9. Or being critical of yourself or others like a 1. Or trying to experience everything you can in one day like a 7. Or sinking into melancholy, depression or a black hole, like a 4. Or imagining the worst or feeling anxious as a 6. Or spending all day accomplishing things and forgetting to pause and remember that your and others feelings are also important, or withdrawing and feeling that you are drained by being with people and forgetting that you are drained by holding yourself tight instead of remembering that people can also give you something if you let it in, like a 5. Or not asking for what you need as a 2. Or going into your favorite way of expressing excess as an 8. How can this be OK? You might ask yourself. But that is what is happening right now, so notice and don’t criticize yourself.
The first step is Noticing. Becoming aware of what is happening right now. To pause during the day and ask yourself, what’s going on right now in my head, my heart and my body?
Or at the start of your meditation, to ask yourself the same questions. Can you connect with this and allow it? Not rejecting, not condoning, allowing it to be just as it is. Can you do this over and over? What if it takes years? Well, if you do it, you might start to realize that there is wisdom there. Right there in your dysfunctional habits, your comfort zone (couch potato self or aggressive or grasping self.) The wisdom is there. You won’t find it somewhere else. The beginning has to be to recognize what is going on and then allowing, not acting out or pushing away, but allowing.
Even recognizing what is going on is not easy.
I remember when I was younger, I realized that I would procrastinate. I felt bad about it, but just ignored it. (I was an English teacher, who didn’t like to correct papers.) Then later I started to criticize myself. Trying to push myself into getting things done. Then I learned in TA that I shouldn’t criticize and should look under and see what is going on. And I saw a child ego state saying, “No, I don’t want to do it” and a parent ego state saying, “You must.” I had learned that the child ego state has the most power and always wins. Then it was suggested that I practice saying, “I won’t do it, until I’m ready”. Finding the rebellious child in me and give it a loud voice. (Couldn’t do that with my parents, but I could become passive-aggressive or forget, or say I would do it and then not do it.) This exercise was fun and sometimes it helped to later find myself finding the energy to do what I hadn’t wanted to do, having stilled the rebellious child.
Still it wasn’t until I learned about the 9 from the Enneagram that I understood that the Passion, which is sloth, indolence, was what was running my life. I could, instead of procrastinating; I could feel where this feeling of not wanting to do something was in my body and stay with this laziness to myself until it changed to something else. With patience I would discover, that often it changed to “right action”. I felt like doing, getting active instead of passive.
Have you had a similar experience where you noticed something and explored what was under this?
Tara Brach gives four steps in her “Rain” exercise.
The first step is Recognizing or noticing.
The second step is allowing. Just being with what is in your thoughts, your feelings, and your body sensations. (With kindness, no criticism)
The third step is Inquiry, investigate. Your thoughts and feelings may be expressing a belief. You might ask yourself a question: “What belief am I having about my self, other people or the situation? Is this belief true? What is it like to live with this belief?” Other psychological investigations are, “Where did I feel like this before? Where in my childhood did I have this feeling?” You can work with this psychologically.
Or use the spiritual way which is to just stay with the feeling that is there and don’t add thoughts, just stay with the feeling in your body. It will change. Perhaps to another feeling and you can stay with that or perhaps to a feeling of emptiness, which could lead to a spiritual experience or one of the lost qualities of essence, which according to the Enneagram you went away from.
The fourth step is Nurturing. Don’t forget to be kind to yourself.
Whatever you do now. That is your future. When bad experiences happen it is a chance to awaken. You can go from dread of this unpleasant feeling or happening, to curiosity. How will this help my development? This is not comfortable, but this will lead to growth. You can go from wanting to be in the comfort zone; to this is where I want to be.
This happens to everyone, alternation - comfortable, uncomfortable, pleasure, pain. If have all pleasure, we can become arrogant. And some people experience a lot of wretchedness, hunger, pain, violence, cruelty, or neglect. Some people have much harder lives. This is where compassion comes in. Even in these lives, the alternation happens.
What are other ways to learn to accept yourself, and be in the here and now?
Anything that connects you with the fundamental spacious, infinite, limitless, where you are outside of conventional mind, outside of ego fixation will help.
For some it is meditation, which can help to connect to the part of you that is wide open, not fixated. Where your mind is not polarizing, and not stuck.
One of the most helpful things I have learned is, The Pause Practice from Tara Brach. Simply, remember to pause during the day and check out:
What am I thinking right now in my head?
Then, What am I feeling in my heart?
And finally, what is going on in my body?
Do this as often as you can during the day.
Another practice is to go out for a walk, stop, look out, and heighten your sense perceptions, like looking or listening.
Or take the simple practice of taking 3 conscious breaths. With this awareness, bring yourself into present.
Pause and breathe out. Hold breath for a few seconds.
These are the practices that have help me to accept what is and to live in the Here and Now. Try it out!
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