In Buddhism, the main goal is the end of suffering. There is one form of suffering in particular that plagues most people at some point in their lives, which is called anxiety. In this video, I will explore what can we learn from Buddhism in regard to fighting this destructive emotion.
Anxiety and panic disorders are very common these days, which are basically a manifestation of anxiety getting out of control. For most people, the first reaction towards anxiety is trying to fight it. But, according to Buddhism, an important step for fighting anxiety is not fighting it.
The teachings of the Buddha are geared towards acceptance. Fighting anxiety will lead to even more anxiety because you are resisting something that already is, which is kind of insane when you think of it. So, what can Buddhism offer to ease anxiety?
In order to answer this question, let’s find out what anxiety actually is.
We live in a fear-based society. We’re never safe enough, so we comply with laws that restrict our freedom, promising that we’ll be safer. We’re never beautiful enough, so we spend a fortune of liposuction, botox, supplements, and anabolic steroids. We’re never rich enough, so we neglect our mental and physical health to chase the money.
A phenomenon called ‘status anxiety’ which is extensively talked about by British philosopher Alain de Botton, makes us worry all the time about our jobs, our bank-accounts and keeping up with the Joneses.
Also, we need to keep track of our Instagram followers, our likes on Facebook and, yes, our ‘channel stats’ in the YouTube Creator studio. With all these things to worry about, we often experience anxiety.
Common coping mechanisms for this anxiety are alcohol, drugs, porn, food and different forms of entertainment. We want to escape the suffering caused by anxiety. And so, we numb our minds. This phenomenon already implies that it’s not the outside world but it’s the mind that produces anxiety.
Anxiety and panic both start in the mind, that engages in excessive thinking to the point that the physical symptoms of anxiety occur. The Buddhists refer to the excessive thinking patterns as the ‘monkey mind’. I have made a video about the dangers of excessive thinking, which you´ll find below.
A great mistake we make as human beings is that we are easily fooled by the mind. We believe the mind. But the mind is a great fabricator of fantasies about the future, lies about the present and baloney about the past.
Many times, our mind isn’t our friend at all; it’s our worst enemy. Therefore, we shouldn’t believe everything our mind presents to us; especially when it’s one big deluge of negativity. But when we do: the monkey mind generates anxiety. What often happens when we experience the uncomfortable feeling of anxiety, is that we start to worry about anxiety. By worrying about anxiety we fall into a vicious cycle.
Buddhism offers wisdom and practice to ease anxiety. Wisdom means that we understand what anxiety is, where it comes from and how to treat it. A simple but effective lesson by the Buddhists is that worrying is pointless. The 8th-century Buddhist monk named Shantideva says about this:
If the problem can be solved why worry? If the problem cannot be solved worrying will do you no good.Shantideva, Bodhicaryavatara
If you have a problem that you can solve you either focus on that problem entirely in the present moment, or you don’t. If you can’t solve it, then drop it. Many things we worry about are beyond our control and it’s completely useless to spend our time and energy thinking about them.
Unfortunately, our monkey mind loves worrying, probably because it loves solving puzzles. But most of the puzzles that our minds come up with don’t have to be solved because they are based on irrational fears, fantasies, and just plain nonsense.
When it comes to excessive thinking, we should focus on dissolvement rather the resolvement. This is where practice comes in. The Buddhist method to achieve this is called meditation.
Meditation is a way to focus on the present moment and let watch your thought passing by like clouds in the sky, instead of engaging with them. This practice calms the monkey mind, without fighting but with acceptance.
There are many different forms of meditation. I’ve made a video about the meditative effects of cleaning, which you will find below. Let me know if you’re interested in me making more videos about different forms of meditation, and I´ll see what I can do.