Another day in the never ending birthday weekend, and there was so much to do! Pick up the balloons and cake, organize the snacks, figure out the party game with goody bag rewards, and every other drama that goes with the roller skating rink birthday party. It all got done relatively well and a fine evening was had by all the little skaters, but I definitely experienced the undercurrent of stress about getting it all done right.
Meanwhile, I saw my friend on Facebook also in a too-much-to-do situation, but she was in a fight or flight response. In her case, she had her kids home from school and a work deadline missed. Due to a technology problem, she didn’t realize she had two dentist appointments for the kids on the calendar today to boot. With officially no time to make everything happen, her anxiety kicked in hard.
This is not an unusual kind of post for my newsfeed considering my demographic, but there was an unusual part in the post. My friend observed her own anxiety response, knew it was over the top, and she asked the question – the world is not ending, so why is my body responding with this toxic flood of adrenaline?
I would normally respond to a post like this with “I know how you feel, and it sucks. I’m sorry you’re going through that and I hope it all works out for you” because I think it's important to let people vent out the feelings and know they are valid. But she asked a smart introspective question, and I decided to try to answer it from my experience.
“The yogis say the root fear of humanity is the fear of annihilation. Even though you are not physically in danger of death, your body responds that way because it responds to the mind. The ego/mind says ‘I have certain identities and traits, and they are fundamental to the way I wish to be seen in the world by myself and others. I am intelligent, competent, reliable, organized, and a good mother. I do not disappoint people. I get everything done that I need to get done and am an excellent employee. Some of those identities are in danger of being annihilated by the events of today and this is a GIANT FREAKING EMERGENCY.’ Hence the anxiety and fight or flight response in the body. When you are not fighting to stay alive identity-wise, and have time to look at the problem from a calm place, sometimes you can see the common fear floating underneath those identities. For me it is the ‘I am not good enough’ problem that fuels most of my personal panic in the same situation.”
How in the world does that relate to my January challenge of doing nothing? Not in a very direct way, I admit. I really can’t imagine my friend in the middle of her work/mother/life crisis just flinging herself backwards onto the ground and throwing on a blanket for 20 minutes to solve her scheduling problems.
But I do think it works like this – the more time we spend purposefully quieting and detaching from our busy ego/mind/thoughts, the more we unhook ourselves from the need to uphold the identities that reside there. In our practice, we move into a deeper level on consciousness where we are not attached to the changeable body and shifting thoughts. It’s a place of healing, intuition, and wisdom of the true Self. Returning to this place time and again becomes a habit, and making your way back to it becomes easier, even in times of stress. Find your sanctuary within, and you will never be without peace when you need it most.
I want to share with you the yoga I practice, teach, and live.