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Single-headedness – Not getting anxious about anxiety

“What are the situations where you tend to put a “Head upon a head”, or create a problem about your problem? Those are the places that would be good to start practicing ‘Single-headedness’!”

Dear <<First Name>>, 

The practice of single-headedness is one that I have been working with various coaching clients over the years, recently I realized that I hadn’t written an article on it, so the one below rights that wrong!

This week’s Tuesday & Wednesday meditation is the  Spring Equinox balancing and renewing meditation all welcome, both in-person or online

And heads up for two short meditation retreats, the first this Saturday: Integral meditation deep dive mini-retreat & second the April 20th & 21st – Integral Meditation 1.5 Day Retreat. If your interested in really deepening your level of practice, then these are two to consider!

In the spirit of single-headedness,

Not putting a head upon a head – not getting anxious about anxiety
When do you put a ‘head upon a head’?
‘Don’t put a head upon a head’ is an expression that I might have picked up from Zen somewhere, but I can’t find the reference, so it may be something that I came up with by myself (!) Essentially what it means is that you make two problems out of one:

  • When you get anxious about the fact that your anxious
  • When you get stressed that you are stressed
  • When you get angry that you are angry
  • When you get depressed about being depressed
  • And so on…

Then you are “putting a head upon a head.” What this means is that you already have a challenge, but as well as feeling the actual stress of the situation, you are feeling stressed about the stress itself, which compounds the difficulty and makes it worse!
Not putting head upon a head
So then, to not put a head upon a head, the essential manoeuvre is acceptance.

  • If I am anxious, I work on simply acknowledging that anxiety, accepting it, thereby not adding to the already existing anxiety
  • When I get stressed I create an ‘inner holding space’ for my stress so that it stays simple stress, not stress because I’m stressed
  • If I am angry, I don’t judge being angry too harshly, I accept it and focus on what can be constructively done about it
  • If I am depressed, I don’t add to the burden by thinking “I’m such a looser because I’m depressed, why am I always depressed?” (which is depression about depression), I simply work on holding space for the existing depression in the present, as I find it.

Some simple examples
I’m anxious because the result of something that I care about is not entirely certain (Eg: Giving birth, marketing a new product, recovering from an illness or not, giving a speech to an audience…). In such a situation, anxiety and degree of fear would be quite natural. So, I want to be accepting and working with the natural anxiety that I have. If I can do that then I can prevent having to deal with the ‘second head’ of fighting the existence of my anxiety and getting anxious about it!
Unable to sleep
Let us say you are in bed, and you must be up early, but you can’t go to sleep. Then you start thinking about how you need to be up early, how tired you will be if you can’t go to sleep. You start getting stressed about the stress of not being able to sleep. Then you try a bit to hard to get to sleep, and the tension of trying too hard makes it even more difficult to fall asleep. It starts to spiral from there. To “Not put a head upon a head” would be to accept that you can’t fall asleep, be a bit curious about it, and relaxing into the experience of non-sleeping. That acceptance and relaxation may mean that you actually start to fall asleep, but even if it doesn’t, your experience of not sleeping will be less stressful and more relaxing.
What are the situations where you tend to put a “Head upon a head”, or creating a problem about your problem? Those are the places that would be good to start practicing ‘Single-headedness’!

Related articleWhat happens when you are not afraid of fear?

Article & content © Toby Ouvry 2024, you are welcome to use or share this article, but please cite Toby as the source and include reference to his website

All upcoming classes and workshops at IMA:

Ongoing – Weekly Tuesday, Wednesday Online class schedule

Ongoing on Wednesday’s, 7.30-8.30pm – Wednesday Meditation for stress transformation and positive energy with Toby (Bukit Timah)

Ongoing on Tuesday evenings, 7.30-8.30pm – Tuesday Meditation for stress transformation and positive energy with Toby  (East Coast)

Ongoing – Effortless effort – The art of doing by non-doing, a ten-week meditation course

Tues & Weds 19,20th March, 7.30-8.30pm – Spring Equinox balancing and renewing meditation

Saturday March 23rd, 9-11.30am – Integral meditation deep dive mini-retreat

Saturday & Sunday April 20th & 21st – Integral Meditation 1.5 Day Retreat

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