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Dealing with your anxiety more effectively (Identifying causal anxiety)

“Working effectively with any type of anxiety means making friends as much as possible with the feeling of anxiety.”
Dear Integral Meditators,
This weeks article looks at a particular type of anxiety, and how we can start to work with it more effectively, enjoy!

In the spirit of acceptance,






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Dealing with your anxiety more effectively (Identifying causal anxiety)

In this article I am going to explain a method that gives you greater effectiveness in the face of your anxiety. It is in relation to what is called ‘causal anxiety’. Causal anxiety is anxiety is so named because, at least superficially, it has a clear, tangible cause that we can identify. For example:

  • I am feeling anxious regarding a test result that will come through shorty
  • I am nervous about a speech  that I have to give in front of a group of people
  • I am worried about catching a disease that has been going around

Meeting Causal anxiety with either acceptance or pro-activity
So, with causal anxiety, the position is quite simple. We just ask the question “Am I going to be pro-active in dealing with the challenge I am worried about, or am I simply going to focus on accepting it as it is?” So for example:

  • With my test result, I may simply choose to accept that I’m just going to have to wait for it. There is nothing further I can do, so I make a clear decision to relax and accept that. Note here that this also means accepting the feeling of anxiety that I have, getting ‘comfortable with the discomfort of it’ so to speak. It is unlikely that I will be able to get rid of the feeling of anxiety totally, but in making peace with it and accepting it, I can diminish its disruptive power substantially.
  • Regarding the speech the I have to give, I can respond to the anxiety by choosing to prepare for another half hour, and then practice acceptance. At a certain point of my choosing, I have to make a decision that ‘I have now done enough’, and now can focusing on relaxing and accepting (or if possible releasing) the anxiety.
  • Regarding the disease, I can choose to take all sensible preventative measures; hand washing and so forth, and then just accept that there is some risk, knowing that I have done all that I can do!

So with causal anxiety, I am being clear about my choice to do or not do, and dealing with anxiety that way. As you can see from the examples, your response can be a combination of action and acceptance. The point is that the alleviation of anxiety comes from being clear about what you are going to do about the challenge, and then having done it then practicing letting go and acceptance.

Getting comfortable with the feeling of anxiety
A final point here; working effectively with any type of anxiety means making friends as much as possible with the feeling of anxiety. Whatever the cause, the more we can accept the felt sense of anxiety in the body, the more easily we will be able to work with it. If this feeling is our enemy and adversary, we are generally going to have a tough time with it. This is because, for tender humans like us, feeling a degree of anxiety is often synonymous with feeling alive.

Related articleFinding Your Best Response to Anxiety – An Existential Perspective

Tuesday 10th, Wednesday 11th March, 7.30-8.30pm – Monthly Full Moon Meditation & Manifestation Session

This meditation, done on or around the full moon capitalises on the heightened lunar energies at this time of the month to:

  • Bring energy and health to our physical body
  • Increase benevolent, life affirming emotions such as appreciation, joy and gratitude
  • Release patterns of energy, thinking and feeling that are no longer serving us
  • Focus on clarifying our intentions and manifesting our current life-goals

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Restarts Monday March 23rd, 6.30-8pm – The Men’s group, the path of conscious manhoodHow can you move from coping to thriving in your life as a man? – Much is asked of men in their traditional roles as fathers and sons, partners and husbands, students and teachers, employees and employers. The men’s group is a professionally moderated and confidential forum for men. A forum is a safe place for exploring, learning and sharing the successful perspectives, skills, and strategies… Click here for full details


Saturday 14th March, 10.30am-12noon – Get your meditation practice started now – The shortest & most time effective meditation everIntegral Meditation Asia is happy to provide you with a truly practical and super short (90min) workshop that teaches you:

  • What meditation is and how it works
  • How to start your own effective daily meditation practice with just a five minute a day commitment

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Tues 17th & Weds 18th March – Spring Equinox balancing & renewing meditation

At the spring equinox we can think about the spring and summer periods that lie ahead of us, what our goals and expectations are, and sow the seeds on an inner level of the things that we wish to manifest over the next few months.
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Saturday 28th March, 2-5.30pm – Meditations for Developing the Language of Your Shadow Self WorkshopBy working with these shadow characters in meditation you will develop the capacity to:

  • Developing a fuller and more intimate understanding of the language that your own shadow self uses to communicate with you
  • Understand different aspects of your shadow self as it relates to different time periods in your life (childhood, puberty, early adulthood etc…)
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Tuesday 12.30-1.30 – Integral Meditation classes at Space2B on Stanley Street

Tuesday 10th, Wednesday 11th March, 7.30-8.30pm – Monthly Full Moon Meditation & Manifestation Session

Saturday 14th March, 10.30am-12noon – Get your meditation practice started now – The shortest & most time effective meditation ever

Tues 17th & Weds 18th March – Spring Equinox balancing & renewing meditation

Restarts Monday March 23rd, 6.30-8pm – The Men’s group, the path of conscious manhood

Saturday 28th March, 2-5.30pm – Meditations for Developing the Language of Your Shadow Self Workshop

Friday, Sat, Sunday 17,18,19th April – The Qi Gong Foundation Program & Program for coaches and trainers 

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Awareness and insight Integral Awareness Meditation and Psychology Motivation and scope The Essential Meditation of the Buddha

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