(apologies, but this one will require at least four paragraphs…)
Feeling anxious? Then you probably need to reconnect your thinking with your feet. Why is that true? Well, anxiety, in all its different forms usually means that we are thinking, watching, waiting, and can't quite let go of that activity. Sometimes exaggerated sensing activity is healthy and appropriate–for example, if a dog jumped out and bit your leg, then you should be extra watchful and guarded if you have to walk by that dog's house again. But if you became so worried that you never went for a walk, or find that when you do go for a walk you are still worrying about the dog long after you have arrived home, closed the door, even gotten into bed in your pajamas, then that watchfulness is no longer healthy. In a way, our nervous system gets stuck in the “on” position and doesn't switch off (another term for this could be hyper-vigilance).
A common way for this to happen is when your thinking/sensing activity gets cut off from the rest of what you are doing. Then your watchfulness takes on a life of its own, and doesn't relax into a restful and restorative state when it should (like when you are in your pajamas). There is actually a related, precursor state that we fall into all the time: being busy the whole day and then at the end of it not being able to really remember anything you did. That's a pretty common thing to do. But it means that your thinking was running way ahead of what your hands were doing. It actually also contributes to a sense of boredom, because in the middle–between our sensing/thinking life and our hands/willing life–is our feeling life. When thinking and willing are disconnected, then our feeling life suffers. Then we can find that we are busy all the time (thinking about one thing, fingers doing another) and on a fundamental level totally disengaged from what we are doing. But isolated thinking and willing can bring more than just anxiety, and boredom. Taken to the extreme, isolated thinking leads to dogmatism.
Math is a great example of “dogmatic” thoughts being a healthy experience, because within the realm of mathematics there are certain laws that exist unto themselves as fundamental truths, regardless of any particular situation. Mathematical laws do not vary depending on each particular individual circumstance or application–and they shouldn't. But what happens when that dogmatism slips into other realms of life, and you know the solution to something already, regardless of the person or situation you meet in a particular moment? Well, one way to describe that would be “standing up for one's ideals”–another, “fundamentalism.” Because when we always already know the answer before we have even met the question, it probably means we are staying too much in our head and not really interacting with the world.
Willing can become an isolated activity too. Willing, left unto itself (without thought or feeling) becomes activity/action/movement, that does not give expression to a deeper intention. It could be small (a tapping foot that we hardly notice–gosh, that sounds like something we might do when we are anxious!), or random movement (just needing to get out of the office and move). Stuck willing can become a powerful drive, strong enough that “something needs to happen”–regardless of what the situation, whether it is convenient, helpful, or constructive. In fact, in the extreme, isolated will usually become destructive. It can come out as completely physicalized interaction (aggression, violence, even eroticism). The drive for activity is there, and has to be expressed, but no one is consciously holding the reins.
There is a lot of anxiety, dogmatism/fundamentalism, and aggression/violence/eroticism in the world these days. How to work with it? Here are three small suggestions:
the next time you are in conversation, watch yourself to see if you are just waiting for the other person to finish talking, so that you can say what you already know. See whether the answer you have in your head really matches your interaction with the other person. Do you really need to have an answer? What if the best thing in that moment is to just listen and not give an answer? Building that feeling space helps to create a powerful bridge from what you are meeting in the other person, to the thoughts we carry inside ourselves. It helps connect the outside, to the inside. Try listening and simultaneously feel how your feet are resting very gently on the ground, and you will see that it helps. Listening is really actually connected much more to the activity of our limbs than the activity of our head.
- Second, do something that originates totally from inside of you. Something that you are going to do, just because you want to do it as an expression of what you are really interested in. Think about it, feel it is a good thing, and then carry it out, even if it may seem silly or superfluous to the rest of the outside world (learning to play the banjo is an excellent example). That kind of activity is good for anyone's soul. And it helps to build a cohesive movement of thinking, to feeling, to willing, from the inside, out. It helps your intention go all the way to your fingers and toes, and then into the world around you.
- Third, love your feet. Give them a little massage at the end of the day. A friend reminded me of this recently, and it feels so good. And the next time you are walking (probably racing from one thing to the next), slow down and really feel how you are moving your feet, how it feels to slowly lift your foot up, carry it through the air, and consciously place it on the earth. It also works really well if you are anxious before talking in front of a group of people–it will help you relax.
Practice these when you can, and you'll be better able to remember what you did, and more satisfied and contented with your day.