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Posts Tagged ‘anxiety’

100-Day Game completed! Wow, lots of great experiences, results, and insights these past 100 days. I haven’t blogged much about it because I was more focused on living it, but here are some of my first thoughts and reflections:

1. My “emotions” aren’t always emotional

By bringing more consciousness to my choices, I started to discern subtleties in how I feel emotionally and physically. One example is when I’m feeling emotionally down or low. In the past I just thought this must be who I am — a sad person — because I so often feel low. What I discovered, though, is that many times it’s a physical low, a tiredness or dip in my physical energy level, that I misinterpret as emotional. And often it can be solved by a short nap or meditation.

Another example: I’ll notice that I’m feeling anxiety and can’t figure out why. It’s not like there’s something specific I’m worried about. Then I remember that I had caffeine earlier and realize that the “anxiety” is actually a physical experience that I’m misinterpreting as an emotional one.

In short, I’m tuning into my physical triggers that create emotional-ish experiences.

2. The best thing to do is nothing (a.k.a. Full-stop for inquiry)

One of the biggest lessons I learned during this Game was that I don’t need to tolerate bad feeling thoughts. If I’m writing, for example, and I start to feel negative about it (I’m judging the writing as bad, or I’m telling myself I won’t meet the deadline, etc.), then more of the same is not going to make me feel any better.

The solution is to simply stop. But not stop and avoid the feelings. Stop and listen to the feelings; experience them so that I can understand them. It’s what I’ve started referring to as a “full-stop for inquiry.”

The path to a better feeling thought is not to tough out the bad feeling thought. The solution is to stop, inquire, listen. Then when I do feel better, I can resume what I was doing from that better feeling place.

3. Redefining “difficult”

One day I found myself avoiding/procrastinating a writing job, and it was creating a lot of suffering for me. So I did my full-stop for inquiry. I put everything on hold, I turned off my phone, and I sat and meditated on what I was feeling to discover the beliefs that were fueling that pain.

I discovered I had a series of beliefs that were causing these uncomfortable feelings. I’ll call this my Old Belief Sequence:

  1. If something is difficult, it means I’ll fail
  2. If you know you’re going to fail, don’t do it (that’s only logical)
  3. The process itself has no value; only the result has value

This was quite shocking, actually, because I think of myself as a person who really values process. “Life is a journey” and all that. So no wonder I was suffering. I had this belief system causing me to feel and act in a way that was in direct contrast to one of my deepest values.

So as a result of this inquiry, I chose to rehearse a new set of beliefs that are more consistent with my values. I’ll call this my New Belief Sequence:

  1. If something is difficult, it means there’s an opportunity to learn/grow
  2. It’s my choice to decide if I want to learn or grow in this way
  3. If my choice is yes, the task is worth doing for its own sake

This feels so much better, so much more open. I have options, possibilities. If I choose to do something challenging, it becomes an exploration, an experiment.

And as you might imagine, after I made this mental this shift during that first inquiry, I couldn’t wait to write! 🙂

4. Small actions repeated consistently produce big results

Part of the reason I included a physical challenge in this 100-day experiment was to test my theory that small actions repeated consistently will produce big results over time. My favorite illustration of this is how water carved the Grand Canyon.

Even after just 100 days, I can see a change in my body shape. The pushups and pullups have given my chest and back some nice definition. If I were to add some exercises that worked my shoulders, I’m sure that would make the change even more pronounced. [My intention is to maintain and build on these physical gains with a new Game I haven’t defined yet. I’ll post here when I do.]

On a longer time frame, I’ve also seen a shift in how my mind operates. Through weekly conversations with a good friend and weekly support group meetings, I’ve spent the past 2 years rehearsing a more optimistic outlook on life. And within these past 100 days, I experienced a qualitative difference in how I’m perceiving the world.

For example, my mind spontaneously anticipates positive outcomes. And if multiple outcomes are possible, my mind spontaneously defines them all as positive so no matter what happens, I feel like I won.

For someone who thought he was doomed to be a sad person his whole life, this is both exciting and terrifying — like the Kingda Ka at Six Flags! I find myself wondering, am I becoming a happy person? And if so, what does that mean? I’ve gotten quite comfortable being sad. Giving up that comfort is scary.

This all brings me back to the theme of these 100 days: conscious choice. I choose to continue, physically and mentally, on this uncertain path. Despite the fear, life feels so much better than what was. And I trust it will feel better still.

Summary of Physical Challenges

Here’s the final tally for the 100 days:

10020/10000 pushups (100% of target)
starting max: 41
ending max: 60

1002/1000 pullups (100% of target)
starting max: 4
ending max: 10

1500/1500 burpees (100% of target)

5/5 hrs plank (100% of target)
starting max: 220 seconds
ending max: 240 seconds

3.6/20 hrs sitting meditation (17.9% of target)
This was the weak link in the chain. I’ll give it more attention in my next Game.

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Emotional state today: Down, ending not down

No meditation, no workout, skipped yoga class, no writing. Lots of anxiety, verging on panic. The feeling of “the day is getting away from me” kept getting stronger and stronger, and I almost stayed paralyzed and did nothing all day.

At about 3, I went for a walk with my iPod and cleared my head. I got back and was productive for an hour or two, and my mood went up.

My mood is definitely affected by my feeling of productivity, which is really a subjective assessment of how focused I am on things that are important and meaningful to me. And I’ve noticed that I seem to experience a mood/productivity momentum for the day. If things get going on a productive path, they seem to continue to get better from there. If things get stalled early, they get harder and harder to jumpstart as the day continues. Or so it seems. Today was an example of just how quickly I can turn things around.

