It is election day and an anxious and fearful Noah Markus shares his anxiety toolbox, which is filled with wisdom from Be Here Now Network’s amazing teachers. We hope that this candid reflection offers support to all of those sharing the same uneasy feeling right now:
So, today is a big day for the US of A – word on the street is some kind of election is taking place. If you’re anything like me, I invite you to take this moment to let out the loudest, most guttural scream of your life.
Still screaming? Me too. Let’s keep it going for another minute…
Okay, that’s a little better, right? There’s nothing like a good scream to release some of that anxiety, fear, and stress that’s been building up.
What’s that? You’re still kind of stressed and anxious? That creeping feeling of fear won’t leave you alone? Yeah, me too.
I won’t lie, sleep hasn’t been all that easy to come by in recent days, so that’s not helping. And chances are things won’t really be settled after today, this election could drag on for a while. So what in the world can we do with all this nervous energy, back-breaking stress, and stomach-churning fear? Dig into the toolbox, of course.
In my time working with the Love Serve Remember Foundation, I’ve been so lucky to have a conversation or two on this very subject with some pretty wise people, and I’ve come across some great teachings. And while the constant toe tapping and leg bouncing suggests I haven’t quite conquered my anxiety, it feels so much better having a full toolbox to work with when I really need it.
So, here are some resources I’ve put together for today and beyond. This is my anxiety toolbox:
Start With Some Meditation
I’ll try not to go too far with my little metaphor, but for this toolbox, meditation is probably the hammer. Not in the sense that you need to be pounded over the head with it (though that may sound appealing to some at this moment), but more in the sense that this is the most essential tool for building some kind of shelter from the storm.
So, start with this essential article on Meditation for Anxiety and Stress. In fact, if you look at only one article today, this should probably be the one.
Next up, visit the Ram Dass Guided Meditation Library. There’s no specific meditation in there for dealing with anxiety, but one of my favorites is called “Back Into the Center.”
“The drama of life is wonderful, it’s intense, you know you’re alive in it. And yet, without that equanimity to balance it, it always has in it fear. Only when you have cultivated the equanimity, the space where you are always present quietly, clearly, only then are you able to be with life with love, with openness, with safety, with invulnerability.” – Ram Dass
Be Mindful of the Anxiety
I don’t like to play favorites, but I can’t lie – I do love me some Joseph Goldstein. So when I got the chance to talk with him on Mindrolling Ep. 327, I couldn’t help but ask for some guidance on dealing with anxiety. He talks about how both the deepening of concentration and some Metta practice can help alleviate anxiety and fear:
“When we’re doing Metta meditation and just sending loving energy outward, it can really lighten the heart.” – Joseph Goldstein
While we’re talking about Joseph, he takes a deeper dive into how Metta practice can help with fear and anxiety on Insight Hour Ep. 87.
For even more insight from our family of teachers, check out this piece I put together a few years back on dealing with fear and anxiety, which features some great advice from Jack Kornfield:
“The first thing to understand is that we don’t want to take the anxiety of the culture, the terror and fear that the political world is fermenting, into our hearts. Part of the way that politics works is to scare the populace so that they will vote for you. The kind of messages of fear and terror that are out there, on all sides, can easily colonize our nervous system and take over our heart.” – Jack Kornfield
Lastly, listen to Healing at the Edge Ep. 47, where Ram Dev (Dale Borglum) offers a Tantric approach to dealing with stress and anxiety.
Offer Compassion to the Fear
As someone who works closely with death, Ram Dev is also very familiar with dealing with fear. On Healing at the Edge Ep. 46, he talks about bringing attention to fear rather than turning away from it, and offering compassion to fear when it arises:
“Fear is the deepest of all emotions. It is that place where we are caught in the delusion of separateness. We don’t need to be afraid of our fear. Instead, we can become aware of fear. What does that feel like? Can I have compassion for what this feels like?” – Ram Dev (Dale Borglum)
Next up, Krishna Das talks about the role of chanting in transforming fear on Pilgrim Heart Ep. 59, and Tara Brach visits with Raghu Markus on Mindrolling Ep. 333 to talk about using her RAIN practice to help awaken from the grip of fear:
“Unprocessed fear is what leads us to violence. We need to be able to process fear both in our body-minds with each other and also on a societal level.” – Tara Brach
Finally, there are some great articles at ramdass.org where Ram Dass addresses fear. He offers practical aspects for dealing with fear, talks about what happens when emotions overtake you, and writes about why a tree isn’t frightened:
“On the other side, there are the tremendous forces outside that you are afraid of. And you are feeling yourself as a very fragile entity within that structure. So the root of the fear is the separateness. The root of the fear is the model one has of oneself. That’s where the fear starts.” – Ram Dass
It’s All Karma Yoga
There’s no neat, little bow to put on this one, but I’d like to end with a couple offerings on the concept of karma yoga, which was one of Ram Dass’s main spiritual practices.
In short, karma yoga is taking everything in front of you as a step towards liberation. And that’s exactly how I’m feeling about my anxiety at the moment – there’s no way around it or pretending it doesn’t exist, so how about I use it as a way to get to God? On Here and Now Ep. 137, I was really honored to join Ram Dass to talk about karma yoga, and the importance of inner social action.
Lastly, I want to share an older podcast I happened across last week, Here and Now Ep. 19. It’s made from an old radio interview where Ram Dass is talking about karma yoga, and why he considers himself a karma yogi. Part of the conversation centers on anxiety, and I’d like to leave you with a quote from Ram Dass.
“The anxiety still comes and goes, but the difference is now that instead of my being anxious, there is anxiety. In other words, every experience I have is grist for the mill.” – Ram Dass
May this very stressful, anxious day be grist for the mill for you and for me.
– Written by Noah Markus on behalf of Love Serve Remember Foundation
Images via @esspeshal and @wanaktek on Twenty20