“In shallow men the fish of little thoughts cause much commotion. In oceanic minds the whales of inspiration make hardly a ruffle” – Yuteswar Giri (anxiety buster)
The following quote made my heart sink this week. A few days ago, I was rereading the Autobiography of a Yogi because I only skimmed it the first time. Once I read the “shallow fish quote,” I had to set the book down because I couldn’t go any further.
Why is it that the big decisions I made in life – college, who I keep close to me, motorcycle travel, starting businesses, pausing said business for Ayurveda – seemed like no big deal but just a few days ago I was freaking out over some technical stuff I didn’t understand about this website?
I think it’s because we allow shallow thoughts to add up to the point that they consume our mind. To extend the fish analogy, thoughts are like worms. A few friendly earthworms seem ok but an infestation of worms (or thoughts) just seems nasty. For some reason, my mind (and maybe yours?) seems to highly regard quantity over quality. Over time I increased the threshold with which I can handle more confused and uncertain thoughts (as most adults do), but I always hit a tipping point where commotion takes over. This causes anxiety or if it’s too elevated, agitation – exhibit A. Agitation is a more violent form of anxiety so I’m going to write about how I have approached the root problem of anxiety.
The following is an IMMEDIATE antidote I’ve developed to anxiety. No, I’m not going to tell you to breathe or meditate. I believe strongly in and practice both but I think there’s a trust in the process that most people need to start and even more trust to turn them into habits. If you start stepping into that trust, I’m always here to help you.
Emergency Room approach to Anxiety
Get up and move away from your computer or cell phone.
Get a glass of room temp or warm water (a non-caffeinated tea is fine too).
Sit on the ground (preferably outside) but your apartment or office floor is fine.
Drink the glass of water.
Get up and drink another glass of water if you’re really anxious. (You’ll soon pee it all out and your mind/body will have something more immediate to focus on).
If it’s close to bed time, sleep without reading before bed. Reading stimulates brain activity when you might be overstimulated.
If it’s not close to bed time, immerse yourself in active maintenance of yourself or your living space without too much laptop/phone time. In the past, I’ve cooked, went for a walk, cleaned my room, played with my dog, etc. I have nothing against laptops and phones. How else do I communicate with you? However, when you’re frazzled that much access to information and people, can spaz you out more.
If you cannot sleep, it’s deep -seated anxiety that can be solved with Ayurveda – fixing sleep patterns (e.g. heading to bed by 10:30) and rubbing warm sesame or coconut oil on the soles of your feet or your scalp (or both!) to calm the entire nervous system.
Why does this work ?
From an Ayurvedic perspective, anxiety is really just the emotional expression of too much air in the body – not enough density. Some people express it more in their body shape and some people express it more in their daily behaviors (aloof / off in another world). Anxiety is a more specific word for fear. For most people, density – something they can hold on to – feels safe. Drinking water, a liquid, is denser than air and happens to be a necessary substance that most people forget to have when their bodies are calling for it.
Sitting on the floor puts the body in physical contact with the Earth so it’s the most literal translation of “groundedness.” The Earth, a solid, is denser than liquid. Gravity pulls us down from the never-never land of ceaseless wormy thoughts so there’s enough quiet.
Eventually, I start laughing at how I could make silly things become “big things,” but it sure doesn’t seem funny when you’re trapped in anxiety. Some of us even get pissed when people tell them their problem is no big deal. This happens to me because I actually want to hold on to my problem to give it and myself importance –ego issues. Without MY problem, what would my identity be? Nothing? Oh no! That’s scary. Something is better than Nothing, right?
The bigger the decision the less mental room I had for over thinking (just too many permutations and combinations) so I just had to trust that even if I became “Nothing” that the value of the growth from “Nothing” might be worth it.
Why did my heart sink when I read the “shallow fish quote?” Shouldn’t it be my brain since that’s where the mind is in the Western world? Based on Ayurveda and many other medicinal practices, the “mind” while concentrated in the brain is even more concentrated in the heart (and perhaps energy centers through out the body). This is a topic I’m exploring more these days.
So there you have it. Fishes and Whales and Anxiety and hopefully lasting Nothingness.