Dealing with Anxiety

Question:

Dear Ektaji,

How should one deal with anxiety through Karma Yoga? I understand the role of gnyana and bhakti/surrender when we are anxious about something in future but it is still prabhava gyana. Therefore I end up reasoning with my racing mind to settle down and you know how that goes.

In other words how does one start seeing non-doership/silence in so much activity or multi-tasking all around us 24×7? It gets difficult at times to control the mind and I end up even waking up in the middle of the night. Please suggest how yogasutras want us to deal with anxiety when multi-tasking (especially when organizing a course).

Answer:

The path of Karma Yoga talks about developing a special skill in every action.

And what is the special skill? 

While doing any action, one should always bring back the knowledge that all this is a play of one’s own Karma and Karmaphalam (fruit of action) – If something has come ones way, whether it is an office task or a health issue or seva or relationship problem, it is a product of one’s past Karma. It is one’s Karmaphalam. This Karmaphalam is a trigger for one’s current action [karma]. This has a cyclical tendency. The cycle will repeat if one does not apply the skill in one’s current karma.

What is the cycle?

Past Karmaphalam —-> leading to Current Karma —> leading to Future Karmaphalam —> leading to Future Karma —> leading to Karmaphalam……and the cycle continues….

How to get out of this cycle?

To get out of this vicious cycle, this Karmaphalam needs to be dealt with skill. The skill is to intellectually and logically drop emotion and take action such as to stop the chain of karma-karmaphalam-karma-karmaphalam. This is the skill called ‘Kriya Yoga‘ in the Patanjali’s Yogasutras.

What are the steps for Kriya Yoga?

Kriya Yoga is a combination of Tapas, Swadhyaya and Ishwara Pranidhana.

  • Tapas means burning through that emotion willingly.
  • Analyzing and seeing clearly one’s own experience is Swadhyaya. Recognizing that the emotional turbulence was created by my own attachment/craving/expectation is Swadhyaya.
  • Ishwara Pranidhana is surrendering the emotion to God/Guru/Supreme energy.

Let’s understand how these work in detail:

  1. Recognize that this Karmaphalam that has come my way is evoking an emotion. This emotion can be anxiety about the future or anger about the past, etc. [Tapas]
  2. This particular emotion is propelling me to respond in a particular way. It is creating action out of attachment [emotional response] [Swadhyaya]
  3. Analyze the emotional response that your mind is nudging you into and recognize if you react in that way, it might create another agami seed of karmaphalam and the cycle will continue. [Swadhyaya]
  4. The intelligent thing to do is to drop the emotional response. [Tapas].

How to drop the emotional response?

An emotional response is mostly a “sensation of lack” or “Abhava”. This Abhava was created from the trigger karmaphalam that came my way in the form of person, situation, thing. Analyze this “abhava”. It is either:

  • ‘I am not good enough’ or
  • ‘why does something bad happen to me’ or
  • ‘I don’t like this’ or
  • ‘this should not have been like this’ or
  • ‘Can I do this?’ or
  • ‘Will I succeed?’ or
  • ‘this is not right for me’

If you analyze carefully all this internal dialogue/drama, you will notice that there will be only one obstacle in your way of ‘letting go of the emotion’. The obstacle is your ‘Ego’. If you drop this ‘Ego, if you drop this ‘I’, the mind will calm down and you will be able to clearly decide what is the ‘right action’ to do or maybe ‘not do’. This is Swadhyaya.

5. If you cannot succeed in this intellectual dissection to get over the emotion then wait for the emotion to pass. Every emotion will definitely pass in 2 1/4th days. That is a fixed expiry date for every emotion. Once the emotion passes, you will logically be able to see things clearly and decide what action can be taken so that it doesn’t create agami karma. Maybe, you come to a conclusion, that no action is required. P.S. This 2 1/4th day applies only to people who are not on the spiritual path. Those who are continuously absorbed in the principles of Bhakti, Karma or Gnyana Yoga, will be able to handle the emotions quicker. [Tapas].

6. Now the emotion does not disappear forever. It does its job without fail. The same emotional response will continuously knock the door of your heart and you have to continuously let go of the knocking emotion and let the intellect win. This ‘letting go’ is called surrender or Ishwara Pranidhana.

If you are looking for a shortcut, there isn’t one 😉

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