During this COVID-19 pandemic, we’re all seeking coping mechanisms for anxiety and silver linings.
I’ve written about a simple step to instantly and drastically reduce anxiety (or any negative emotion), and a second step to dissolve it altogether.
As for silver linings, this is a perfect time to make what can be the most important decision in your life: Who and what you are at the most fundamental level? You’ll see at the end how it can also help with Coronavirus anxiety - or anxiety of any kind.
We have two choices in how to perceive ourselves.
Choice #1 is overwhelmingly prevalent: We’re a collection of our roles, relationships, interests, beliefs,appearance, thoughts, emotions, etc. Above all, we’re the voice in our head –our mind.
We create a mental image of ourselves – a "self-image" or an "ego."
That’s Choice #1, which I call, “I am my mind.”
Choice #2 is “I am awareness.”
If you’ve made this decision already – especially if you’ve chosen, “I am awareness,” but you’re not experiencing lasting peace and happiness and don't feel anywhere near enlightenment, I strongly encourage you to read this whole post. It's probably not what you think. I’ll tell you about a simple, time-tested solution that may be your missing link to lasting happiness - and fearlessness, too.
Before I explain the second choice, I’ll let you experience it with 30-second exercise. Ready?
A 30-Second Glimpse
Pick an object across the room or out the window. Before reading the next paragraph, look at it intensely for about ten seconds (don’t count).
Now, consider this:
As you know, when you’re doing, thinking or feeling anything, there’s a “part” of you that knows and can silently observe what you’re experiencing.
For example, say you’re furious at your boss. You want to scream expletives and personal insults. Hopefully, that observing part of you arises and you think, “Ok, I know I’m angry. But I’ve got to be professional and stay current on my mortgage.”
Now, for ten more seconds, before reading the next paragraph, fix your eyes on the object again. But pay full attention to the part of you that knows you’re looking.
Now, just look around for another 10 seconds.
That wasn’t supposed to blow you away. It was just a glimpse - one exercise in a broader but simple teaching. Most of it you can do 24/7 with your eyes wide open. There’s no daily practice. You don’t need to change anything you do in life.
But if that observer felt like a different entity than your mind, it is. If the experience of looking around felt different than first ten seconds, I wouldn’t be surprised.
In the first 10 seconds, you mainly experienced one aspect of awareness: Pure perception. You can’t look at something without being aware of it.
In the second 10 seconds, you were consciously using a second aspect of awareness – the observer – to focus on the fact that you were perceiving.
In the third 10 seconds, you were experiencing both at the same time.
In various ways, Western psychology, mindfulness, meditation and Western-style yoga use this observing awareness as a therapeutic and practical tool for recognizing and managing thoughts and emotions. It do it all the time, but I don’t do any of those practices anymore.
If you are and they’re helping you, keep it up, but consider adding something. Because with rare exceptions,they won’t give you lasting happiness. If they do, it will probably take decades -- or even lifetimes, if reincarnation is real.
Why? Because most of them “use” that observing awareness to focus on something specific: Objects, images, breathing, events in the present moment, memories, thoughts, emotions, a mantra, etc.
One more step is required: Turning that focus around to explore and experience the fullness of what awareness is - and where.
Where is awareness?
What’s the difference between focusing on awareness and objects? As you may have noticed, awareness is no specific place.
Are you any more aware in your head than your big toe? When you hear a sound, it enters through your ears, but you’re instantly aware of it throughout your body.
Awareness can’t really be found; it can be only experienced.
Whether your awareness is beyond your body is another topic for another day.
What is the fullness of awareness? In the exercise, you probably sensed that it’s calm and stable.
Unlike your mind, awareness doesn’t get stressed out, worried or frustrated, or doubt itself. It has no problems, “issues” or dislikes.
It’s peaceful, open, and unchanged and unharmed by anything that’s ever happened to you, or ever will.
It's astonishing: We’ve all mistaken awareness for something ordinary. When you turn your focus around, it doesn’t take long before awareness reveals itself as an infinite, innate source of peace, happiness, love, creativity and more.
I know. I’ve taken the journey, and it didn’t take long. I know others who have, and they’re the happiest people on the planet.
I walked down a few other paths and could tell they would take forever.
I call this reversing off focus, Looking the Other Way.
I won’t go into a debate of what you fundamentally are, other than to point out that awareness can help change what goes through your mind. Your mind can’t change awareness. Your mind can be silent. But you're always aware.
But the best reason to choose “I am awareness” is that it makes you feel so much better.
Awareness is stable and permanent, while aspects of your self-image are unstable and vulnerable. That creates fear: of losing relationships, jobs, the ability to pursue interests, positive self-perceptions, etc. It’s like losing parts of yourself.
"I am awareness" gives you the opportunity to live all of its qualities, including lasting happiness. Protecting or enhancing your self-image or ego never will. Happiness will be temporary.
A great way to deal with fear and uncertainty amid COVID-19 is to stay rooted in what doesn’t change. Keep a little bit of focus on the observer as well as whatever you're seeing, hearing, feeling, etc.
Even if you choose “I am my mind,” it’ll work for you, too.
Stay safe, count your blessings, be well and be aware.
Bruce Corwin is President, Executive Coach and Happiness Teacher at MeaningOfLife.com. He offers the MeaningOfLife.com Combining Happiness and Success Coaching Program. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.