I see it all the time. That look.
I used to think it was just me. That only I provoked it.
Have to go and talk to someone you don’t know? Someone you don’t know very well – or maybe even someone you do – and you’re faced with that particular look in the eye, that look of fear, of anxiety.
It can’t easily be quelled.
There’s a tightness in the face, an urgency in the eyes. The person is experiencing anxiety and this generates a similar, if not the same response in the other person, in you.
What are we so afraid of?
I’m not going to answer that. I think it’s a lot of things. I think that’s a whole other book’s worth of things.
The point is, for me, it’s not as critical to acknowledge what we’re afraid but only that we are afraid.
I don’t remember this being a thing when I was growing up. I don’t remember the scourge of anxiety that I now see daily.
I see it in young men, mothers, young people, children. I see it on TV, in the personalities on TV.
I experience it in myself.
I know very well the anxiety that I feel when I have to look another human in the eyes!
It’s crazy. It’s sad. It’s not right.
What am I so afraid of? What are we so afraid of?
Maybe we’ve become so used to the stimuli, to responding to all the signals that the world throws at us, that we’ve forgotten how to relax, how to stop thinking for a second and just be.
That’s why, I think, yoga and meditation have become so popular over the last half-decade or so, because it speaks to our desire to relax, to come back home to ourselves.
The Mind’s Job
The mind is pretty amazing at a lot of things.
One of its jobs is to make sure we don’t die, that we are alert to danger, and to avoid situations that could threaten or harm us.
Except maybe the mind is out of balance and that what it sees as “threatening” is not, in fact, threatening. Like talking to another human being!
Yet, to many of us, it’s anxiety-inducing.
I can understand that. We’re raised in a pretty unhealthy culture full of unreasonable and backward ideas of what it means to be happy, successful, attractive, loveable, enough.
We’re afraid to step outside society’s invisible guardrails and walk freely.
It’s hard to do. It’s scary to do. Our mind tells us that we might die – and it does what it’s done for thousands of years, what it’s been conditioned to do – and our bodies respond in kind, the fight-or-flight response.
If only we could condition ourselves to be present, to feel our bodies and shift the attention out of our heads. We would then see that this moment is not life-or-death. Far from it, in fact.
It is life itself. It is simplicity. It is this moment and you. Just you. And you can handle life when you are present to it.
Only when the mind is hot and running at a thousand miles an hour do you not feel in control.
The mind is an amazing gift but it’s not designed to run the show. That’s a job best left up to You.