Today and tomorrow’s posts are some of the Dalai Lama’s teachings that are specifically geared towards helping people with anxiety. With the global COVID-19 pandemic, and with people spending a lot more time on their own and some even in self-isolation, this can present the perfect conditions for anxiety levels to increase.
But this is completely natural - when we feel anxious or worried it’s a result of the fight or flight reflex, which comes in response to any danger that we’re faced with. And to be honest, COVID-19 is dangerous, so our brains have every right to be a little nervous about the whole situation.
However, nobody wants to feel anxious, and in terms of the coronavirus, there’s not much we can do other than stay inside. So how can we ease our sense of anxiety?
The Dalai Lama presents a very rational, pragmatic method of dealing with our worries. He sets out a two-step formula:
1. If there is a solution, go about achieving it, and there is no need to worry
2. If there is no solution, then you can’t do anything about it, so there is no need to worry
Both reassuringly end up with the affirmation that ‘there is no need to worry’. It rationalises our fears, and because our fears generally stem from the brain making a rational judgment that there is something worth worrying about, if we can rationalise them and realise there’s no need to worry, then it can relax our mind.
Of course, sometimes our worries are worth spending time over. But often they trap our mind in a vicious cycle of fear and anxiety that spirals out of control. When there’s something making us feel anxious, it can feel like there’s something we should be doing that we’re not, or that there’s something scary we’ll have to go through in the future.
The Dalai Lama’s method can just bring us back to the present, and reassures us that if there is a solution, then the problem is in our control, and therefore we don’t need to worry. Similarly, if there is little we can do about it, like the general COVID-19 situation, then there’s not really any point in worrying.
“You know my old car needs washing
And the front yard needs a trim”
Anyone that knows me knows how much I love Zac Brown Band, so while I was tempted to choose Bob Marley’s ‘Three Little Birds’ for today’s song, if there was any way I could get a ZBB song in the playlist, then I was going to find it.
“And the telephone keeps ringing
And the bossman knows I know its him”
Their general message is always one of just putting your troubles aside and kicking back and relaxing, so it’s perfect for today’s teaching. ‘No Hurry’ is all about accepting the things that are outside your control, and releasing them from your mind.
Working from home can often make you feel as if you should always be doing something productive, because there’s no 9-5 job that you can return home and switch off from. It can feel like you should be doing something useful all the time. But take the pressure off yourself Song 16, and allow yourself time to chill out and just ‘be’.
“Ain't in no hurry
I'd be a fool now to worry
About all those things I can't change”
It’s an attitude of mañana mañana, and leaving tomorrow’s worries for tomorrow. As we saw in Song 6, Buddhist teachings are geared towards getting you to focus your attention on the here and now, because this is ultimately all we ever have.
Once you manage to cultivate this absorption in the present moment, according to the Dalai Lama it’s much easier to achieve happier states of mind, because you’re not getting caught up in future possibilities or past regrets. You start to embrace the present, and to appreciate what’s right in front of us.
“And the time that I borrow
Can wait until tomorrow”
Why stress your mind about what happened yesterday, or what might happen tomorrow, when all we have is today?