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 that will greatly determine your capacity for happiness: Who and what are you essentially. 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 what most people consider themselves: A collection of roles, relationships, activities, interests, beliefs, appearance, thoughts, emotions, memories, etc. Above all, we’re the voice in our heads – our minds.
Out of all of these elements and more, we create a "self-image."
I call Choice #1 “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, 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, which is a form of awakening.
Before I explain the second choice, I’ll give you a taste of it with a 1-minute exercise. Ready?
A 1-Minute Glimpse
Step 1: Read this whole paragraph before starting the exercise; reread if necessary. You’re going to look around for approximately 20 seconds (without counting). Look above or at eye level. Look out the window if you're near one, or just around the room. As you look around, pause to focus on a few objects for roughly 3 seconds. Don’t look at photographs or anything that might bring up emotions. Examples of good objects are trees, a house, a cabinet, the fridge, curtains – anything neutral and ordinary. Again, do this step before reading Step 2. And relax! This is not a test!
Step 2: You’re going to look out the window or around the room for about 40 seconds -- twice as long– seeing the same sights and probably more. But THIS time, take your attention to the fact that you’re looking around, not at what you’re looking at, and see what that experience is like.
* * *
That wasn't supposed to knock your socks off. It was just a glimpse - one exercise in a broader but simple teaching.
If the experience of looking around in Step 2 felt different from Step 1, it's significant in a good way.
In the first 20 seconds, you mainly experienced one aspect of awareness: Pure perception. You looked around and knew -- or were "aware of" -- what you saw. You can’t look at something without being aware of it at the same time, right?
In Step 2, you were consciously experiencing a second aspect of awareness – call it an "inner observer" – that was focusing on the fact that you were perceiving.
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. I do that in daily life, too. But I no longer do mindfulness, yoga or meditation.
If you are doing those practices and they’re helping you, keep it up, but consider adding something. Because with rare exceptions, those practices won’t give you lasting happiness in the near future. 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.
The Bullet Train to Lasting Happiness
Something else is required: Turning that focus around to explore and experience the fullness of what awareness is.
What is the fullness of awareness? You may or may not have sensed it in that exercise, but awareness is calm and stable. You probably already knew that intuitively, whether it occurred to you in the past or not.
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, 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. But when we turn our 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 I could tell they would take forever, for me at least.
To gain lasting peace and happiness anytime soon, we need to learn how to reverse our attention. As a coach, I teach clients what I call Reverse Mindfulness.
Like Mindfulness, it brings you into the present moment, which is wonderful. Unlike Mindfulness, it's virtually effortless, gets rapid results, involves no meditation, and its primary benefit is lasting peace and happiness.
Mindfulness (which is excellent for certain things) is usually promoted for symptom relief first (e.g. reducing stress and anxiety) and being more focused. Happiness is usually far down the list or absent from it.
Reverse Mindfulness is all about experiencing and exploring your inner perfection. Your mind may be very unruly, but if you learn to root yourself in awareness, your mind will fall into place as your life becomes peaceful and fulfilled.
So What Are You Essentially - Awareness or Your Mind?
It's your choice. It's better that you decide for yourself by exploring the question and your experience itself.
If you can't decide, try this as a tiebreaker: “I am awareness” 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.
It also creates the desire to enhance your self-image by seeking "more." This creates dissatisfaction with what you have the tendency to make the present moment a means to an end. It's great to pursue goals, but seeking to enhance your self-image by achieving them will diminish your happiness in the process.
"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.
Awareness and COVID-19
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.
Stay safe, count your blessings, be well and be aware.
Bruce Corwin is President, Executive Coach and Happiness Teacher at MeaningOfLife.com and Creator of Reverse Mindfulness. He offers the MeaningOfLife.com Lasting Happiness and Effortless Success Coaching Program and the 3-Hour Living with Joyful Purpose and Lasting Happiness Workshop. He can be reached at email@example.com.