Flourishing in the face of anxiety
Gavin Thomas Murphy runs a website called Gratitude In All Things where he looks to Ignatian Spirituality for strength and inspiration.
Sadly, few of us know what it is like to be in harmony with our minds. We are so often subject to our thoughts, feelings, and impulses. We get dragged around as if by an ox, when it is the ox that ought to be following us.
Thankfully, there are ways to ‘tame our ox-mind’ as we transition back to ordinary living. One is to separate unproductive worry from productive worry. In the case of someone who is returning to the office on a regular basis, unproductive worry focuses on the ‘what ifs’.
“What if I start to get nervous socialising with my colleagues?” “What if my boss wants me to eventually return to the office on a full-time basis?” What if, what if, what if… can lead to constant anxiety and ruminating.
Productive worry, on the other hand, focuses on what can be done about the situation. For example, to engage in an anchoring practice when around colleagues such as belly breathing, placing our feet firmly on the ground, or cradling our hands in a soothing way.
Or writing out a plan for the days we would eventually like to come to the office and for the other days we would like to work from home. Discerning between productive and unproductive worry and acting accordingly is likely to calm our minds and empower us to thrive in the ‘new normal’.
Another way to ‘tame our ox-mind’ is to practice self-compassion. For example, we can first ask ourselves: “What would I say to my best friend if they were in this situation right now?”
If the situation includes interacting with strangers be it at a coffee shop or on public transport, we might encourage our friend to try responding to comments of strangers so to establish a connection. To gently encourage them to face their interactions instead of harshly telling them to “just do it”.
Next, we can offer the same supportive statement to ourselves and notice the difference in our mind, heart and body. The more we practice self-compassion, the more we get in touch with a compassionate voice or presence that further eases our anxiety and helps build our confidence.
If you have 15 minutes to spare, listen to this Compassionate Friend meditation » that may surprise you with your innate wisdom and love.
There are many other ways to enable us to live in harmony with our minds. A difficult one for many people is to practice sitting still for five minutes or more. Mindfulness, prayer, or meditation grace us with a restful mind and help to reduce distractions that can so easily derail us.
If you have 3 more minutes to spare, listen to this Breathing Space meditation » that attends to your inner process, breath and body.
A person who tames the ox or ‘ox-mind’ can sometimes accompany the animal while holding its rope loosely. At other times, the person can let the ox walk quietly beside them without the rope.
Later, there can be times when the ox becomes playful and we can laugh along with it!
A wise person is confident but not arrogant, always respecting the daily adventure of their inner world. They can be with others while being with themselves.