The whole idea of a “day” is a story anyway. There’s no such thing as a “productive day” or an “unproductive day.” There’s just the question: How productive am I being right now?

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Today I took an online test that calculates your “biological age” in contrast to your chronological age (how many years it’s been since you were born). If your biological age is lower than your chronological age, then you’re relatively healthy; if higher, then you’re relatively unhealthy. Given that I’m feeling physically like I’m in the best shape of my life, I wanted to try to quantify that with this test.

Now if you know me, you know that I look a good 5 to 10 years younger than I am (I’m about a month away from 41). It’s the first thing I hear whenever someone finds out my age. “You look so much younger. How do you do it?” My answer (half joking, half serious) is usually, “Clean living.”

So of course, I expected the result of this test to be somewhere between 30 and 35. I even harbored a secret hope that because of these 100 Days of Fitness, it might actually be below 30. Nope. My biological age is…

Forty-one.

How could this be? I read through a summary of the results. It seems I did great in the categories of immune system, body fat/weight, exercise, and food & digestion. But I did very poorly in the category of stress/expectation. These were the questions about anxiety, outlook, emotions, and thoughts.

So all of the benefits I get from diet and exercise are completely undone by my negative thoughts and emotions. Let me repeat that:

All of the benefits I get from diet and exercise are completely undone by my negative thoughts and emotions.

Wow.

You see, I knew this concept was true in theory. I had no idea it was happening to such a large extent to me.

I’m so grateful to know this at this new, very personal level. It makes my mental health a clear priority for me. I know how to be healthy physically. That will always be something I can do well. My focus clearly needs to be on developing my skills for mental health…

Once again, through insight I’m led back to something I’ve said many times is very important to me: creating a habit of sitting meditation. Today it officially becomes a daily part of these 100 Days of Fitness.

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Duration of today’s sit: 60 minutes

I realized today that a deep feeling of being grounded in my body—a whole-felt sense of the body—always accompanies (and possibly precedes) periods of high concentration and a clear mind-perspective.

This gives me a good strategy to test during my remaining sits. First, focus on grounding myself, then practice concentration.

During this experience today, I lost color in my visual perception, and I became aware of very subtle movements of anxiety within me. There was this “lifting” feeling like if a wind came and lifted a feather off of the ground for a moment. Maybe akin to what roller-coaster aficionados call “hang time” (and I mistakenly call “floaty action”) when the car goes up quickly and down, and you experience a moment of weightlessness. It’s like an inner version of that. My grounded peacefulness is lifted momentarily by a subtle gust of anxiety before it settles again.

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Duration of today’s sit: 60 minutes

I chose not to use the Holosync recording today. I began with the intention of caring more about the concentration practice than any thought I might have. And I approached it as a game, the “spot the thought” game. The interval bells were a great help in playing the game.

I was much more concentrated today than I have been in my recent sits. I observed my breath as a continuous wave. I explored the emptiness of self and time. I did have periods of elaborated thought content, but there was much less frustration and judgment, and I noticed them sooner, especially with the help of the interval bells.

I also noticed the subtle effects of the caffeine, and I don’t enjoy them. They create a physical feeling of anxiety that can very easily feed any emotional anxiety. So the key then is for me to ensure that I get a good night’s sleep.

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Duration of today’s sit: 60 minutes

I’m learning more and more just how much of my egoic experience of life is filled with fear. In other words, I’m learning just how much I’ve come to define myself as someone who isn’t good enough and is afraid of accumulating another bit of evidence of that fact. Whether it’s procrastinating some kind of marketing of my business or removing myself from the dating scene, it’s a fear to “putting myself out there” only to find that I’m right—I’m in fact not good enough.

This is relevant to my sits because of the amount of anxiety that shows up, worrisome thoughts that distract my attention from my breath. But I observed an interesting process which I’ll attempt to describe:

After a good 40 minutes of worrying about various business and life situations, I noticed that in addition to the fear, the source of the worrying was that I care. And that care was translating into those worrisome thoughts. More importantly, I noticed that the mind follows what I care about most. And in those moments of worrying, I cared more about the objects of the worry than I did about my concentration practice.

So I refocused on my breath and I said to myself, “I care more about this now.” And not surprisingly, my mind went to my breath. I used this reminder several times to refocus, and it resulted in a much more concentrated state.

But then the worry returned, this time worry about losing my concentration. And I saw the pattern: What I care about I worry about. So I remembered how light-hearted my most concentrated sits have been, and I realized that play is the key to caring without worry.

Tomorrow I would like to sit with those two intentions: First, to care more about sitting than anything else I might do for that hour. Second, to cultivate an attitude of playfulness in the practice of sitting.

One final note, I wonder how the Holosync recording may be affecting my ability to concentrate. It would be worth sitting with these intentions at least twice, once with the Holosync recording, and once without it.

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Duration of today’s sit: 10 minutes

Today is the 4th anniversary of this blog. I’ve been doing various 100 Days of Peace for 4 years, off and on. Blows my mind. 🙂

My sit tonight was good, mainly in that I did it. My mind raced anxiously about a couple of issues, but it felt good to sit and be present with it rather than entirely consumed by it.

I have a lot of fear in my mental storytelling. Mostly fear of it being “too late” for [fill in the blank].

There are 24 days left in these 100 days. I have the idea to do 24 consecutive daily 1-hour sits. That would be the equivalent of a full 24-hour day of sitting. I will make that choice in the morning.

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