Our Anxiety in the Face of Inner Space and Stillness

Transcribed from a five minute talk that I gave at the end of a Qi gong meditation class last week (23.11.11), enjoy!

I just want to say one or two things before we end. I mentioned whilst guiding the meditation that one thing that you may become aware of over time is that our mind resists inner space and stillness. If you ask people “Do you want inner peace?” they’ll generally say “Yes, yes, I want inner peace!” but deeper down actually they don’t. To be able to open to inner space and allow it to change you over time takes a lot of courage. This is a major reason why although meditation is free and it has been practiced for millennia as a way of developing mental peace, relatively few people will do it. This is because from the perspective of the ego, the ego has what you might call an existential fear of inner space. Part of the reason why we like to keep ourselves busy all the time, and when we are not doing anything physically our mind likes to think all the time is because we feel as if we have to keep affirming our existence, otherwise we feel like we are going to disappear! It is like a moment to moment fear of death, of dying. Essentially in this context dying means to have no future, becoming nothing. We feel like “If I am not doing something physical then I need to imagine myself doing something physical, because I still want to exist, and if I stop thinking or doing, then I will stop existing”.

This is a little bit of meditational psychology; it is the way in which our mind thinks, but unless we have examined it closely, for most of us this will be a subconscious pattern. And we need to understand that it is natural to have this type of anxiety (the anxiety of becoming non-existent), and simply having this anxiety is not a problem, it is existential anxiety, the natural tension that arises from being alive and wanting to stay that way. So, this in itself is not a problem, what is a problem is if you are not dealing with that anxiety well, if you are repressing it. A lot of psychological pathologies arise from the repression of this natural anxiety which then becomes pathological anxiety, compulsive doing, and compulsive thinking, compulsive everything!

So the natural anxiety of being alive will always be there, even if you continue to meditate. With a bit of practice in meditation you will start to find you can find a sense of inner space and stillness within yourself, but then it becomes an act of courage to keep opening to that space (which to the ego appears to be a type of death, a type of non-existence) and allowing it to inform your experience of life.

So I just thought I would throw that little thought in at the end of our meditation because it is common to find people having a great initial experience of inner space and stillness in their meditation, but then over time drifting away from their practice and this is one of the main reasons. It is not just because we are logistically busy all the time, although life these days is demanding upon our time and energy (although show me a time in history when life has not been such!), it is because our existential anxiety causes our ego to instinctively veer away from inner space and stillness and find excuses not to meditate. Our ego is actually happy to put up with a lot of stress and a lot of pain/problems, fear and anxiety because all of those things are affirming its existence, you know what I mean? Ego is not a bad thing, but the ego has a lot of fears that aren’t really founded upon anything wise and concrete, so it takes a bit of time for it to learn to trust that empty space, that stillness. So we need to keep if you like holding our ego’s hand and saying “Come on, come on, it is not going to be so bad, just relax and let go” like this!

So this is just and aspect of meditation practice that everyone needs to be aware of if you want to sustain your practice, because your mind and ego will try and find a lot of ways to duck out in order to avoid the anxiety of confronting empty space and stillness.

© Toby Ouvry 2011, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website www.tobyouvry.com

Share

Comments are closed.